Our Theory of Change
By almost every measure of state health, Massachusetts places at or near the top of the 50 states, with one massive outlier – transportation, where we rank 43rd out of 50. Transportation is an enormous problem across the state, with many communities struggling to provide adequate public transportation options.
However, this problem is particularly acute in places like Berkshire County that are rural and sparsely populated, given that resources in our state flow overwhelmingly to more urban and densely populated regions – especially Greater Boston.
Given this reality, we recognize that our transportation challenges cannot be solved simply by pushing the state for additional resources for traditional transportation models, such as the BRTA. At the same time, these challenges are too large to be addressed at the municipal level; many people who live in North Adams work in Pittsfield, and a North Adams-only transportation program would not solve their needs.
Instead, BIO believes that our transportation challenges must be addressed at the regional level, with innovative transportation programs tailored to the specific needs and strengths of our county.
We seek to meet this need and pave the way for new models which can be used throughout the state. To do this, we work to build relationships between those facing transportation challenges and regional power brokers, research and develop innovative models, and push decision makers for their implementation.
We began this work in 2015 with a campaign to save Northern Berkshire’s Berkshire Rides program, which provided low-cost curb to curb transportation for work to Northern Berkshire residents who were unable to get to work using traditional services, and to expand the program to the entire county. We were able to preserve the program for an additional year and prevent job loss for those who relied on the service.
To make this local work possible, we also raise up a voice for our county at the state level. While we continue to fight for more funding for our RTA – and to hold the RTA accountable for providing good service – we also push the state to open up new revenue streams which can fund our efforts for innovation.
We believe that by bringing people together to craft innovative and creative transportation solutions on the ground in the Berkshires, and pushing the state for the changes we need to support them, we can solve this critical issue in the Berkshires.
Our Current Work
Today, our work to implement innovative solutions continues with our fight to bring a volunteer based on-demand ride service to Berkshire County. We're on track to launch by the end of the year!
The program will consist of volunteer drivers using their own vehicles to get neighbors to and from health-related activities.
Whether it’s the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment, the program will help residents get where they need to go in order to live a healthy life.
The local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program will likely manage the program—training drivers, handling dispatch, and providing backup insurance. Meanwhile, Berkshire Community Action Council will likely serve as the fiscal agent.
We're now focusing on working out details and then mounting a publicity campaign to recruit drivers and riders.
Legislatively, BIO has now joined the Driving Families Forward coalition. The group is working to pass in Massachusetts the Work and Family Mobility Act, which would enable all qualified residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of immigration status.
Passage would increase road safety and expand opportunities for more of our neighbors, especially those in the immigrant community.
Our Organizational Partners
We deeply thank all the organizations that have come together to plan this important new resource!
Here are some of our partners in the work:
Berkshire Community Action Council
Berkshire Health Systems
Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
Community Health Programs
State Senator Adam Hinds’ Office
Northern Berkshire Community Coalition
Retired Senior Volunteer Program
Volunteers in Medicine