To the editor of THE EAGLE:

In response to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), which oversees Human Service Transportation (HST), establishing a centralized brokerage system based in Fitchburg because "it will not only save the state money but will also improve services," I would like to provide some facts which may serve to inform the public and enlighten EOHHS (Eagle, Feb. 24).

For EOHHS to cite that BRTA’s average cost per trip is second-highest in the commonwealth may be accurate but is also disingenuous because it ignores more relevant cost value indicators. The geographic size of Berkshire County does play a role in cost, but BRTA has worked diligently to reduce costs. Trips from North County and South County to Pittsfield are estimated at 20 miles one way. So without even leaving the county a trip is a minimum 20 miles one way.

Since 2008 to this date, EOHHS has awarded BRTA incentive costs due to cost efficient service and in return BRTA has saved the state $1,252,036 over that time period. In addition, BRTA has one of the highest percentages of shared rides throughout the state simply because we have a strong working relationship with our local providers, allowing the state to realize the savings in cost per trip.

Whenever we transport an HST client to Boston for medical services, be it from Pittsfield or other parts of the county, it is estimated at 137 miles one way making it a 274-mile round trip. To this point, BRTA is one of the only providers that has negotiated with our vendors a "cap" on maximum cost of ride of $300. Therefore an average trip to Boston originating from the Berkshires costs the state about $1.10 a mile. I would be interested to hear from EOHHS if there are any other long distance trips encompassing 274 miles costing out lower than $1.10 a mile.

Routine trips to Greenfield from the county cost $1.14 per mile for a single passenger and .85 cents with a shared passenger. I could provide more examples of our costs for routine trips to Holyoke, Chicopee, Northampton, Springfield and Worcester and all the examples would highlight cost efficiencies.

The numbers, the geographic location, the quality of service, the proven performance and associated cost savings speaks volumes to the working partnership in place between the BRTA and our local transportation vendors. I could elaborate further on cost efficiencies and effective service delivery but I fear the state has its mind made up in favor of centralization at the expense of Berkshire County residents.

GARY SHEPARD

Pittsfield

The writer is administrator, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.