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massdot-formal_logoThe Task Force on Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Performance and Funding, created in the fall of 2018 by Outside Section 72 of the FY 2019 Massachusetts State Budget, today released its draft final report for public comment, titled:  “A Vision for the Future of Massachusetts’ Regional Transit Authorities.”

The Task Force’s purpose was to investigate the challenges and opportunities facing transit service providers, specifically charging its members to investigate how the RTAs can best provide and improve transit services that meet identified community needs, conduct regular service planning to maximize ridership using available resources, and ensure that fares, local contributions, and other revenues cover an appropriate share of costs.

“The Task Force is pleased to provide these recommendations to help guide the Executive and Legislative branches to set a new course for public transportation across Massachusetts,” said Task Force Chair Astrid Glynn.  “The Task Force evaluated RTA finances, service routes, ridership, paratransit accommodations, fare policies, on time performance and other factors and concluded RTAs must become more accountable, innovative and collaborative to meet customer needs.”

The Task Force found that current RTA service is highly variable. But with higher standards – and the means and mandate to achieve them and measure them – access to opportunity will open up for people, with benefits to the economy, congestion, pollution and social mobility.

“I am so proud of the work this task force has done to create a vision for the future of regional transportation in our state,” said RTA Task Force member and State Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler. “In partnership with our regional transit authorities, distinguished Task Force members, our staffs, and crucial leadership from Secretary Stephanie Pollack and her team at MassDOT, we are thrilled to share this report that the legislature can use as a roadmap for regional transit now and into the future.”

RTA Task Force member and State Representative Sarah Peake added, “It was an honor to work on this Task Force and help ensure that vibrant and vital public transit is available to the over fifty percent of Massachusetts citizens that live in a regional transit authority area.  The process was lengthy, thorough, at times difficult, but at the end of the day, I am confident that we have produced a document that is both visionary and practical.”

Well-run far reaching and sustainable public transportation is critical to the future of the Commonwealth. In December 2018, the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, after nearly a year’s worth of work, released its recommendations to meet the transportation future.   Individually and taken together, the Commission recommendations highlight the importance of a strong network of regional public transportation to better serve residents, to address climate change, to ensure access to jobs, to act in partnership, and to be managed in a way that is accountable and forward-looking. The recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation informed the RTA Task Force report.

The Task Force makes 24 recommendations, focusing on five categories: Investment & Performance, Accountability, Service Decisions, Quality of Service, and Environmental Sustainability.  These recommendations include:

  • Connect all state contract assistance to performance targets via a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and each RTA.
  • Maintain local control of day-to-day operations and management of the RTAs, while standardizing performance metrics for level and quality of service and increasing regional collaboration to present a statewide vision for public transportation.
  • Reinvigorate the RTA Council to meet regularly to foster collaboration, promote best practices, and provide a statewide vision for RTAs.
  • RTAs should develop pilot programs that include innovative transit delivery models. By piloting different transit models, the RTAs will be able to determine what will improve transit delivery in their service area.
  • RTAs should provide reliable paratransit service in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and consider the feasibility of offering additional services beyond ADA that meet the needs of their communities.
  • MassDOT and the RTAs should carefully utilize farebox recovery ratio as a performance metric, considering the ratio in context with other factors and balancing the need to maintain the affordability of service.
  • RTAs will perform regular analysis, community outreach, and actively participate in the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) process to: (a) understand employment patterns, (b) identify opportunities to establish partnerships, and (c) explore potential service adjustments and potential new service to meet demand.
  • RTAs should formally include the public in decision-making on matters related to new projects, fare changes and service planning.
  • In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by at least 40 percent by 2040, the RTAs and MassDOT should determine the mode shift that will be required to meet that goal.

This draft final report lays out a vision and achievable recommendations for the Commonwealth and the RTAs. It all starts with investment and performance, maximizing all funding sources, including federal, state, local, farebox and own-source revenue, to grow ridership. Even with greater and more predictable investment accompanied by a commitment to high quality transit service, the RTAs must also strategically improve and innovate. In addition to recommending increased and predictable funding linked to performance, this report also proposes the adoption of recommendations and best practices in the following four additional categories:  accountability, service decisions, quality of service and environmental sustainability.

This draft final report reflects the diverse views of the Task Force and general consensus achieved on most issues. The Task Force tried to operate through a consensus process, so not every Task Force member supported every recommendation.

Members of the public are encouraged to comment on the recommendations, posted on the MassDOT website or by attending one of several scheduled meetings:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 from 5:00PM-7:00PM – WRTA, Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Square, Worcester, MA 01608

Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 3:00PM-5:00PM – CCRTA, Hyannis Transportation Center, 215 Iyannough Road, Community Conference Room, 1st floor, Hyannis, MA 02601

Friday, March 22, 2019 from 4:00PM-6:00PM – PVTA, UMass Amherst Campus Center, 1 Campus Center Way, 1st Floor Campus Center, Room 168, Amherst, MA 01003

The public is invited to offer comments on the draft final report. Written comments can be submitted by email to Elizabeth.McCarthy@dot.state.ma.us  until Friday, March 29, 2019.

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