Berkshire County said to need voice on state's transit task force

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PITTSFIELD — Legislation that coughed up additional state money for regional transit authorities came with a condition this year.

A task force must be created to study management and other problems with the transit groups, so the state isn't just bailing them out.

That group should include a representative from Berkshire County, according to Thomas Matuszko, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

"Our situation needs to be considered," Matuszko said Wednesday, noting the county's large size and relatively sparse settlement outside its two cities. "It's very challenging to accommodate a fixed-route system."

In a recent letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Matuszko notes the rural region has "unique transportation challenges which are distinctly different than those in the more urbanized areas to the east."

While a section of House Bill 4800 calls for a task force, it does not say a member will include someone from Berkshire County. That representation is needed, Matuszko says, because the region's needs are not only different from Eastern Massachusetts, they are even distinct from challenges that transit authorities face in the Pioneer Valley or other parts of Western Massachusetts.

To see to it that Berkshire County transit concerns are addressed, Baker should appoint a resident of the county to the panel.

Matuszko's Aug. 15 letter does not suggest a candidate for the assignment. "We would certainly recommend someone if the state was accommodating to my request," Matuszko said.

Once the task force is at work, it must be wary of imposing a "one size fits all" solution, Matuszko wrote in his letter to Baker.

Any performance standards shaped by the task force should take into account the differences between rural and urban transit systems, he wrote.


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