PITTSFIELD — Growing up in Lynn, Ellen Kennedy regularly took public transportation.
On Monday, the president of Berkshire Community College rediscovered the convenience and necessity for many BCC students to ride the "B" bus.
In participating in the Berkshire County Clean Air Challenge, Kennedy three times rode the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority route between Intermodal Center at the corner of Columbus Avenue and North Street and the West Street Campus on the outskirts of the city.
"Some students were shocked to see me and others didn't know who I was," she said.
Kennedy was the student, learning how the alternative to driving a car is a money saver and cuts down on emissions, improving the air quality.
The local challenge sponsored by the Berkshire County regional Coordinating Council was a prelude to the statewide event Sept. 17 -25 spearheaded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The BCC downtown Pittsfield route is one of the BRTA's busiest, averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 riders during the fall and spring semesters, according to BRTA assistant administrator Sarah Vallieres.
Vallieres rode along with Kennedy and a representative of the BRTA's operating company, in part, to get riders' reaction to how well the route is operating.
"It's important to stay in touch with our customers," she said. "We look at the route's efficiency in order to increase ridership and tailor it for students making connecting buses."
Kennedy used the opportunity to speak with students she normally wouldn't see in the course of the day, finding some very engaging.
"The students had a lot of ideas on how the bus route could fit into their schedules, but understand it's complicated meeting everyone's needs," she said.
BCC's top educator let the students know they qualify for "B" bus discounts and can use their financial aid toward buying a "Charlie Card" used for the bus fare.
Kennedy also plans to encourage her staff to ride the bus route, at least when heading downtown for meeting and other activities during the school day.
"I'm going to start using the bus ... and leave the driving to [the BRTA]," she said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233