PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The MPO wants to take a much more serious look this fall at how public transportation serves its customers.
The Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization is in charge of prioritizing federal transportation dollars allotted to the county. That includes funding for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.
The issues with the BRTA haven't changed in years — a lack of funding leads to limited hours, infrequent service, and constrained geographic coverage.
The MPO wants to "think outside of the box" and find how to address some of those issues to better serve the community.
"If we want to crack some of the fundamental barriers in the region we have to think outside of the box of fixed-route transit," Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said.
Transportation issues touch on a lot of aspects of the area: getting workers to jobs, residents to health facilities and students to secondary and higher education institutions.
Andrea Sholler, managing director of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, said the public transit system makes it difficult for her employees. The venue is tucked into the hills of rural Becket and, during the summer, she needs some 75 workers, mostly for minimum wage, low-skilled jobs. Often those jobs are going unfilled because she has difficulty hiring people who have access to transportation.
"We have jobs that go unfilled. For us, we would really like to have an opportunity with other employers when issues are being discussed," Sholler said.
Alisa Costa from Pittsfield's Working Cities program said single mothers have been particularly affected by the lack of transportation. She told the story of a young mother of three who had to move out of the area because she couldn't get to her job at the hours she was needed. The same issue echoes true for recent immigrants, who can find jobs but have no ways to get to them.
Costa said she's asked state Sen. Adam Hinds to include state funds for a pilot program for Pittsfield that would run shuttles from the West Side or Morningside neighborhoods to the Downing Industrial Park or Coltsville, where there are jobs available.
But overall, the Working Cities program wants to be involved in transportation planning at the early level to help ensure that those populations who need public transit the most, have some say. Costa said the program may not know all of the ins and outs of a transportation system, but it does know the ins and outs of how it needs to operate to better serve its populations.
Karns said he's heard a similar concern from Berkshire Community College. He said there are many people who decide not to attend or quit the college early on because they struggle to get to classes at the outer West Street campus. He's also heard it from those in the public health field, who say the lack of transportation restricts access to health care for many.
Steve Woelfel of the state Department of Transportation said those are exactly the conversations the local MPO members need to have not only among themselves, but by interacting more with the end-users of the system.
"These are the discussions we need to have more rigorously out here," he said. "Transportation itself is not important, it is what it unlocks."
MPO member Jim Lovejoy lives in rural Mount Washington and he understands that there are a lot of miles with low populations, making a traditional public transit system unsustainable. But, he added that there can definitely be ways to identify specific needs and react to them.
The MPO will now use the next few months to "brainstorm" about ways to better improve the system. Karns is looking for information from the BRTA on how its system matches up with other rural systems throughout the country. The group hopes to have a close relationship with both the customers of the system and the BRTA that will, in turn, help the MPO decide how to use the federal funds available.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at info@iBerkshires.com
Hoosac Valley Braces for Potential Budget Cuts to Close $480K Gap
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
The School Committee will see different budget presentations in March.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District is bracing for a tough budget cycle and will work with Adams and Cheshire to make up budget gaps.
Superintendent Aaron Dean told the School Committee on Monday that he has already met with Adams officials to discuss the fiscal 2021 budget that in its early form is $480,000 short.
"The reality is that we have to close a gap of $480,000 at this time given the numbers on the cherry sheet and the normal increases in the budget," he said. "We will restructure and we will continue to do great things with kids we just have to find ways to consolidate and do things differently."
Business Manager Erika Snyder said the conversation with Adams would have happened sooner but there was still some uncertainty around the cherry sheet that details the district's state revenues and debits. Dean added that he will soon meet with Cheshire officials to continue this discussion.
The council on Tuesday referred an allocation of funds from the Economic Development Fund and a tax increment financing agreement to benefit the development of a brewery and tap room at 41 North St.
click for more
Rodney Sumner, 54, died in the collision shortly after 4 p.m. Investigators believe Sumner was in the area observing nearby construction and was unable to get out of the path of the eastbound train.
click for more
Everyone is invited to stop by if they have an idea, question or comment about state government they wish to share or if they require assistance from the representative and her staff regarding constituent services. click for more
After some months of discussion, the Licensing Board approved an alteration of premise on Monday, allowing the owner to begin interior renovations on the former Johnny's Beach Club at 87 Wahconah St.
click for more