Slumping BRTA propped up with $5.7M federal infusion

With ridership about one-third what it was before the coronavirus outbreak, the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority is getting $5.7 million in federal relief money. EAGLE FILE PHOTO

PITTSFIELD — With ridership about one-third what it was before the coronavirus outbreak, the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority is getting $5.7 million in federal relief money.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration announced the grant Tuesday as part of the $25 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 27. The BRTA will use the grant to support continued transit service during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

On April 6, the BRTA cut back five routes, as the average daily ridership had fallen from 1,700 passengers to 550. The routes went from hourly stops to every two hours for service from Pittsfield to Lee, North Adams, Dalton/Hinsdale, Berkshire Community College, and between Lee and Great Barrington.

"These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency," said K. Jane Williams, Federal Transit Administration acting administrator.

The BRTA also requires riders to be on a "critical trip," wear a mask and practice social distancing while riding a "B" bus.

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"Critical trips are defined as work related, vital appointments, or necessary shopping trips. All riders are required to exit the bus at the end of the route, or your stated destination, and may not re-board the same vehicle for a return trip," according to the BRTA website.

Its website also has a two-question survey for riders:

* Yes or no, do you feel the Berkshires are ready to reopen from the pandemic closures on May 18?

* How well did the BRTA keep you informed on their efforts and service changes during the pandemic?