This page, Overview of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, is offered by

Overview of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority

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

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) was established in September 1974 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, WRTA’s mission is “to provide convenient, comfortable, safe, reliable, cost-effective mobility services contributing to the economic vitality of the region.” An administrator is responsible for day-to-day administration of the agency, which had up to four full-time staff members during our audit period. WRTA’s operations are overseen by an advisory board made up of one member from each of the 36 communities1 the agency serves. The advisory board is responsible for hiring an administrator, setting fares, establishing service levels, and authorizing real-estate purchases. WRTA contracts with First Transit, Inc. to provide fixed-route and demand-response2 transportation services, including maintenance and administrative functions.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, WRTA 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 WRTA received during the audit period.

WRTA Operating Funding Sources

Type of Funding

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

State Contract Assistance

$11,483,258

$11,483,258

Federal Grants

4,659,215

5,482,152

Local Assessments

4,531,045

4,656,779

Fare and Terminal Revenue

3,570,770

3,315,902

Other Income*

165,202

135,868

Total

$24,409,490

$25,073,959

*    Other income includes advertising income.

 

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

WRTA Operating Expenses

Type of Expense

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Transit Service

$23,188,771

$23,965,831

Depreciation and Amortization

5,493,488

5,963,937

Professional Services and Other Services

646,762

564,560

Administrative Salaries and Fringe Benefits

267,792

423,911*

Other Administrative Expenses

98,316

102,289

Travel Training Services

50,549

59,509

Total

$29,745,678

$31,080,037

 *    Administrative salaries and fringe benefits increased with the hiring of additional personnel.

 

During our audit period, WRTA 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 $40,667,672 for fiscal year 2016 and $7,470,832 for fiscal year 2017.

Vehicle Fleet and Service Route Area

WRTA operates local fixed-route and demand-response services within the 866-square-mile Worcester area, serving a population of more than 544,900. It operates a network of 26 local transit routes, including 3 commuter routes. The local fixed-route service operates seven days a week; weekday service runs from as early as 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday service runs from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday service runs from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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

Number of WRTA Vehicles

Vehicle Type

Fiscal Year 2016

Fiscal Year 2017

Revenue-Producing

88

87

Non-Revenue-Producing

11

11

Total

99

98

Vehicle Maintenance

WRTA operates its administrative office and a maintenance facility in an approximately 150,000-square-foot building in Worcester. At the end of our audit period, WRTA had a total of 98 vehicles in its fleet. The table below shows the types and average ages of the vehicles in WRTA’s fleet during the audit period.

WRTA Vehicle Fleet Average Age

Make and Model

Vehicle Type

Vehicle Count

Average Age (Years)

Gillig Low Floor

Bus

46

6

Ford E350

Minibus

35

2

Proterra EcoRide Battery Electric

Bus

6

4

Nova Rapid Transit Series

Bus

1

21

Ford F350

Truck

3

6

Ford Escape

SUV

3

6

Ford Explorer

SUV

2

1

GMC Sierra

Truck

1

15

Ford Taurus

Sedan

1

9

Total

 

98

 

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

WRTA 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

46

1,825,653

$13,654

$399,716

$413,370

$8,986

Ford E350

35

739,098

23,816

47,360

71,176

$2,034

Proterra EcoRide Battery Electric

6

153,742

761

25,169

25,930

$4,322

Nova Rapid Transit Series

1

122

3

0

3

$3

Ford F350

3

11,083

1,142

965

2,107

$702

Ford Escape

3

27,272

264

1,179

1,443

$481

Ford Explorer

2

3,849

3

49

52

$26

GMC Sierra

1

167

193

362

555

$555

Ford Taurus

1

4,730

4

6

10

$10

Total

98

2,765,716

$39,840

$474,806

$514,646

 

 

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, WRTA was using the Ron Turley Associates, Inc. Fleet Management Software to document all of its vehicle asset and expense information and report it to FTA.

WRTA Community Programs

WRTA is currently developing a Public Participation Plan with the 36 communities it serves. The plan will encompass WRTA’s future public participation goals to improve its relationship with the public. In an effort to better accommodate its customers, WRTA collaborates with Ascentria Care Alliance to train WRTA’s operations and customer-service staff on language-barrier encounters with customers. Additionally, WRTA partners with the City of Worcester’s Department of Parks and Recreation to offer a summer youth pass.

1.    The communities are Auburn, Barre, Berlin, Boylston, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Grafton, Holden, Holland, Leicester, Millbury, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Oakham, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Sutton, Wales, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield, Westborough, and Worcester.

2.    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.

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 WRTA employees for agency-related business.

Date published: August 3, 2018
Feedback