June 24--Going to the doctor is going to cost a little more for people who rely on BARTA vans for transportation.
The Berks County transportation authority's board voted Monday to increase fares for special services, which include scheduled pickups for medical appointments and other essential services.
On average, special service fares will increase by about 10 percent on July 1, when the authority's new fiscal year begins.
The new fare structure ranges from a base of $14.60 to a high of $24.90, depending on distance traveled.
The approval, which was unanimous, followed a public hearing at BARTA headquarters in Reading.
No one objected to the increase at the hearing or the board meeting that followed.
The increase is necessary, officials said, to keep pace with expenses and reduce reliance on state funding to balance its budget.
Regular BARTA bus fares remain the same.
Berks County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt was elected chairman of the board, succeeding Ronald Seaman.
Timothy Snyder will serve as vice chairman; Jayne Dieruff, secretary; and Dennis Rex, treasurer.
Barnhardt gave an update on merger talks between BARTA and Lancaster's Red Rose Transit Authority.
Two meetings have been held, he said, and a third is scheduled for July 10.
Should they merge, the new authority would be the state's third largest behind Philadelphia's SEPTA and the Pittsburgh Port Authority.
"A merger should improve our chances of getting state funding," Barnhardt said.
BARTA will purchase three new buses from Gillig Corp., a California bus manufacturer, at a total cost of $1.8 million.
A federal grant is paying for the purchase of the buses, which are equipped with a hybrid power system.
The hybrid system uses a small engine to recharge the batteries that are the buses' main source of power.
The 40-foot-long Gillig buses are expected to improve fuel economy by 30 percent.
The new buses, expected to be delivered in 12 to 14 months, replace three Opus buses that will reach their 12-year lifespan in 2015.
BARTA will equip its fleet of 57 buses with automated vehicle location, or AVL, systems.
AVAIL Technologies of State College will install the systems at a cost of about $965,000, funded by a federal grant.
The system provides BARTA staff with the locations of all buses in service, and tracks on-time performance.
It also includes a mobile phone application that enables customers to see exactly where their bus is and its estimated time of arrival at their stop.
Contact Ron Devlin: 610-371-5030 or email@example.com.
Copyright 2014 - Reading Eagle, Pa.