The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) serves 22 towns and two cities in Berkshire County, in the westernmost part of Massachusetts, with rural fixed route and demand responsive service. The fixed route service, commonly known as the "B Bus" operates in 12 towns in the RTA service area; remaining towns are served with demand response service. Most fixed-route service is focused in Pittsfield, BRTA's headquarters.
BRTA is the human service transportation (HST) broker for its service area, providing transportation throughout the commonwealth with most trips to Springfield, Worcester, and Boston medical facilities as their final destination.
BRTA provides three types of services:
BRTA fixed-route service is comprised of 14 local routes, 11 of which serve Pittsfield. Most buses run along major north-south routes, such as Routes 183, 20, 7 and 8. Local services generally operate from 5:45 am to 7:20 pm on weekdays and 7:15 am to 7:00 pm on Saturdays. Most service operates every 30 minutes on the weekdays and 60 minutes on Saturdays. Local service is not provided on Sundays and major holidays.
BRTA's ADA complementary paratransit service with its fixed-route service that is operated with ambulatory vans or wheelchairs.
BRTA also works with member communities to provide local demand responsive service. This service, typically operated by local Council on Aging organizations, is also available in several of BRTA's member communities for older adults and persons with disabilities.
Most BRTA routes operate to and from the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC). Regional services operate from this hub and others:
BRTA's major facility is the ITC, which opened in November 2004 after two years of construction and more than 20 years of planning. This center connects local bus and taxi services with intercity rail and bus services, and provides pedestrian access to the central business district in Pittsfield. BRTA's administrative offices are also housed in the ITC.
BRTA has a simple fare structure for its fixed-route service: $1.25 per community/zone. Discounts are offered, including a 50% discount ($0.60 fare) for senior citizens, registered disabled riders, and Medicare cardholders. Children aged 5 years or younger ride for free. Transfers are also free. A 20 zone pass is also available, and can be purchased from any bus driver, in person or by mail from the BRTA offices (saves $0.20 per ride).
BRTA also offers free fares on your birthday.
Starting with the 2011-2012 school year, a student pass program is available to all students through grade 12. The pass provides unlimited access to the BRTA fixed-route system for $75 per season (fall, winter, and spring).
BRTA carried nearly 600,000 passengers in 2010. 85% of these passengers used fixed-route services and the remainder used demand-responsive. BRTA carried the sixth lowest volume of riders among Massachusetts RTAs and provided the sixth lowest amount of service in terms of vehicle hours.
In 2010, BRTA had 23 vehicles for fixed-route service and 55 vehicles for demand-responsive service. Compared to other RTAs, BRTA has the sixth lowest number of vehicles and the sixth largest demand-responsive fleet.
BRTA's total 2010 operating expenses were $5.2 million. Of this, $4.3 million or 81% was for fixed-route service, and 19% was for demand-responsive service. As compared with the other RTA's, BRTA's annual operating costs were the sixth lowest; higher only than VTA, CATA, FRTA, and NRTA.
Fare revenue covers approximately 23% of BRTA's 2010 operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues cover 17% of the operating costs associated with fixed-route service and 48% of demand-responsive operating costs. In 2010, BRTA collected the sixth lowest amount of fare revenue among RTAs and had the sixth highest farebox return ratio. For demand-responsive service, BRTA's farebox recovery ratio is the highest of all RTAs.
Over the past nine years for fixed-route service (data from 2001 is unreliable) and from 2006 - 2010 for demand-responsive (data from 2001 - 2005 is unreliable and/or not available, except for operating costs and fare revenues); BRTA's overall ridership has increased. Over the same period, service levels have decreased for fixed-route and increased for demand-responsive. Costs have also increased for both services.
Between 2002 and 2010 for fixed-route service, ridership has remained steady. Meanwhile, demand-responsive ridership has decreased by 50% from 2006 to 2010. In 2009, demand-responsive ridership nearly doubled to 95,000 annual riders. This increase reflects a change in reporting rather than an increase in service provided. In 2009, the Council on Aging service providers began reporting all trips provided, including trips provided on Mobility Assistance Program (MAP) vehicles, a practice that changed in 2009. After this spike, ridership slightly dipped in 2010. Part of the change in ridership is also attributable to a loss of funding for a transportation to job site program in 2010.
Since 2002, BRTA's fixed-route service levels, as measured in revenue vehicle service hours, decreased modestly by 7%. Demand-responsive hours increased modestly by 9%. The change in the service levels is reflected in the service mix. In 2006, demand-responsive service accounted for 47% of BRTA's service hours, by 2010 it accounted for 52%.
BRTA's operating costs increased from $3.8 million in 2002 to $5.2 million in 2010. This represents an increase of 37% over 9 years, or an average of 5% per year. Cost increases are within expectations and account for increases in fuel and health insurance costs, plus the additional service. Both fixed-route costs and demand-responsive costs increased: 48% and 4%, respectively. Higher percentage increases for fixed-route reflect growth off of a smaller base.
Fare revenues increased over the same period, and grew faster than operating costs. Fare revenue generated by fixed-route services grew by 54%, and fare revenue generated by demand-responsive services decreased by 52%. The data shows fluctuations in operating cost per passenger for demand responsive service, especially for the past few years; this variation reflects changes in reporting practices (2009) and loss of funding that supported some riders (2010).
Between 2002 and 2010, BRTA's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service increased from $5.74 to $8.36, or by 46%. From 2006 to 2010, BRTA's operating cost per passenger decreased for demand-responsive service, from $15.40 to $11.29, or by 27%. In 2010, BRTA's operating cost per passenger was sixth highest of all RTAs.
Between 2002 and 2010, BRTA decreased the amount of fixed-route service provided. Ridership, however, remained steady, and thus passengers per revenue hour increased slightly, from 11.8 in 2002 to 12.9 in 2010, or an increase of 9%.
For demand-responsive service, BRTA decreased the hours of service provided by 9% (from 2006 to 2010) and experienced substantial ridership increases over the same time. Passengers per revenue hour then increased from 1.5 in 2006 to 2.0 in 2010.
Between 2002 and 2010, BRTA's fixed-route operating costs increased an average of 5% per year. Operating cost by service type, however, vary considerably. Fixed-route operating cost per service hour increased by 48% since 2002, whereas demand-responsive costs have increased since 2006 by 10%.
Compared to other RTAs, BRTA has the third highest operating cost per hour for fixed-route service (only lower than MART and WRTA), and the second to lowest operating cost per hour for demand-responsive, only higher than FRTA.