Photos: BRTA bus service returns to Route 7
WILLIAMSTOWN - Bus service on the Route 7 corridor aims to stimulate economic development and bring the local college students into the community, officials say.
New technology on the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority's revitalized route was on display during an event Friday morning at the Williamstown Council on Aging's Harper Center.
"We're really pleased in the role this system is going to play in increasing connections with our students and the community," Williams College President Adam Falk said.
Falk, along with state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, and other community members, got the chance to ride the bus several miles during Friday's event.
BRTA Administrator Gary Shepard said conversations between Williams College led to the route being revitalized in late August, years after being discontinued due to lack of ridership. Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts have also pledged to help the pilot the program.
The Route 7 "express route" has six fixed stops and begins at the Stop & Shop in the North Adams. It continues west on Route 2 through the Williams College campus and then moves south on Route 7, where it continues to the Joseph Sclesi Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield. The fare is $1.70.
New technology allows for greater flexibility, Shepard said. Quick Response (QR) codes on the interior and exterior of the bus, along with bus stop signage, gives riders schedule information when scanned with a smartphone.
Ten other stops have been designated "Call/Tell" stops, he said, so riders can call a number to request service at locations such as the Spruces Mobile Home Park, Wild Oats, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and Mount Greylock Regional High School.
"We've tried to be as flexible as possible," Shepard said. "The key here is to go where people want to go, and how to get them there."
The new state-of-the art buses have security cameras on the inside and outside, he said, and are also the first in the BRTA fleet to have WiFi.
Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady said the existing partnership the council has with the BRTA regularly provides local service for seniors, with 5,000 medical trips and 1,800 shopping trips recorded last year. The new Route 7 route will make it easy for people who work or want to visit Sweetwood and Sweetbrook facilities, he noted.
Downing stressed that public transportation is closely linked to economic development.
"At one point you used to walk down to the corner and get everything you needed, and we know that isn't the reality we have today," he said.
Shepard said the program will continue through the end of the school year. The BRTA will then look into the possibility of continuing the service, he said.
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