Studies note steep climb to improve rural transportation

No car. No go. That’s long been the deal for people in rural Western Massachusetts, where life is all but impossible without owning a vehicle.

When it comes to rural transportation, past looks like prologue, two recent studies suggest. Amid talk of renewed rail travel to and from the Berkshires, public transportation is thin or nonexistent outside urban centers.

And when “self-driving” cars come of age, expect rural regions to fall further behind, officials caution. Hundreds of country roads in Berkshire County will be off-limits to autonomous vehicles, unless telecommunications gaps are plugged and roads themselves improved.

“Absent some change in policy, the future of transportation in rural areas may look very similar to what exists today,” the Berkshire County Selectmen’s Association concluded in a recent report.