Overview of the Franklin Regional Transit Authority

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

The Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) was established in 1978 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” The mission statement in FRTA’s 2015 Regional Transit Plan is as follows:

FRTA has established a rural transit system that will improve the quality of life and enhance the economic health of the region and its residents through cost effective, accessible, safe, dependable, and courteous transportation services. The RTA is committed to finding ways to assist those living in low income and low population areas so that they will have access to the same modes of transit needed to nurture independence in their later years and allow less dependency on owning a vehicle. By educating our consumers on the benefits of public transit, FRTA hopes to reduce the carbon footprint in our service area and surrounding communities.

An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had nine full-time staff members during our audit period. FRTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 41 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, FRTA contracted with First Transit, Inc. to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

During our audit period, FRTA’s capital fund expenditures were $726,187 for fiscal year 2016 and $1,251,151 for fiscal year 2017. The table below shows the types of capital fund expenditures made by FRTA.

FRTA Capital Fund Expenditures

Type of Expenditure

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Vehicles

$406,945

$657,176

Equipment

40,079

68,470

Building Improvements

10,994

525,505

Purchase of Land for Parking Lot

171,370

0

Construction in Progress–Parking Lot

64,556

0

Computer Software

32,243

0

Total

$726,187

$1,251,151

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, FRTA 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 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, state contract assistance,4 local assessment5 payments, demand-response income, and fixed-route income. The table below shows the types of funding FRTA received during the audit period.

FRTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Brokerage Service Income*

$3,881,023

$3,782,618

Federal Grants

1,226,101

1,293,949

State Contract Assistance

993,791

1,144,272

Local Assessments

434,247

445,100

Demand-Response Income

168,474

154,888

Fixed-Route Income

130,172

103,776

Other Income

123,491

128,695

Total

$6,957,299

$7,053,298

*    Brokerage service expenses are usually fully reimbursed by the Commonwealth’s Human Service Transportation Office.
†    Other income includes rental fees and advertising revenue.

 

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

FRTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Fixed-Route Service

$1,574,211

$1,690,904

Demand-Response Service

827,556

915,963

Brokerage Service

3,700,930

3,528,616

Salaries, Taxes, and Fringe Benefits

529,718

618,893

Other Administrative Expenses

310,446

356,625

Total

$6,942,861

$7,111,001

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

FRTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services in the 1,100-square-mile Franklin area, serving a population of more than 103,300. It operates a network of eight local transit routes. The local fixed-route service operates five days a week, excluding holidays; weekday service runs from as early as 4:35 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The table below shows the number of revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing vehicles6 used at FRTA during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017.7

Number of FRTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fourth Quarter of Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

43

Non-Revenue-Producing

5

Total

48

Vehicle Maintenance

FRTA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 17,000-square-foot building in Greenfield. At the end of our audit period, FRTA had a total of 48 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in FRTA’s fleet during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017.

FRTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Ford E350

Minibus

20

5

Ford E450

Minibus

12

3

International CE Series

Bus

4

7

Gillig Low Floor

Bus

3

0

Gillig Phantom High Floor

Bus

2

12

New Flyer Xcelsior

Bus

1

1

ElDorado Aero Elite

Minibus

1

11

Ford F350

Truck

2

6

Ford Escape

SUV

2

7

Honda Civic

Sedan

1

12

Total

 

48

 

 

The table below shows FRTA’s fixed-route service expenses for the audit period.

FRTA Fixed-Route Service Maintenance and Operating Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Supervisor, Operator, and Dispatch Salaries

$984,239

$1,081,099

Mechanic Salaries

194,263

181,672

Benefits and Taxes

354,042

387,930

Office Expenses, Training, and Services

83,540

93,924

Vehicle Insurance

144,261

137,993

Fuel, Oil, and Lubricants

108,586

112,071

Parts and Contracted Repairs

71,733

146,849

Maintenance Facility Expenses

86,300

88,113

Demand-Response Operating Company Allocation*

(452,753)

(538,749)

Total

$1,574,211

$1,690,902

*    These funds were originally allocated from the fixed-route budget to the operating company, First Transit, Inc., for demand-response services.

 

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

FRTA Vehicle Mileage and Maintenance Expenses

Make and Model

Vehicle Count

Total Mileage

Parts Cost

Average Maintenance Parts Cost per Vehicle

Ford E350

20

189,586

$3,265

$163

Ford E450

12

202,145

7,844

$654

International CE Series

4

58,179

13,382

$3,345*

Gillig Low Floor

3

55,873

2,371

$790

Gillig Phantom High Floor

2

10,974

1,527

$764

New Flyer Xcelsior

1

27,623

471

$471

ElDorado Aero Elite

1

0

128

$128

Ford F350

2

0

5

$3

Ford Escape

2

0

0

$0

Honda Civic

1

0

11

$11

Total

48

544,380

$29,004

 

*    Discrepancy in total is due to rounding.
†    Total mileage is not available because minimal maintenance was performed during the fourth quarter of 2017 and mileage is recorded when maintenance is performed.

 

FTA requires all RTAs to report to it any information related to their transit vehicle inventories or maintenance and repairs that they conduct. This information is included in FTA’s National Transit Database. Until the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017, FRTA used paper to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA. However, in that quarter, FRTA began using the Ron Turley Associates, Inc. Fleet Management Software to document information and report it to FTA.

FRTA Community Programs

FRTA provides demand-response transportation services to elderly and disabled citizens in the communities it serves. In a separate program, FRTA offers a half-fare fixed-route pass to veterans and active-duty military personnel.

1.    The communities are Ashfield, Bernardston, Blandford, Buckland, Charlemont, Chester, Chesterfield, Colrain, Conway, Cummington, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Goshen, Granville, Greenfield, Hatfield, Hawley, Heath, Huntington, Leyden, Middlefield, Montague, Montgomery, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Plainfield, Rowe, Russell, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Southampton, Southwick, Warwick, Wendell, Westhampton, Whately, and Worthington.

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

3.    This is revenue from the Human Service Transportation Program, under which FRTA 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 FRTA employees for agency-related business.

7.    The vehicle maintenance tables in this report represent the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017. At the time of our audit, FRTA had software-generated maintenance fleet data that could be readily be reviewed and summarized by the audit team for only the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017.

Date published: October 5, 2018
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