BARTA riders now have more options and can travel farther. Berks County's mass transportation system has expanded some if its routes in response to growing demand and an influx of federal funds.
BARTA received more than a million dollars in federal funds to help it provide almost 6,000 hours of new service annually, but transit officials said they will be keeping a close eye on its performance.
The program is called the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, or CMAQ.
"Which is a program that helps us to expand into areas previously not served, and high volume traffic areas," said Janet Weiss, manager of programs and marketing for BARTA.
The newly-expanded routes with additional service include the Route 14 Wernersville with service to Womelsdorf, Route 1 Temple via 5th Street, and Route 8, which now travels to Birdsboro.
Officials said roughly 10,000 riders a day use BARTA. About 70 percent of them are on their way to and from work. And the numbers appear to be on the rise.
"We have seen an increase of about 6 percent on fare riders and we attribute that to slowly, some of the employers starting to call people back to work," said Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt. "So it really has expanded that service."
And some of the riders are already finding handy uses for the expanded service.
"I have friends in Birdsboro," said Glenn Shirey of Reading. "I have family in Birdsboro, so it's nice to be able to get there, instead of them having to pick me up in Reading."
The federal CMAQ funds that BARTA received will cover the expenses of running the expanded service for the next three years.
After that, its performance will be re-evaluated.