To the editor:
As I read Mitchell Chapman's July 16 commentary, "A car-less commuter assesses county transportation issue," I found myself nodding in agreement with many of his experiences. We must respond with more flexible and innovative solutions to this problem if we are going to build a thriving Berkshire region.
When Working Cities Pittsfield (WCP) held 14 community conversations with residents last year, those who did not have access to a personal vehicle reported transportation as a huge barrier to job opportunities and everyday activities the rest of us take for granted, such as health care, child care, shopping, and recreation. Second- and third-shift positions are out of reach for most residents without a car. Area businesses struggle with finding qualified workers who can get to them, particularly in manufacturing, resorts and arts programs outside town and city centers. And visitors traveling by train from New York and Boston cannot easily reach the many cultural destinations in the region.
It will not surprise you to learn that a WCP survey conducted online and distributed at local service agencies found a vast majority of residents of Pittsfield (more than 78 percent) want to see night and weekend transportation options. Moreover, 67 percent of respondents would like to see more collaboration between government, residents, and the private sector to solve the problem.
Fixed route transportation is necessary, but it is not the complete answer to the needs of the county. It is essential that all those affected be part of finding a flexible solution that fits the Berkshires and can meet the needs of residents of all means.
We continue to urge the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, and area public officials to bring affected residents to the table early on in the planning processes along with businesses, planners, and transportation experts in order to re-imagine our transportation system to work for everyone.
The writer is initiative director for Working Cities Pittsfield.