John vonGoeler, sales manager for Scheidt & Bachman, demonstrates how the new fare collection system works.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — New technology and fare changes at the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority raised concerns among riders at Monday's public hearing.
Bbut BRTA Administrator Gary Shepard and others assured those attending the hearing at City Hall that the move will improve the system by making it more efficient and effective.
"It's going to make things a lot easier and quicker," Sandra Clarey, project manager for McMahon Associates, said of the implementation of the CharlieCard, which is expected to hit Berkshire County by the end of the year.
The CharlieCard is a refillable smart card that deducts the bus fare with a simple tap on the machine, which will be located next to the driver. Riders can also refill their cards with money denominations up to $20, debit cards and credit cards at the same machine, or online. The CharlieCard's been used by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority since 2006.
John vonGoeler, sales manager for Scheidt & Bachman, a company that produces fare collection systems, brought a machine to the meeting and showed residents how the new system will work.
Riders who qualify for half fare — seniors (60-plus), anyone on Medicare or disabled with a Massachusetts Access Pass, will be issued a photo ID for their card. Residents were concerned with the possibility of traveling to Pittsfield's Intermodal Center to receive their cards, but Shepard said the BRTA will do a "rollout program" and travel to its customers when the program begins.
Everyone else can get their cards right on the bus, and possibly at vendors and through colleges. All cards can be registered online by serial number and lost cards can be reported online or by phone.
Cash can still be used, but the CharlieCard will be a cheaper option. Fares are expected to change, as well as the current zone structure
. The proposed fixed-route structure will have both local fares and systemwide fares. Local fares are rates for travel in-town and to neighboring towns, while systemwide is travel throughout three different towns. Paratransit fares will stay the same or decline.
Fixed route local fares would be $1.40 (70 cents) on the CharlieCard. Local passes would be $13 ($10) for seven days and $52 ($39) for 30 days; systemwide passes would be $10 per day, $35 ($26) for seven days and $140 ($105) for 30 days.
Shepard said conversation for these changes was shaped around input from a survey of about 190 riders. He said the survey showed that most of customers are familiar with the CharlieCard and liked the possibility of its integration.
The public hearing period of these changes will be open until March 18. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
, or submitted in writing to:
BRTA, One Columbus Avenue, Suite 201, Pittsfield, MA 01201
Another public hearing is set for today, Feb. 25, in the BRTA Board Room at the Intermodal Center in Pittsfield from 1:30 to 3:30, and on Tuesday, Feb. 26, in the Fire Station Meeting Room, 37 State Road, Great Barrington, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
After the public hearing period ends, BRTA will work on finalizing a contract with Scheidt & Bachman.
Shepard also said BRTA will run a test route for Route 7 between Williamstown and Pittsfield between August and May. He said reopening the route can make the system more accessible for students at Berkshire Community College and Williams College and residents at local retirement homes.
Residents were also concerned about the system's hours and, as resident Diane Parsons said, a lack of a North County presence. Shepard said the BRTA wants to extend its hours and include more weekend service as well as open a North Adams center, "but it comes down to money."