By Anca Voinea
A worker co-op in the USA is working to plug the gaps in local public transport provision which have left night workers stranded.
Set up in 2017 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Rose and Cole Co-op Transport is a ride-sharing business helping people without cars to get to work. The service is aimed at those with off-hour jobs.
The city, which has 50,000 inhabitants has the largest concentration of jobs in Berkshire county, as well as the highest number of households without a car.
With local buses running infrequently, and no evening and Sunday services at all, people without vehicles find it difficult to get to work, often having to use Uber. An analysis conducted recently by Berkshire Regional Transit Authority revealed that many jobs were sighted more than a mile from a bus route, particularly in Southern Berkshire.
Two of the co-op’s founding members, Ed Rose and Nicole Fecteau, met at Manos Unidos, a local co-operatively run non-profit in Pittsfield, which focuses on helping people of oppressed or marginalised identities find avenues to more stability. The focus is on finding their voices and learning how to make those voices heard.
For many years Ed Rose has been driving people around Pittsfield, and sometimes much further, for reasonable fees in an independent business. He had built up a small steady customer base by himself, but he was always looking for a way to become bigger.
While exploring co-operative models, the two decided to set up their own co-op, which they named after themselves.
Rose and Cole is the first project part of the Roots and Dreams co-operative, a co-op development body created by Ms Fecteau and her friend, Michael Hitchcock, to foster worker owned co-ops. Ms Fecteau is also director of Mustard Seeds, a venture that seek to help co-ops get off the ground.
“Shortly after we started, Terry Moore, also a member of Manos, saw the potential in what we were doing and came on. He immediately took responsibility for booking, scheduling, and customer service,” said Mr Hitchcock, executive director of Roots and Dreams.
While the newly established transport co-op cannot as yet pay a living wage to its drivers, it hopes that by widening its customer base it will be able to increase pay.
A one-way ride in Pittsfield less than 3 miles starts at $6, according to the co-op’s website. The worker members are taking into account that a lot of riders are on low income. Most of the money the operation earns goes toward paying commercial insurance for its vehicles.