PITTSFIELD >> Changes are in store for two major "B" bus routes as part of an effort to make the service more rider-friendly and more efficient.
With state public transportation funding expected to remain flat, the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority has proposed separating Route 1, from Pittsfield to North Adams and back, from Route 31/33, which continues on to the North Campus of Berkshire Medical Center and Mohawk Forest.
The BRTA also is seeking to stagger the two Pittsfield buses that currently leave five minutes apart from the Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Street and follow criss-crossing round-trip loops to the Berkshire Crossing shopping complex on Hubbard Avenue and back.
The number of stops on the affected routes would remain the same and no routes are being eliminated.
Public meetings to discuss the service changes are scheduled around the county later this month. The following week, BRTA staff plan to seek support from its advisory board and, if approved, the route changes would take effect in October, according to BRTA Administrator Bob Malnati.
"We're looking for cost neutral on these changes," he said.
The proposed revisions come in response to stagnant public transportation funding across Massachusetts.
State funding for the BRTA in fiscal 2017 will remain at $2.5 million toward the authority's operating budget of $6.1 million for its standard service, which does not include specialized transportation.
The rest of the "B" bus funding comes from the federal government, bus fares and local assessments from the 25 of 32 Berkshire cities and towns it serves.
Under the proposed changes, Route 1 would end at Walmart on Curran Highway in North Adams and head back to Pittsfield, rather than continue on as Routes 31/33. The change would cut what is currently a 90 minute round trip to about an hour.
"Route 1 is our busiest and we're simply turning the vehicle around at Walmart and heading back to Pittsfield, gaining a half hour," Malnati said. "This is one route that can get really bogged down under its current form."
As for the pending changes to the Berkshire Crossing service, Route 12 via East, Elm, Williams streets, Dalton Division Road and Hubbard Avenue will have the same departure times, leaving downtown Pittsfield on the half hour. Route 14, which takes the East Street-Merrill Road and Coltsville route to Berkshire Crossing would leave at the top of the hour.
The BRTA may explore tweaking other routes for efficiency's sake, but the initial changes are the easiest to implement, according to Malnati.
"These won't cost us a lot of money and study time to put into place," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233