For months, Berks Area Regional Transit Authority has been considering a merger with Red Rose Transit Authority in Lancaster County to cut costs and increase efficiencies in its services.
Monday evening, BARTA’s board members voted in favor of moving forward to pursue the merge even further.
If all goes well, the transit authorities hope the merger is official by the end of the year, BARTA’s executive director, David Kilmer, said this morning.
“It presents good opportunity to look at economies of scale and cost savings by consolidating the management of both systems,” said Kilmer, who also is executive director of Red Rose.
Established in 1973 by Berks County and Reading, BARTA operates as its own municipal authority and is funded by the state Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration. A nine-person board of directors, appointed by Berks County Commissioners, oversees operations that serve the urbanized areas of Berks County.
After the September death of Dennis Louwerse, who had been at the helm of BARTA for 30 years, Kilmer became executive director of the Berks authority. Kilmer splits time between BARTA and Red Rose as the head of both transit authorities.
BARTA, with 157 full-time employees, operates with 44 regular buses, also known as fixed route, and 50 door-to-door paratransit vans for the elderly and disabled. It provides 21 bus routes, with thousands of stops throughout the city, picking up and delivering passengers on almost every corner along the city routes and at designated stops along rural routes.
Kilmer said Red Rose is similar in size and budget to BARTA, with 101 full-time employees and a fleet of 42 fixed-route and 60 paratransit buses.
“As a bigger system, we might be able to get better pricing and larger quantities, while improving the quality of service for both communities,” Kilmer said.
In BARTA’s 2013 annual report, during the fiscal year of 2012-13 the transit authority bought more than $9 million in goods and services from Pennsylvania businesses. Of that amount, nearly $5 million were purchases made from Berks County businesses.
“If combination of management of BARTA and Red Rose can indeed provide better economical solutions without impacting service and quality, then the business community and citizens will indeed support it,” Jack Gulati, owner of the Reading Royals ice hockey team and longtime Reading businessman, said in a previous interview.