NORTH ADAMS, MASS. -- A program that has provided thousands
of rides to people in need of transportation has changed
the scope of taxi service in the Northern Berkshires.
After the founding of the Transportation Association of
Northern Berkshire two years ago, people in low-income
brackets have been provided with rides to work, child-care
sites and school for $1 per ride.
The association contracts with two cab companies in the
area, American Livery and Norm's Limousine Service, to do
the work, said Roger Breckner, association project manager.
The program is divided seven days a week between American
Livery and Norm's Limousine. Norm's takes care of days,
from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and American does nights, from 6
p.m. to 8 a.m.
This past February, the association provided 3,469 rides;
248 of those were to take parents to drop off children at
day-care sites. In the eight months prior, 22,196 rides
were provided. Those needing rides call a dispatcher at the
association to make a reservation for transportation and
the center sends a local taxi.
The association is open for calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After that, the calls are directed to the cab companies'
dispatchers. The service covers Adams, North Adams,
Williamstown, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Savoy and Florida.
Those using the service must be low income or below the
federal poverty line.
Taxis take passengers directly to their destination or drop
them off at a Berkshire Regional Transit Authority stop,
the ticket for which also is footed by the association.
One of two cab companies that participate in the program
claims the current arrangement is hurting it financially.
An owner of Norm's taxi service said the shift over the
past few years of regular taxi business to mostly
association business has hurt financially, also in part
because of a slight shift in contracts from Norm's to
The rub for Laurie Chittenden, co-owner of Norm's Limousine
Service and its sister company, Veteran's Taxi, is that
American is receiving 14 hours a week more of the
association's business. Chittenden claims that Norm's
regular taxi service has essentially been muted, and that
it now must rely heavily on its airport shuttle service.
Whereas the taxi business was an open market a few years
ago, Chittenden said the rides that American and Norm's now
give via the association were once performed to a greater
extent by her business. Although Chittenden wouldn't
comment on how much money has been lost, she said the
number of her taxis has been reduced from about five to one
per day for the city and vicinity. "It's taken away the
taxi end of it."
Last year, the association gave $80,968 in business to
Norm's and $60,027 to American, according to Breckner.
American Livery is owned by sisters Lori Pratt and Candy
Tripodes of North Adams.
Candy Tripodes' husband, Ed Tripodes, said 100 percent of
American Livery's business is taken up by users of the ride
program. The livery's sister business, American Cab Co., is
devoted entirely to local taxi calls.
He said "there's room for everybody" in the North Adams
taxi business, which is why he has stayed out of the
airport shuttle aspect -- to "not step on anyone's toes."
The extra business awarded to American, said Tripodes, was
based on no late arrivals for pick ups, cleanliness of cabs
and general customer service.
Breckner said the decision to give American slightly more
of the association's patronage was strictly a business one.
He said the association considers several factors in
choosing providers, including cost, quality and the nature
of the relationship fostered between them and others.
The association is funded by a yearly $400,000 federal