Berkshire County – Berkshire Ride Works is a service that transports those people to work whose schedules don't fit the normal operating hours of the fixed bus service. The program suffered cut backs last year which limited their client list to only 50 people. Our Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports that the service is slated to be fully cut at the end of August.
That means those 50 people will have to find their own transportation to and from work. The program is run through the Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority, or BRTA.
The program was given about 243 thousand dollars last year, of that 204 thousand went to vendors like County Rainbow Taxi to administer the rides. Clients would pay a reduced rate of between 4 and 8 dollars per ride, and the rest would be subsidized by the BRTA. The Authority's Administrator - Gary Shepard - says there's no room left in the budget this year, even with some stimulus dollars, and asking the clients to pay more for the service wouldn't work either.
Losing the program could mean that those 50 clients have to pay their own way or find new jobs, both tough options right now.
Clients get dropped off at some of the major regional employers like the Lanesborough Mall, Canyon Ranch, Hillcrest Educational centers, Verizon etcetera. Gary Shepard says these places are all having budget problems of their own so they're not able to pitch in for the service either. But what about the drivers, County Rainbow Taxi General Manager Jim Regan says the contract was worth 150 thousand dollars this year.
Berkshire Works Career Center's Barbara Ouelette says Ride Works also had a service for at work emergencies. She says the people she works with want to work, but need some of the barriers taken down, ride works helped to do that.
Gary Shepard says the bus service will still have a vital economic impact on the region.
For the affected clients, a typical cab ride in the city of Pittsfield is 2.50 to sit and 2.40 per mile, with flat rates to Lenox in the 20 dollar range each way. At 5 days per week, that's 200 dollars for transportation, versus 45 dollars on the program. Shepard says the BRTA is looking into lighter and more efficient buses and equipment to keep costs down in the future, but for nobody's offered to fund Ride Works.