To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Here in the Berkshires our regional transit is seen by many as the worst in the state. The issues are endless when it comes to traveling without a vehicle. For some it may be the cost, which can be up to $5 one way. For others it may be the fact that the last buses are between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Travel time is also an issue, as it can take three or more times longer on the bus to get to your destination than driving. Then when you add in the fact that buses arrive only once per hour and there is limited service on Saturday and no service on Sunday, the list grows.
There are many ways to make small changes and improve the service. Having service available until 8 or 9 p.m. or later Saturday service or added Sunday service would be steps in the right direction. A cost reduction and/or half- hour runs, instead of hour runs on weekends, would be appreciated as well.
The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) has done a great job in trying to come up with new routes and ideas to improve the service. It is trying new routes with the support Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College to help students get around effectively. A new fare system is tentatively in place to cut the cost for customers, especially those who use transit multiple times a week. The BRTA is also working hard on extending operating hours and/or adding more runs for shorter wait times. The downfall is it can’t afford to expand operations in those ways at this time because of inadequate funding.
In March a proposed bill by Gov. Patrick called for a $1 billion increase in funding for transportation across the state over the next 10 years. That bill was later rejected by legislative leaders and replaced with a $500 million deal over the next few years. Even though Patrick vetoed the bill in July, the majority vote overruled his veto.
The BRTA will receive some funding from the state with this new bill, but it will not be enough by far. I encourage everyone in the Berkshires to reach out to state Sen. Ben Downing and state representatives and let them know, in writing, that we need more funding. By writing in support of this funding, there will be more evidence and a better chance of getting the needed funding from the state.
Those who need public transit pay taxes just like everyone else and we should get some of that money back to help us, not Boston. We should have public transit that’s accessible, reliable, and convenient and that compares to other parts of the state. We’re not expecting it to be like some of those bigger areas, like Boston and the MBTA, nor does it need to be. We just want to have something that makes us proud to say we take public transit in the Berkshires.