Don’t Drive?

By Regina Rouse aided by Brian O’Grady & Pam Burger

It is difficult to live alone in South Williamstown without a driver’s license. Friends are generous but must not be overused. I have discovered though that in Williamstown there are several services helping to solve this problem. Two of them — “The Van” run by The Council on Aging and “Enhanced Travel” – serve Williamstown residents. They are free to ride. A third, the BRTA ADA Paratransit Service also goes to Pittsfield. It charges fares. All three use minivans. The different outfits serve different needs, but all three provide transportation to and from your home and all can accommodate wheelchairs.

“The Van” 458-8250

The purpose of “The Van” is primarily life support – grocery shopping and medical appointments. It is run out of the Harper Center (458-8250). If you call there the staff will either connect you to Jackie Lemieux, the driver and keeper of the schedule book or have her call you back. Call at least one day ahead but even earlier is a good idea. The van runs Monday to Friday from 8 am-4 pm. It is generally available after 9 am on these days as the Council on Aging brings Williamstown elders to a day program in North Adams first thing in the morning and returns them home later in the day. Tuesday Jackie reserves for taking residents to Stop and Shop. Wait times for the return home pickup are sometimes 45 minutes as the van is very busy, so plan accordingly.

“Enhanced Travel” 458-9831

“Enhanced Travel” is financed by a grant and is a supplement to the service of “The Van.” It will not take you to any medical appointment. How long this service will last is not known. It depends upon available funding and it was recently extended for a while. To order this service, call 458-9831 and ask for Angela. It is best to call a day ahead. If you want a ride on Sunday, call on Friday. This service runs Thursday and Friday from 4-8 pm, Saturday from 10 am-3 pm and Sunday from 9 am-12 pm.

BRTA Paratransit Service 499-2782

The BRTA paratransit service operates out of Pittsfield. Its address is 1 Columbus Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 01201. The telephone number is 499-2782 extension 3. To participate in this program one has to fill out a lengthy application form. It can be downloaded from the internet. Qualifications to use this service are two-fold. You cannot have a driver’s license because of disability (you will need to provide input from your doctor) and you must live a distance from a bus stop. You can find information about this on their website at www.berkshireta.com or you can call them at the main office number listed above for assistance. You will be notified by mail if you are declared eligible.

You have to buy tickets which can be ordered by mail from the above address. These come in different colors determined by the distance you are traveling. Each ticket is for a one- way trip. Tan tickets are for a trip within Williamstown and cost $2.50. Green tickets which cost $3.50 will take a passenger to North Adams. Tickets to Pittsfield are salmon in color and cost $9.00. Rides on Sunday and holidays cost extra. Call 499-2782 extension 3 to order a ride. Although you can order the day before it is advised to do so three or four days in advance since the number of vans is limited. This service operates on the same schedule as the buses: Monday through Saturday from 6 am-7 pm and 8 am-2 pm on Sunday and holidays. I find the drivers are both friendly and prompt.

County Ambulance 499-2527

There is an additional option for individuals who have medical appointments at BMC in Pittsfield. After the loss of the North Adams Regional Hospital, BMC has funded a program through County Ambulance to bring North County residents to BMC or the Medical Arts Building for no cost. All you have to do is call County Ambulance at 499-2527 and request a ride. They’ll be happy to assist.