Despite Increased Support In State Budget …BRTA Cuts Service
It doesn’t make sense. iBerkshires.com reported that Gov. Charlie Baker signed a budget that increased funding for regional transit authorities by 10 percent. But, the BRTA is still reducing services.
For example…Thursday the BRTA voted in favor of a budget which eliminates a handful of runs and gets rid of a discount for those who use the Charlie Card.
BRTA Administrator Robert Malnati said that while the state legislature has approved an increase, most of the additional funds are being held back for a few months. He based the budget on level funding, and eyes a portion of the state's increase to pilot a run later in the evening.
The state Legislature then boosted the budget to $88 million - a number the collective group of RTAs said were needed for sustainability. But in doing so, lawmakers want assurance that the money is being wisely spent.
The ultimate budget language breaks that additional $8 million into three areas - $2 million upfront, $2 million to be released to operations with deficits who create remedial plans, and $4 million after a newly created task force does an analysis on each RTA to ensure efficiency, develops performance measures for each, and signs memoranda of understanding to incorporate the panel's recommendations.
Malnati is planning to keep the budget based on the $80.4 million and with its portion of the $2 million provided up front - which is $62,000 for the BRTA - to trial a route at night. The BRTA hasn't budgeted for the $4 million just yet.
Malnati is also toying with the idea of later routes in North Adams and Great Barrington - both downtown. He hopes to have the pilot up and running by January.
State Rep. John Barrett III had fought for an increase in funding for the RTAs in the state house and he disagrees with Malnati's decision to cut routes and raise fares at this point. He said the intent of the increase was to ensure there were no cuts while also providing a new level of accountability.
Barrett feels the BRTA is doing it backward. He said the organization should be expanding services to make sure it is providing the best service it can now because it has the additional resources.
He said if the organization is still not meeting the task force's accountability standards halfway through the year, then it can reduce routes.
Barrett is also critical in that once the governor's budget came out, immediately the BRTA began talking about reducing service - before the legislature, which has the most power over the budget got a shot at it.