More accessible transportation for Berkshires residents | The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — In a year’s time, Berkshire residents with mobility issues can expect shiny new public transit vehicles to take them to medical appointments, grocery shopping and other necessary daily trips.

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority next fall should receive five new purple and white, wheelchair accessible mini-buses, replacing five of the 15 in the BRTA’s paratransit fleet.

The BRTA is one of 37 organizations statewide awarded 153 vans and mini-buses through the Massachusetts Department of transportation’s Community Transit Grant program. The MassDOT covers 20 percent of the vehicles’ cost, the federal government 80 percent.

“We are happy to distribute these [vehicles and] funds in order to help senior citizens and others with disabilities stay active and engaged in their communities across the commonwealth,” MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said in prepared remarks.

In addition, $1.8 million in funding was awarded to 18 organizations for 25 operating and mobility management projects. Recipients include regional transit authorities, cities and towns,, Councils on Aging, and eligible nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts.

BRTA Administrator Bob Malnati says it takes about a year for the new mini-buses to arrive. The new eight-passenger paratransit vehicles will replace those that went into service in 2011; ones awarded by MassDOT

“They aren’t on their last leg, but by the time the new ones get here, the old ones will be close to the life expectancy,” he said.

The paratransit buses made 25,000 trips in fiscal 2017 ending June 30, according to Malnati. The specialty, curb-to-curb service doesn’t cost more than the BRTA fares for those qualified riders.

A person’s eligibility for paratransit services will be determined by their mobility and functional ability regarding access to navigate the fixed BRTA routes, according to the local public transportation website. Those who struggle getting around that prevents them from…

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