Letter: Paratransit drivers deserve better contract

To the editor:

This letter is written regarding the pending strike by the paratransit drivers for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

In the Feb. 7 article, the paratransit service was referred to as the "on call" service for the BRTA. This service, in fact, is required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. People who are unable to use the fixed-route bus system due to their disability use the paratransit service. It is an extension of the regular bus routes and provides transportation for people who would have no way to get to work, medical appointments, or other places in the community.

Paratransit drivers have a great deal of responsibility, as they transport people with severe medical conditions. Many people rely on the paratransit service to get to important medical appointments, including dialysis. Without this service, it would be increasingly difficult for people to obtain the treatment they need in a convenient manner.

Paratransit drivers are paid significantly less than their counterparts who drive the fixed-route buses, even though they have equal, and sometimes more, responsibility than their fellow drivers. With lower wages it is hard for drivers to maintain a decent standard of living. With lower wages there is also a high rate of driver turnover. This requires constant need for training of new drivers, which is difficult for both the paratransit service as well as passengers who utilize it.

As a daily user of paratransit services I will have an extremely difficult time going to work, possibly causing my employer to be inconvenienced a great deal. Therefore, a quick and fair resolution to the issues involved needs to occur before many people do not get to much needed destinations. This could result in missed medical treatment, time lost from work and school, and an overall loss of quality of life for people in the Berkshires.

I hope that the upcoming strike can be avoided. I also hope that the administration of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, along with the paratransit drivers, will negotiate a fair contract that gives drivers the benefits they deserve as well as continuing the services that people in the Berkshires have come to rely on.

Nancy Rumbolt-Trzcinski,

North Adams


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