Overview of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Martha’s Vineyard 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 Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA) was established in 1980 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to VTA’s senior management, the agency’s mission is to increase the use of regional mass transit. An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had 10 full-time, 1 part-time, and 7 seasonal staff members during our audit period. VTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the six communities1 the agency serves. The advisory board is responsible for hiring an administrator, setting fares, establishing service levels, and authorizing real-estate purchases. During fiscal years 2016 and 2017, VTA contracted with Transit Connection, Inc. to provide fixed-route services as well as services for transporting passengers with disabilities. VTA provides maintenance and administrative functions.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, VTA 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 fare revenue, followed by state contract assistance,2 local assessment3 payments, and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants. The table below shows the types of funding VTA received during the audit period.

VTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Fare Revenue

$1,894,164

$1,916,556

State Contract Assistance

1,488,292

1,562,306

Local Assessments

869,926

891,674

Federal Grants

842,891

870,240

Total

$5,095,273

$5,240,776

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

VTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Transit Service

$3,977,340

$4,177,307

Maintenance

809,451

771,838

General Expenses and Administration

257,893

241,231

Depreciation

1,419,263

1,632,837

Total

$6,463,947

$6,823,213

During our audit period, VTA received capital grants funded by the US Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth to be used for the modernization and expansion of transportation services. Those grants totaled $2,145,400 for fiscal year 2016 and $3,108,705 for fiscal year 2017.

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

VTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response4 services within the 88-square-mile Martha’s Vineyard area, serving a population of more than 17,160. It operates a network of 14 local transit routes during peak season between May and October, and route service varies depending on demand during off-peak season. The local fixed-route service operates seven days a week from as early as 5:15 a.m. to 1:17 a.m.

The table below shows the number of revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing vehicles5 used at VTA during fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

Number of VTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

42

43

Non-Revenue-Producing

8

12

Total

50

55

Vehicle Maintenance

VTA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 22,000-square-foot building in Edgartown. At the end of our audit period, VTA had a total of 55 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in VTA’s fleet during the audit period.

VTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

International HCCB

Bus

14

5

Ford ElDorado

Minibus

10

10

New Flyer Midi

Bus

12

1

Bluebird CSRE

Bus

1

15

Ford E350

Minibus

5

6

Ford Fusion

Sedan

1

6

Ford C-Max

Sedan

6

3

Ford Escape

SUV

1

6

Ford F250

Truck

1

2

Chevrolet Silverado

Truck

1

11

Chevrolet K3500

Truck

1

13

Toyota Highlander

SUV

1

3

Ford Econoline

Van

1

11

Total

 

55

 

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

VTA Vehicle Mileage and Maintenance Expenses

Make and Model

Vehicle Count

Total Mileage

Total Maintenance Parts Cost

Average Maintenance Parts Cost per Vehicle

International HCCB

14

445,512

$223,826

$15,988

Ford ElDorado

10

422,135

145,567

$14,557

New Flyer Midi

12

331,193

76,134

$6,344*

Bluebird CSRE

1

11,200

6,053

$6,053

Ford E350

5

104,957

21,723

$4,345

Ford Fusion

1

1,219

0

$0

Ford C-Max

6

39,339

6,590

$1,098

Ford Escape

1

5,957

897

$897

Ford F250

1

3,185

0

$0

Chevrolet Silverado

1

4,018

418

$418

Chevrolet K3500

1

1,685

0

$0

Toyota Highlander

1

4,250

962

$962

Ford Econoline

1

2,108

0

$0

Total

55

1,376,758

$482,168*

 

*     Discrepancies in totals are due to rounding.

 

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. At the time of our audit, VTA was using the AssetWorks Fleet Management Software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA.

VTA Community Programs

During peak tourist season in Martha’s Vineyard, VTA provides transportation to tourists, residents, and employees of tourist attractions. VTA also provides paratransit services for elderly people and those with disabilities in the Martha’s Vineyard area. Over the past few years, VTA has been transforming its gas/diesel fleet of buses into an electric bus fleet. The electric buses are quiet and produce no exhaust emissions and are thus more environmentally friendly than gas/diesel buses. Additionally, VTA has formed partnerships with the schools on the island to maintain the school buses. In 2002, VTA started a Consumer Advisory Group, which is open to the public, to discuss concerns regarding VTA’s bus routes.

1.    The communities are Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury.

2.    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.

3.    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.

4.    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.

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

Date published: October 10, 2018
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