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Overview of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority

Additional information about the transit authority and its responsibilities.

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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 Montachusett Regional Transit Authority

The Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) was established on August 7, 1978 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to its website, MART’s mission is “to provide safe, reliable, efficient, and cost-effective transit, Para-transit, and brokerage services to our customers contributing to the social well-being and economic vitality of the region and the Commonwealth.” (Brokerage services are contracted transportation for eligible residents who receive services through certain human service agencies.) An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had 15 full-time staff members during our audit period. MART’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of at least one member from each of the 22 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, MART contracted with Management Transportation Systems, Incorporated to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, MART 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, followed by human service transportation (HST) management fee income from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS),3 state contract assistance,4 farebox revenue, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, and local assessment5 payments. The table below shows the types of funding MART received during the audit period.

 

MART Operating Funding Sources 

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Brokerage Service Income

$121,968,781

$137,407,386

HST Management Fee Income

6,327,258

6,274,228

State Contract Assistance

5,968,629

5,968,632

Farebox Revenue

4,800,811

4,492,294

Federal Grants

2,333,325

2,400,000

Local Assessments

2,006,825

2,156,690

Other Funds*

1,073,013

1,247,989

Total

$144,478,642

$159,947,219

*    Other funds include shuttle fares and reimbursements.

 

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

 

MART Operating Expenses 

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Transit Service*

$134,498,800

$150,286,385

Administrative

9,439,730

9,379,071

Depreciation and Amortization

4,441,729

4,668,616

Total

$148,380,259

$164,334,072

*    Transit service includes HST expenses, which are usually fully reimbursed by the EOHHS HST Office.

 

During our audit period, MART 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 $3,576,801 for fiscal year 2016 and $2,323,801 for fiscal year 2017.

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

MART operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 624-square-mile Montachusett area, serving a population of more than 236,000. It operates a network of 13 local transit routes, 4 commuter routes, and 4 supplemental shuttle routes. The local fixed-route service operates six days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 5:20 a.m. to 7:37 p.m., and Saturday service runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6:49 p.m. The four commuter routes operate on weekdays only, from as early as 5:15 a.m. to 8:27 p.m. The four supplemental shuttle routes operate on weekdays from as early as 6:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., Saturdays from 12:26 p.m. to 4:11 p.m., and Sundays from 4:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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

 

Number of MART Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

215

204

Non-Revenue-Producing

23

21

Equipment

4

6

Total

242

231

Vehicle Maintenance

MART operates its administrative office in an approximately 14,000-square-foot building in Fitchburg and a maintenance facility in an approximately 37,900-square-foot building in Gardner. At the end of our audit period, MART had a total of 231 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in MART’s fleet during the audit period.

MART Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Maximum Seat Capacity*

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

31–43

Bus

24

7

12–18

Minibus

86

8

7–10

Van

96

4

5–6

SUV

11

8

NA

Utility/Equipment

14

NA

Total

 

231

 

*     Maximum seat capacity depends on the vehicle size within the Vehicle Type category.

 

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

 

MART Maintenance Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Garage Staff Salaries and Benefits

$1,644,798

$1,427,405

Fuel

799,151

838,313

Vehicle Insurance

585,540

509,034

Vehicle Maintenance and Supplies

628,624

669,610

Other Maintenance Expenses

240,075

237,891

Total

$3,898,188

$3,682,253

 

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

 

MART Vehicle Mileage and Maintenance Expenses

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Total Mileage

Labor
Cost

Parts
Cost

Total
Maintenance Cost

Average Maintenance Cost per Vehicle

Bus

24

612,284

$116,468

$124,711

$241,180*

$10,049

Minibus

86

1,209,042

96,843

102,087

198,930

$2,313

Van

96

1,827,872

92,706

85,385

178,091

$1,855

SUV

11

88,424

4,633

4,082

8,716*

$792

Utility

8

14,525

2,987

2,340

5,327

$666

Equipment

6

NA

215,762

2,290

218,052

$36,342

Total

231

3,752,147

$529,399

$320,896*

$ 850,294*

 

*    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, MART was using fleet management software from CFA Software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA.

MART Community Programs

MART provides several transportation options to assist elderly and disabled community residents, including transit services for member communities’ councils on aging and human service agencies as well as shared-ride services for disabled residents. MART collaborates with Fitchburg State University to provide shuttle services for students during peak hours, and it offers supplemental late-night rides for residents of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner. MART also collaborates with veterans and active military personnel to offer free transportation to veterans’ health centers in the Boston and Worcester areas. MART participates in the Fitchburg Intermodal Program, which provides coordinated transportation in the surrounding communities. At the Fitchburg Intermodal Complex, MART leases space to a café and pizza shop, the EOHHS HST Office, and Fitchburg State University.

1. The communities are Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Bolton, Boxborough, Fitchburg, Gardner, Hardwick, Harvard, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Leominster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Royalston, Shirley, Sterling, Stow, Templeton, Westminster, and Winchendon.

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. EOHHS pays a fee to use MART vehicles to provide transportation to its clients.

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 MART employees for agency-related business.

Date published: July 11, 2018
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