Overview of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority

Table of Contents

Regional Transit Authorities

Chapter 161B of the Massachusetts General Laws established regional transit authorities (RTAs) to provide a public transportation system under the control of municipalities. Each RTA supports a number of communities (member communities) and is governed by an advisory board composed of the chief elected officials from those communities. Chapter 161B of the General Laws gives the Commonwealth certain oversight responsibilities, and it defines the process by which RTAs may be formed or expanded within the Commonwealth, as well as the duties, powers, and limitations of these RTAs. This law also outlines the membership of RTA advisory boards and their authority to appoint administrators, approve budgets, and approve significant changes in service fares. Currently, there is a network of 15 RTAs (12 urban and 3 rural) operating in the Commonwealth, in addition to the transit services provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). These RTAs serve a total of 262 cities, suburban municipalities, and rural communities outside the greater Boston area and provide transportation via buses and minibuses operated by private transit service companies. RTAs, which are locally controlled, manage their own operations but must hire private operating companies to provide their services in accordance with Chapter 161B of the General Laws.

Section 53 of Chapter 6C of the General Laws makes the Rail and Transit Division (RTD) of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation “responsible for overseeing, coordinating and planning all transit and rail matters throughout the commonwealth,” including intercity buses, the MBTA, and RTAs. RTD carries out its responsibility of providing and managing financial assistance for RTAs through its Community Transit Program Unit, which oversees the federal, state, and local programs that financially support RTAs. State appropriations for the 15 RTAs increased from approximately $70 million in fiscal year 2014 to approximately $80 million in fiscal years 2016 through 2018.

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) was established in June 1974 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to BRTA’s website, the agency’s mission is “to provide an efficient and effective public transportation service to enhance the economic vitality of the member communities through improved access to jobs, education, and the marketplace.” An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had 11 full-time staff members during our audit period. BRTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 26 communities1 the agency serves. The advisory board is responsible for hiring an administrator, setting fares, establishing service levels, and authorizing real-estate purchases. For fiscal years 2016 and 2017, BRTA contracted with First Transit Incorporated to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

During our audit period, BRTA’s capital fund expenditures were $1,357,425 for fiscal year 2016 and $814,149 for fiscal year 2017. The table below shows the types of capital fund expenditures made by BRTA.

BRTA Capital Fund Expenditures

Type of Expenditure

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Building Improvements

$163,638

$128,525

Revenue-Producing Vehicles

1,083,872

618,736

Office Equipment and Furniture

86,215

17,992

Service Vehicles

23,700

48,896

Total

$1,357,425

$814,149

 

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, BRTA received revenue from a variety of sources, including fares from riders and assistance from various federal, state, and local sources. The largest source of funding is brokerage service income,3 followed by state contract assistance,4 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, and local assessment5 payments. The table below shows the types of funding BRTA received during the audit period.

BRTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Brokerage Service Income*

$7,734,546

$9,051,989

State Contract Assistance

2,554,954

2,554,954

Federal Grants

1,736,306

1,782,181

Local Assessments

883,029

905,105

Fixed-Route Income

787,413

701,078

Other Federal and State Assistance

292,112

182,438

Demand-Response Income

150,889

134,650

Other Funds†

116,630

113,478

Total

$14,255,879

$15,425,873

*    Brokerage service expenses are usually fully reimbursed by the Commonwealth’s Human Service Transportation Office.

†    Other funds include rental fees, advertising revenue, and reimbursements.

 

During our audit period, BRTA’s operating costs were as follows.

BRTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Fixed-Route Service

$4,939,494

$4,678,950

Demand-Response Service

903,509

948,503

Brokerage Service

7,789,792

9,054,617

Administrative Salaries, Taxes, and Fringe Benefits

384,559

371,940

Other Administrative Expenses

223,023

299,853

Reimbursable Depreciation

46,924

50,723

Total

$14,287,301

$15,404,586

 

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

BRTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 384-square-mile Berkshire area, serving a population of more than 121,500. It operates a network of 14 local transit routes. The local fixed-route service operates six days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 5:45 a.m. to 7:20 p.m., and Saturday service runs from 7:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Buses and minibuses provide transit services to the vast majority of BRTA passengers, and its vanpool provides paratransit services. The table below shows the number of revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing vehicles6 used at BRTA during fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

Number of BRTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

43

55

Non-Revenue-Producing

10

10

Total

53

65

 

Vehicle Maintenance

BRTA’s contracted operating company, Berkshire Transit Management, Inc., operates an administrative office, a wash bay, and a maintenance facility in an approximately 22,228-square-foot building in Pittsfield. At the end of our audit period, BRTA had a total of 65 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in BRTA’s fleet during the audit period.

BRTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Ford E450

Minibus

31

2.68

Ford E350

Minibus

13

7.15

ElDorado E-Z Rider II

Bus

3

3.00

Gillig Low Rider

Bus

5

10.80

Ford F350

Truck

2

1.00

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Sedan

2

2.00

Toyota Highlander

SUV

2

3.50

StarTrans Belo

Bus

2

4.00

Ford 500

Sedan

1

11.00

International HC-31

Bus

1

7.00

Ford Elkhart Shuttle Bus

Minibus

1

4.00

Ford F450

Truck

1

2.00

Ford Escape

SUV

1

1.00

Total

 

65

 

 

The table below shows BRTA’s fixed-route maintenance and operating expenses for the audit period.

BRTA Fixed-Route Maintenance and Operating Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Operator and Supervisor Salaries

$1,710,019

$1,669,312

Mechanic Salaries

280,177

280,397

Maintenance Salaries

233,552

234,064

Fringe Benefits, Pensions, and Health Insurance

1,233,597

1,225,195

Fuel Oil and Lubricants

428,419

291,603

Repair Parts and Supplies

395,331

370,165

Management Fees and Professional Services

260,768

240,515

Insurance

188,123

202,253

Building Maintenance, Telephone Service, and Utilities

91,348

131,435

Other Maintenance Expenses

118,160

34,011

Total

$4,939,494

$4,678,950

 

Below are the actual mileage and maintenance costs per vehicle for fiscal year 2017.

BRTA Vehicle Mileage and Maintenance Expenses

Make and Model

Vehicle Count

Total Mileage

Labor
Cost

Parts
Cost

Total
Maintenance Cost

Average Maintenance Cost per Vehicle

Ford E450

31

735,705

$51,306

$33,902

$85,209*

$2,749

Ford E350

13

169,190

16,256

17,140

33,396

$2,569

ElDorado E-Z Rider II

3

139,742

20,778

38,586

59,364

$19,788

Gillig Low Rider

5

168,175

35,986

77,637

113,623

$22,725

Ford F350

2

6,603

137

11

148

$74

Ford Fusion Hybrid

2

1,914

33

41

74

$37

Toyota Highlander

2

7,168

111

0

111

$55*

StarTrans Belo

2

79,190

8,999

18,461

27,460

$13,730

Ford 500

1

1,187

111

298

410*

$410

International HC-31

1

32,160

8,189

13,072

21,261

$21,261

Ford Elkhart Shuttle Bus

1

6,710

178

0

178

$178

Ford F450

1

8,859

268

187

454*

$454

Ford Escape

1

2,372

23

0

23

$23

Total

65

1,358,975

$142,375

$199,335

$341,710*

 

*     Discrepancies in totals are due to rounding.

 

FTA requires all RTAs to report to it any information related to their transit vehicle inventories and maintenance and repairs that they conduct. This information is included in FTA’s National Transit Database. At the time of our audit, BRTA was using the Ron Turley Associates, Inc. Fleet Management Software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA.

BRTA Community Programs

BRTA belongs to a number of organizations and agencies throughout the communities it serves. It reaches out to the community through local schools and fairs to educate the public about its services. It also has an information bus that sells tickets in various communities and responds to questions about itself, and it offers a travel training program on riding BRTA buses.

 

1.    The communities are Adams, Alford, Becket, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Egremont, Florida, Great Barrington, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Ashford, North Adams, Otis, Peru, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Washington, Williamstown, and Windsor.

2.    Demand-response transportation services are those that run on a flexible schedule and on flexible routes based on the needs of RTA passengers with special needs.

3.    This is revenue from the Human Service Transportation Program, under which BRTA coordinates with human-service agencies to provide their clients with transportation services.

4.    Under Section 23 of Chapter 161B of the General Laws, the Commonwealth, through the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, can contract with an RTA to fund 50% of the net cost of the service the RTA provides. Known as state contract assistance, this funding is provided through the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund.

5.    Under Section 9 of Chapter 161B of the General Laws, annual local assessment payments are adjusted based on the “loss” (operating cost minus revenue) for each specific transit route and the activity and the share of that loss attributable to each town or city.

6.    Non-revenue-producing vehicles are light-duty vehicles for temporary use by BRTA employees for agency-related business.

Date published: July 9, 2018
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