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 seven 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 to work in the Albany, NY transit system. Gary Shepard began as the fifth BRTA Administrator on March 31, 2008.
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. Over the past two fiscal years, the BRTA has provided 510,526 in FY 2010 and 505,566 in FY 2009.
Ten buses were placed into service in January 2003, the thirty-foot "Optima" buses are a low-floor design enhancing access onto and off of the bus. They have twenty-seven seats. Four new "mini-buses" were introduced into service in March 2007. Four new 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.
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 are retail concession and the classrooms for the Berkshire Community College/Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts joint venture. A Peter Pan Bus ticket office is also on site.The ITC is located at One Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield.