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Overview of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Pioneer Valley 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 (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. 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 Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) was established in 1974 and reports to RTD under Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009, “An Act Modernizing the Transportation Systems of the Commonwealth.” According to an email from PVTA’s administrator, the agency’s mission is as follows:

The PVTA is committed to providing the highest quality of convenient and accessible public transportation service that meets the needs of our customers in an efficient, cost effective manner [and] assisting the Pioneer Valley in making our communities more livable through transportation services.

The administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had 35 full-time staff members during our audit period. PVTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 24 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, PVTA contracted with First Transit Inc.; Hulmes Transportation Services, Ltd.; and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, PVTA received revenue from a variety of sources, including rider fares and assistance from various federal, state, and local sources. The largest source is state contract assistance,3 followed by local assessment payments,4 fixed-route income, and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants. The table below shows the types of funding PVTA received during the audit period.

 

PVTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

State Contract Assistance

$23,554,939

$23,554,939

Local Assessments

8,309,002

8,516,727

Fixed-Route Income

7,118,707

6,533,362

FTA Grants

5,107,467

5,702,070

Paratransit Income

803,792

734,004

MassDOT Grants

289,517

176,813

Other Revenue*

367,178

290,512

Shuttle Service Income

28,249

26,357

Total

$45,578,851

$45,534,784

*    Other revenue comprises advertising income, income from insurance claims, and interest income.

 

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

 

PVTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Fixed-Route Services

$33,472,495

$33,853,451

Paratransit Services

8,669,159

8,231,868

Shuttle Services

244,670

235,765

Administrative Salaries

2,884,694

2,843,361

Other Administrative Expenses

1,987,856

1,857,252

Reimbursable Depreciation

4,777

4,477

Total

$47,263,651

$47,026,174

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

PVTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 600-square-mile Springfield area, serving a population of more than 582,000. It operates a network of 41 local transit routes and 7 community routes. The local fixed-route service operates seven days a week; service is provided Monday through Wednesday from 5:00 a.m. to 1:35 a.m., Thursday through Saturday from 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Buses and minibuses provide transit services to the vast majority of PVTA passengers, and its vanpool provides paratransit services. The table below shows the number of revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing vehicles5 used at PVTA during fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

 

Number of PVTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

356

352

Non-Revenue-Producing

52

54

Total

408

406

Vehicle Maintenance

PVTA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 113,912-square-foot building at 2808 Main Street in Springfield. There is also a 45,000-square-foot garage at 255 Governor’s Drive in Amherst and a 27,755-square-foot bus terminal/garage at 54 Industrial Park Drive in Northampton. At the end of our audit period, PVTA had a total of 406 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in PVTA’s fleet during the audit period.

 

PVTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Ford E450

Minibus

8

4

Ford E350

Minibus

142

4

Ford Cutaway

Van

9

8

Ford Econoline

Van

23

7

Gillig Low Floor

Bus

111

10

International HCCB

Bus

1

21

New Flyer Xcelsior

Bus

71

4

Proterra BE40

Bus

3

1

Toyota Prius

Car

3

5

Chance AH-28

Trolley

1

16

Ford F350

Truck

18

8

Ford F250

Truck

1

9

Ford F550

Truck

1

1

Chevrolet Silverado

Truck

2

9

Ford Super Duty

Truck

1

17

Ford Taurus

Car

1

5

Ford Escape

SUV

26

5

Ford Explorer

SUV

7

5

Total

 

429*

 

*    This total includes all vehicles that received maintenance work during the audit period, including ones that were purchased and/or disposed of during that time.

 

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

 

PVTA 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

8

367,170

$11,459

$16,812

$28,271

$3,534

Ford E350

142

6,563,702

199,616

193,195

392,811

$2,766

Ford Cutaway

9

25,949

3,210

3,124

6,334

$704

Ford Econoline

23

355,589

16,587

11,467

28,054

$1,220

Gillig Low Floor

111

5,532,890

969,188

1,142,019

2,111,207

$19,020

International HCCB

1

1

82

0

82

$82

New Flyer Xcelsior

71

5,211,883

486,589

589,895

1,076,484

$15,162

Proterra BE40

3

27,508

1,040

153

1,194*

$398

Toyota Prius

3

17,793

178

15

193

$64

Chance AH-28

1

119

27

404

431

$431

Ford F350

18

409,610

19,919

17,844

37,763

$2,098

Ford F250

1

1,042

1,506

912

2,418

$2,418

Ford F550

1

4,831

27

0

27

$27

Chevrolet Silverado

2

31,508

965

583

1,548

$774

Ford Super Duty

1

8,531

424

104

529*

$529

Ford Taurus

1

6,334

41

10

51

$51

Ford Escape

26

373,305

8,889

1,766

10,655

$410

Ford Explorer

7

76,800

1,889

345

 2,234

$319

Total 

429

19,014,565

$1,721,636

$1,978,648

$3,700,286

 

*Discrepancies in totals are the result of 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, PVTA used the Trapeze Enterprise Asset Management software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA. PVTA contracted with two vendors to perform maintenance work and document vehicle asset and expense information: First Transit Inc. at its facilities in Springfield and Northampton and UMass (operating as UMass Transit Services) at its facility in Amherst.

PVTA Community Programs

To assist elderly and disabled residents, PVTA provides paratransit services in the Pioneer Valley area. In 2017, PVTA launched the Northampton and Tri-Town Trolley Pilot Program, which provides discounted van services to senior residents. PVTA has an ongoing food drive through which it collects nonperishable food donations on buses and distributes the donations to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Amherst Survival Center. PVTA also provides educational programs about its fixed-route services at the Veteran Stand Down event for homeless veterans. PVTA also provides paid internships to UMass students, allowing them to gain experience in the transportation industry.

1.    The communities are Agawam, Amherst, Belchertown, Chicopee, Easthampton, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hadley, Hampden, Holyoke, Leverett, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Northampton, Palmer, Pelham, South Hadley, Springfield, Sunderland, Ware, Westfield, West Springfield, Wilbraham, and Williamsburg.

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 PVTA employees for agency-related business.

Date published: January 30, 2019
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