Overview of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of Southeastern 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 Southeastern Regional Transit Authority

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) 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 a report titled “Comprehensive Service Assessment” that SRTA issued in 2014, “SRTA’s mission is to provide safe, convenient, and economical transportation opportunities for people that supports economic development and improved quality of life for South Coast residents.” An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had five full-time and two part-time staff members during our audit period. SRTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 10 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, SRTA contracted with First Transit Incorporated to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

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

SRTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

State Contract Assistance

$5,766,016

$5,766,018

Federal Grants

4,527,220

5,613,141

Local Assessments

3,000,768

3,129,871

Fare Revenue

2,562,154

2,468,171

Other Income*

174,779

154,847

Disposal of Capital Assets

0

21,392

Total

$16,030,937

$17,153,440

*    Other income includes rental fees, parking fees, and advertising revenue.

 

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

SRTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Transit Service

$12,791,540

$13,825,415

Administration

2,384,464

3,936,395

Depreciation

2,593,089

2,777,422

Management Fees Paid to Operator

337,318

340,434

Total

$18,106,411

$20,879,666

 

During our audit period, SRTA 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 $3,263,139 for fiscal year 2016 and $3,812,041 for fiscal year 2017.

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

SRTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 47-square-mile southeastern Massachusetts area, serving a population of more than 311,400. It operates a network of 23 local transit routes. The local fixed-route service operates six days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 5:20 a.m. to 9:10 p.m., and Saturday service runs from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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

Number of SRTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

101

99

Non-Revenue-Producing

20

19

Total

121

118

Vehicle Maintenance

SRTA operates two maintenance facilities: one in an approximately 16,800-square-foot building in New Bedford and one in an approximately 15,300-square-foot building in Fall River. At the end of our audit period, SRTA had a total of 118 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in SRTA’s fleet during the audit period.

SRTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Gillig Low Floor

Bus

59

5.5

Ford E450

Minibus

13

2.8

Ford E350

Van

11

2.4

Nova Rapid Transit Series

Bus

10

20.8

Ford F550

Minibus

6

4.0

Ford Explorer

SUV

5

3.8

Chevrolet Silverado

Truck

3

9.3

Saturn Aura

Sedan

2

9

Dodge Dakota

Truck

2

11

GMC Sierra

Truck

2

8

Ford Taurus

Sedan

2

3.5

Chrysler Jeep

SUV

1

10

Chevrolet P30

Van

1

29

Ford 500

Sedan

1

10

Total

 

118

 

 

The table below shows SRTA’s transit service expenses for the audit period.

SRTA Transit Service Expenses

Expenses

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Salaries

$8,747,649

$9,259,690

Fringe Benefits

2,153,078

2,424,451

Materials and Supplies

789,473

865,795

Fuel

690,105

770,346

Office Expense and Services

155,394

243,385

Utilities

203,184

212,808

Miscellaneous

52,657

48,940

Total

$12,791,540

$13,825,415

 

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

SRTA Vehicle Mileage and Maintenance Expenses

Make and Model

Vehicle Count

Total Mileage

Labor Cost

Parts Cost

Total
Maintenance Cost

Average Maintenance Cost per Vehicle

Gillig Low Floor

59

1,611,493

$487,830

$315,558

$803,387*

$13,617

Ford E450

13

229,921

29,891

6,395

36,286

$2,791

Ford E350

11

222,976

27,611

9,412

37,022*

$3,366

Nova Rapid Transit Series

10

31,127

22,162

5,862

28,025*

$2,802*

Ford F550

6

113,885

13,570

4,746

18,316

$3,053

Ford Explorer

5

49,083

3,986

437

4,423

$885

Chevrolet Silverado

3

9,747

3,106

5

3,111

$1,037

Saturn Aura

2

12,260

2,958

149

3,107

$1,554

Dodge Dakota

2

16,419

2,244

417

2,661

$1,331

GMC Sierra

2

14,542

1,192

208

1,400

$700

Ford Taurus

2

12,700

422

5

427

$213*

Chrysler Jeep

1

9,079

1,322

10

1,332

$1,332

Chevrolet P30

1

4,566

807

0

807

$807

Ford 500

1

7,198

268

2

270

$270

Total

118

2,344,996

$597,368*

$343,206

$940,574

 

*    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, SRTA used fleet management software from StarTran Software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA.

SRTA Community Programs

SRTA is a member of a number of organizations throughout the communities it serves. It participates in a statewide coordinating council of transportation that facilitates discussions among groups of transportation service entities about potential gaps or overlapping transportation service coverage in neighboring cities and towns. SRTA has been able to assist smaller entities in this council by volunteering to operate service routes that are more manageable for SRTA as a larger transit organization. In addition, in an effort to help the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with transportation, SRTA collaborates with the university to provide transportation to and from the campus every half hour from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. In a separate program, SRTA provides discounted transportation to B.M.C. Durfee High School students in Fall River, operating 12 buses in the morning and afternoon to accommodate peak demand during school hours. Additionally, in 2014, SRTA extended its service hours for B.M.C. Durfee High School, so buses operate through 9:00 p.m. rather than 6:00 p.m., to better accommodate students who participate in afterschool activities. SRTA also offers discounted fares to seniors and disabled riders.

 

1.    The communities are Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Fall River, Freetown, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Somerset, Swansea, and Westport.

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 SRTA employees for agency-related business.

Date published: August 21, 2018
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