Public transit advisory panel forms plan to streamline BRTA South County service

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Tate Coleman has a suggestion for making bus travel in South County faster and easier: cut stops.

Coleman, chairman of the Great Barrington Public Transportation Advisory Committee, said excessive stops are slowing down service on the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

The Great Barrington/Pittsfield route, for example, is a sanity buster — the one-way ride takes two hours, he said. While there is an express bus on this route, that only runs three times per day.

"It takes so long," he said. "If you have something you have to drop off in Pittsfield, or an appointment, for example, it takes almost a full day."

The committee, which recently completed a ridership survey with 400 responses, has drafted a report with a proposal for bus service adjustments and additions designed to make riding a bus easier. It won't cost taxpayers anything to make the changes, he said, and it will particularly help people who rely on local service — and the important Great Barrington/Pittsfield route.

Four public sessions are planned this month so residents can weigh in on that proposal and others.

The plan also calls for new service, like Great Barrington to Egremont and Sheffield, and for increased frequency of service between Housatonic and the Fairgrounds Plaza in Great Barrington.

The committee is also proposing a May through October cultural circulator loop through Housatonic, Glendale, Stockbridge, Lenox and Lee, as well as a 35-minute Saturday Mall Shuttle from Lee Premium Outlets to the Pittsfield Walmart.

Most transformative, Coleman said, is reducing the current two-hour trip between Great Barrington and Pittsfield to 45 minutes, with hourly service until 9 p.m. weekly, and an expansion of Saturday service.

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Coleman, a Bard College at Simon's Rock student who interned with BRTA last summer, said cutting out infrequently used stops is one way to "reallocate resources."

He cited the hamlets of Glendale and Lenox Dale, which each had 13 stops. Coleman wants to reduce these to four or five.

"I did manual passenger counts," he said. "I did five- or six-hour shifts sometimes, and maybe one in five trips you would get someone to Glendale — at most."

He suggested reaching out to the one or two people who use this service in an effort to tailor the stops to their travel schedules.

"Obviously, it's not practical to have hourly service when only one in five trips is being utilized," he said.

He hopes to have the BRTA analyze the proposal, then start a six-month pilot with the new and adjusted service.

Coleman said taking the bus is inexpensive and good for the environment.

And he's got ideas beyond streamlining bus service.

"We're exploring the concept of park and rides," he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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