Overview of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority

Additional information about the authority and its responsibilities.

Table of Contents

Regional Transit Authorities

In 1973, 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 (MassDOT) “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. As shown below, 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.

 

A bar chart showing state appropriations to the 15 RTAs was approximately $70 million in 2014, $40 million in 2015, and $80 million in each of 2016, 2017, and 2018.
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 MetroWest Regional Transit Authority

The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) was established on July 1, 2007 by Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to MWRTA’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 28 full-time and 23 part-time staff members during our audit period. MWRTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 15 communities1 the agency serves. The advisory board is responsible for policy decisions and general oversight of MWRTA’S administrative operations. In fiscal year 2016, MWRTA contracted with First Transit Incorporated to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions. However, in fiscal year 2017, MWRTA discontinued this contract and assumed responsibility for these services.

During our audit period, MWRTA’s capital fund expenditures were $3,577,754 for fiscal year 2016 and $5,411,778 for fiscal year 2017. The table below shows the types of capital fund expenditures made by MWRTA.

MWRTA Capital Fund Expenditures 

Type of Expenditure

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Land

$       37,446

$  328,169

Building and Improvements

   3,042,515

4,496,797

Service Equipment

         31,550

     133,293

Transit Equipment

       364,459

     424,148

Service Vehicles

         80,607

                 0

Furniture and Fixtures

         21,177

       29,371

Total

$ 3,577,754

$ 5,411,778

 

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, MWRTA 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 state contract assistance,3 followed by local assessment4 payments, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, and fare revenue. The table below shows the types of funding MWRTA received during the audit period.

 

MWRTA Operating Funding Sources 

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

State Contract Assistance

$ 2,715,598

$ 3,015,598

Local Assessments

2,546,081

   3,351,903

Federal Grants

2,473,503

   2,266,915

Fare Revenue

     582,951

      622,656

Other Funds*

     234,546

      437,697

Total

$ 8,552,679

$ 9,694,769

*    Other funds include shuttle service fares and reimbursements.

 

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

 

MWRTA Operating Expenses 

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Transit Service

$ 5,457,431

$  5,841,362

Call Center

       477,301

       535,898

Maintenance

   1,377,288

    1,816,675

Other Operating Expenses

   1,223,524

    1,616,220

Total

$ 8,535,544

$  9,810,155

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

MWRTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 214-square-mile Metrowest area, serving a population of more than 231,000. It operates a network of 14 local transit routes, 4 commuter routes, and 2 supplemental school routes. The local fixed-route service operates six days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 5:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., and Saturday service runs from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The 2 supplemental school routes operate on weekdays, from as early as 7:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Minibuses provide transit services to the vast majority of MWRTA passengers, and its vanpool provides paratransit services. The table below shows the number of revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing vehicles5 used at MWRTA during fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

 

Number of MWRTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

58

100

Non-Revenue-Producing

4

4

Total

62

104

Vehicle Maintenance

MWRTA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 3,000-square-foot building in Framingham. At the end of our audit period, MWRTA had a total of 104 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in MWRTA’s fleet during the audit period.

 

MWRTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Ford E350

Minibus

57

3.18

Ford E450

Minibus

34

2.76

Ford MV-1

Paratransit Van

8

3.00

Ford Explorer

Van

4

9.75

Ford Crown Victoria

Sedan

1

8.00

 

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

 

MWRTA Maintenance Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Salaries

$     278,821

$    528,054

Parts and Equipment

       143,154

      201,783

Fuel

       491,735

      549,301

Insurance

       233,963

      263,788

Other Vehicle Maintenance

         32,479

         71,477

Other Maintenance

       197,136

      202,272

Total

$ 1,377,288

$ 1,816,675

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

 

MWRTA 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

34

1,398,516

$132,309

$114,499

$246,809*

$7,259

Ford E350

57

1,073,040

91,492

62,216

153,708

$2,697

Ford MV-1

8

40,654

6,043

2,038

8,081

$1,010

Ford Explorer

4

40,060

1,338

           808

2,145*

$536

Ford Crown Victoria

1

19,407

425

299

724

$724

Total

104

2,571,677

$231,607

$179,860

$411,467

 

*    Discrepancies in cost 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, MWRTA was using fleet management software called Fleetio Manage to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report this information to FTA.

MWRTA Community Programs

In an effort to create employment opportunities, MWRTA offers Commercial Driver’s License Program training for anyone who is interested a career in the transportation industry. In a separate program, MWRTA collaborates with Framingham State University to provide transportation to students and faculty members through a student-operated transit system. Under the program, MWRTA provides the vehicles and maintenance for the program, as well as some oversight and training for the students. MWRTA has also been an active participant in the Framingham Intermodal Program, which creates coordinated, efficient transportation in the communities around Framingham.

1. The Metrowest area that MWRTA serves consists of the communities of Ashland, Dover, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston.

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. 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.

4. 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.

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

 

Date published: June 19, 2018
Feedback