The BRTA was one of eight original regional transit authorities (RTAs) created by state statute (MGL §161B) in 1974. A letter dated June 18, 1974 was sent by then Pittsfield Mayor Evan S. Dobelle to Governor Francis W. Sargent documenting the recorded vote of the original communities to form the BRTA. Today, fifteen RTAs are responsible for administering public transportation services throughout much of Massachusetts outside of the Boston metropolitan area.
Twenty-four Berkshire cities and towns are members of the BRTA with fixed route bus service provided in twelve communities and specialized transportation provided in seventeen communities. Each member community is represented on the BRTA Advisory Board by the chief elected official or, that person's designee. The Advisory Board meets throughout the year and is responsible for hiring the administrator, approving the budget, and deciding on any major changes to fares or service. Each community has a weighted vote determined by their amount of service and local assessment in relation to the total.
Several Board Members including Jeanne Carmel of Hinsdale, Wharton "Ben" Barker of Lenox, Sandy Lamb of North Adams, and John Cronson of Stockbridge have served for many years. Ms. Carmel has served on the Board since September 1980. Former Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Director Karl Hekler representing Pittsfield served as the original Chairman. Other long standing Chairmen have included Pittsfield Mayor Edward Reilly and Great Barrington Select Board Chairman Edward Morehouse. Sandy Lamb, representing Mayor Richard Alcombright of North Adams has served as Chair of the Advisory Board for the past nine years. The currently Vice Chair is serverd by Lanesborough representative Peter Gallant.
The administrator serves as the chief executive officer of the authority and is responsible for the day to day oversight of BRTA administrative services. All transportation services are provided by private contractors.
The first administrator was M. Michael Muzyka, who served part time from 1974 until 1976. He was succeeded by Louis J. Perachi Jr. who ran the BRTA for the next 16 years until 1993. Upon Mr. Perachi's retirement, Dianne Smith was hired as administrator and served the BRTA until 1999, when she announced her decision to retire. She remained on in an Assistant Administrator capacity for two more years to assist the fourth administrator, Charles M. "Chuck" MacNeil. Chuck MacNeil left the BRTA in 2007. Gary Shepard began as the fifth BRTA Administrator on March 31, 2008 until the end of October 2014 when he stepped down. Robert Malnati was appointed the sixth Administrator on December 2014.
Fixed route bus service had been in decline for the first twenty years of the BRTA's existence, remaining in alignment with the trend during the mid-1970s and 1980s of a decreasing population and the reduction of the presence of major employers. By 1999, annual passenger trips leveled off at approximately 500,000 and have been modulating since with gradual increases through the decade. Over the past two fiscal years, the BRTA provided 574,418 trips in FY 2015 and 573,045 trips in FY 2014.
The fixed route fleet has transitioned over the years from mostly full sized 35 foot vehicles to smaller minibus style vehicles. Four Gillig 35 foot buses were placed in service during the summer of 2007, one is a low emission hybrid diesel-electric propulsion bus. Six minibuses were placed in service with ARRA funding in FY2010. Nine additional minibus vehicles have been placed in service from 2011 and 2013 plus three 2014 El Dorado 30 foot vehicles, one contains a hybrid electric system
The BRTA offers a premium chair-car service for elders and people with disabilities providing origin to destination service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service has been provided throughout much of the BRTA's history. Complementary service required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is also provided by the BRTA.
In 2001 the BRTA partnered with the State Human Service Transportation Office to broker HST services in the Berkshires to consumers of the Department of Medicaid (DMA), Department of Developmental Services (DDS), and the Department of Public Health (DPH).
The ITC was opened in November 2004 after two years of construction and more than twenty years of planning. Total costs for the project was approximately $11M paid for with 80% federal and 20% state funds. For the first time in our history, the BRTA now has a facility connecting local bus and taxi services with intercity rail and bus services, all with pedestrian access to the central business district. BRTA Administration offices are in the facility as is a retail concession area. The Information Center provides customers with paratransit, fixed route, and Peter Pan Bus ticket or trip information. Amtrak information is also availabe, but tickets cannot be purchased at this facility.The ITC is located at One Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield.