MA: BRTA lands $2M federal grant

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority has earned a $2 million grant to replace aging buses and fare boxes, federal lawmakers announced Monday.

Rep. John Olver said the money is sorely needed for buses in the Berkshires.

"These grants will allow the BRTA ... to buy new buses and replace old vehicles that desperately need to be retired," Olver, D-Amherst, said in a statement. "These new vehicles will help people get where they need to go more efficiently."

The local transit authority provides bus service throughout Berkshire County, connecting towns and cities from Great Barrington to North Adams.

The $2 million for BRTA is part of the $28.6 million that Massachusetts will receive from the U.S. Department of Transportation to replace transit buses, complete station projects and improve connections between rail and bus services across the state.

The funding will be awarded to BRTA and four other transit systems in the state through the Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair Program.

The bulk of the money — $18.4 million — is going to Boston, where it will be used to replace old buses.

BRTA administrators weren't available for comment Monday, but in their grant application, they requested $1.4 million to replace vehicles they said are "beyond their useful lives."

The BRTA also received $600,000 to replace fare boxes in its buses as part of a statewide initiative.

With a fleet of more than 40 vehicles, the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority moves about 1,700 people a day, six days a week, for a total of more than 500,000 riders in fiscal 2010. That's up from 489,000 just three years earlier.

Surveys have shown that 60 percent of BRTA riders use the service because they have no other source of transportation.

"These investments will create jobs and help people who rely on public transportation day in and day out," said Sen. John Kerry said.