BARTA moves closer to merger with Lancaster transit system

BARTA moves closer to merger with Lancaster transit system

READING, Pa. - Members of the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority (BARTA) board voted 7-1 Monday afternoon in favor of a potential merger with the Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) of Lancaster.

"It's a great opportunity, a historic opportunity for two counties to come together and really see how streamlining and becoming more efficient really does work," said Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, who also serves as BARTA's board chairman.

According to Barnhardt, the merger would not only improve service within the counties, but save each agency hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next several years.

"People want government to be more efficient, more cost effective. Here's an opportunity staring us in the face and I think we have to take it," said Barnhardt.

Barnhardt said a merger would also reduce the chance of future forced collaborations from the state.

"We want to be in the driver's seat," he said.

But not everyone voted in favor of the resolution. Board member Gregg Bogia was absent. Member Mickey Roeberg voted "no."

"This authority should be for Berks County," Roeberg told the room, expressing fears that the merger could cause a loss in local control.

But according to Barnhardt, the merger would work like a partnership, although many details still need to be hashed out.

The RRTA board still needs to vote on the prospect, and is expected to on Thursday, officials said.

If voting in favor, each county's board of commissioners would also need to approve the merger.

Barnhardt said an outcome is still weeks away. If approved by all necessary parties, the merger wouldn't take place until early 2015.

Monday's vote comes after a joint committee was developed to study the potential merger.

The two transit authorities have shared management services since October 2013, after BARTA's longtime director, Dennis Louwerse, died the month before.

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