BRTA considering new and more efficient bus route for North Adams

October 5, 2016 by Neena Patel, News Editor

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) is considering creating a new bus route in North Adams that would get bus riders to their destination in a quicker and less costly fashion.

This route is currently called “Route 65” and would originate and finish at the Walmart Supercenter closest to the College in North Adams on Curran Highway.

The proposed route would include the following stops: Ocean State Job Lots Plaza, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Main Street, Mohawk Forest and Berkshire Medical Center North Adams. It would connect with the Route 1 bus route that goes from North Adams to Pittsfield and Route 3 bus route which goes from Williamstown to North Adams.

The route would function as an express route and Walmart would be the transfer point. A smaller bus would take passengers through the North Adams portion of the route and they would also have the option board a larger bus to reach Pittsfield.

There have been several requests for evening and weekend bus services over the years.

“If we had that extra money, this is how we would spend it,” Administrator Robert Malnati said in an iBerkshires article. “We would implement later evening services, we would try out a few different routes, see how they go how that would be received and eventually morph into a Sunday service, maybe Saturday.”

The current budget that BRTA has is the same that it was given two years ago. The entire state is given $82 million dollars for transportation funding and, in the past two fiscal years, the state has been given a little bit more for its budgent; however, this year that was not the case.

We’re stuck at an $82 million pot for us,” Malnati said in an iBerkshires article. “That translates to about $2.5 million for us. Fixed route service alone costs us over $4 million to put on the street as it is … what we’re trying to do is tweak it and make it more user-friendly, to go where we need to go without incurring additional costs because we know it’s not coming from the state.”

The lack of funding could impact students at the College. The Route 7 bus route, which is subsidized partially by the College, could be discontinued because of lack of use. This route was created in 2013 as a request from the College so that students could reach Pittsfield faster.

It runs from Stop & Shop to the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and has several stops along the way, including Wild Oats, the Clark Art Institute, Mount Greylock Re-gional High school and the College. This project was praised by President Adam Falk who believed that this would further connect the College to Williamstown and the Berkshires. The College stated the importance of this bus route by citing its vital role in allowing students to reach jobs, internships and the Berkshire community as a whole.

This topic will be discussed when the ridership data for the month of September becomes available.

As for the Route 65 bus, there was no one in the meeting opposed to this addition, although some people cited potential problems.

This would switch to a smaller bus, which Kenneth Brick, a regular bus rider, thought would cause congestion during the beginning of the month when people are shopping at Walmart. 

Another problem brought up was that sometimes people have small amounts of money left on Charlie Cards and bus drivers won’t accept them. Malnati stated that BRTA cannot administer the cards and that riders must go to the Intermodal Center in Pittsfield to add money or combine cards.

Another person in attendance brought up a third problem: there is not enough space on the bus or in bike racks to accommodate the number of bikers who often use the transportation.

Despite these potential issues, many riders are complementary of the daily riders and drivers of BRTA.

“There’s a genuine caring there,” Yesmine Sarkis, a regular rider, said. “They care about what’s going on in our life.”

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