Overview of the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Greater Attleboro Taunton 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 Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority

The Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) was established in 1973 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to GATRA’s 2015 Regional Transit Plan,

It is the mission of GATRA to provide safe, courteous, cost-effective transportation to the people throughout the region. As the needs of the community grow and change, GATRA will be dedicated to meeting the challenges of modern transportation.

An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had 25 full-time and 7 part-time staff members during our audit period. GATRA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 28 communities1 the agency serves. The advisory board is responsible for hiring an administrator, setting fares, establishing service levels, and authorizing real-estate purchases. During our audit period, GATRA contracted with Professional Transit Management of Attleboro Inc., Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway Co., Kiessling Transit Inc., and A&A Metro Transportation (doing business as Bill’s Taxi Service Inc.) to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, GATRA 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 assessment payments,5 and farebox revenue. The table below shows the types of funding GATRA received during the audit period.

GATRA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Brokerage Service Income*

$38,170,805

$39,553,270

Federal Grants

4,246,061

4,963,575

State Contract Assistance

4,220,069

4,290,823

Local Assessments

4,011,300

4,136,582

Farebox Revenue

1,041,423

911,865

Parking Revenue

451,948

614,105

Other Funds

115,241

92,688

Other Income

91,826

80,364

Total

$52,348,673

$54,643,272

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

†    Other funds include rental income and gains on the sale of property and equipment.

‡    Other income includes advertising income and reimbursements.

 

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

GATRA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Brokerage Services

$36,008,421

$37,256,471

Transit Services

11,508,018

12,206,138

Maintenance

4,853,000

5,007,748

Depreciation

3,697,952

3,877,756

Total

$56,067,391

$58,348,113

During our audit period, GATRA received capital grants from the US Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth to be used for various purposes connected with the modernization and expansion of transportation services. Those grants totaled $4,895,121 for fiscal year 2016 and $4,139,343 for fiscal year 2017.

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

GATRA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 545-square-mile greater Attleboro and Taunton area, serving a population of more than 579,000. It operates a network of 24 local transit routes and 7 commuter routes. The local fixed-route service operates six days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturday service runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Scituate Loop, which stops at local businesses, municipality offices, and community senior centers, operates on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. and weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

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

Number of GATRA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

151

147

Non-Revenue-Producing

9

12

Total

160

159

Vehicle Maintenance

GATRA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 53,000-square-foot building in Taunton; roughly 24,000 square feet of that building generates rental income for GATRA. At the end of our audit period, GATRA had a total of 159 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in GATRA’s fleet during the audit period.

GATRA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Ford E350 (minibus)

Minibus

79

4

Gillig Low Floor

Bus

14

8

Ford E450

Minibus

30

5

New Flyer Xcelsior

Bus

11

2

International CE Series

Bus

7

6

Orion International Low Floor

Bus

4

14

Chevrolet Malibu

Sedan

1

11

Chevrolet ElDorado AeroTech

Bus

4

8

Ford E350 (van)

Van

8

1

Ford E150

Van

1

9

Total

 

159

 

 

The table below shows GATRA’s maintenance expenses for the audit period.

GATRA Maintenance Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Salaries

$3,431,071

$3,556,990

Fuel and Lubricants

750,829

767,473

Parts and Equipment

522,267

537,749

Other Maintenance

148,833

145,537

Total

$4,853,000

$5,007,749

 

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

GATRA 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 E350 (minibus)

79

1,411,411

$53,526

$44,876

$98,402

$1,246

Gillig Low Floor

14

547,667

24,666

78,914

103,580

$7,399

Ford E450

30

613,429

36,621

39,642

76,263

$2,542

New Flyer Xcelsior

11

252,299

6,573

3,154

9,728*

$884

International CE Series

7

217,355

12,654

26,609

39,263

$5,609

Orion International Low Floor

4

80,422

10,071

41,914

51,985

$12,996

Chevrolet Malibu

1

7,397

105

33

138

$138

Chevrolet ElDorado AeroTech

4

89,428

11,438

19,681

31,118*

$7,780

Ford E350 (van)

8

68,294

534

227

761

$95

Ford E150

1

1,037

88

121

209

$209

Total

159

3,288,739

$156,276

$255,171

$411,447

 

*    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. During the audit period, GATRA used the Ron Turley Associates Inc. (RTAI) Fleet Management Software with contracted transportation service vendor Professional Transit Management of Attleboro Inc. at its maintenance facility in Taunton to document vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA. Its other contracted service providers (Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway Co., Kiessling Transit Inc., and A&A Metro Transportation), whose maintenance operations are located at three separate facilities, use software by RTAI, Distinctive Systems, and Dossier Systems Inc., respectively, for that task.

GATRA Community Programs

To assist elderly and disabled residents in the community, GATRA provides Dial-a-Ride7 service and arranges transportation with subcontracted transportation providers. For Duxbury, Marshfield, Kingston, Pembroke, and north Plymouth, GATRA provides medical transportation to Boston for seniors and people with disabilities. It also provides transit passes to seniors, low-income residents, and people with disabilities in the Taunton and Attleboro area using a grant from United Way of Greater Attleboro / Taunton and in Wareham through Massachusetts Community Development Block Grant8 funding. Additionally, GATRA provides councils on aging with transportation resources for the communities it serves. GATRA also collaborates with Wheaton College to provide transportation to students and faculty members.

1.    The 28 communities are Attleboro, Bellingham, Berkley, Carver, Dighton, Duxbury, Foxborough, Franklin, Hanover, Kingston, Lakeville, Mansfield, Marshfield, Medway, Middleborough, Norfolk, North Attleborough, Norton, Pembroke, Plainville, Plymouth, Raynham, Rehoboth, Scituate, Seekonk, Taunton, Wareham, and Wrentham.

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 GATRA 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 GATRA employees for agency-related business.

7.    According to GATRA’s website, “Dial-A-Ride is curb to curb transportation for passengers who meet [Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990] requirements and/or are age 60 and above.”

8.    According to the website for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the program is “a federally funded, competitive grant program designed to help small cities and towns meet a broad range of community development needs.”

Date published: October 3, 2018
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