RTA PROFILE: PIONEER VALLEY TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) is the largest RTA in Massachusetts and serves 24 communities in the Pioneer Valley. The service area borders central Connecticut to the south and includes portions of Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. PVTA service is focused around several hubs, including Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Amherst/UMass, and includes urbanized as well as very rural areas. PVTA also operates several college shuttles and has a high demand from student riders during the academic year.
PVTA provides three types of services:
- Fixed-route service
- ADA complementary paratransit
- Dial-a-ride "Senior Service" for adults aged 60 or older
PVTA fixed-route service is comprised of 44 routes, including town shuttles, college shuttles, and express routes. Routes are classified by color and number. Most service is organized around Springfield, but routes are also organized around smaller hubs in Holyoke and Northampton. PVTA routes generally begin operations between 4:45 am and 7:30 am, and end between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Weekday headways are typically between 30 and 45 minutes. Most routes operate on Saturdays, with headways that average 60 minutes. Sunday service is also available for many routes.
ADA complementary paratransit service is available within 3/4 mile of fixed-route service and is available during the same days and hours as fixed-route.
PVTA services also include door-to-door accessible van dial-a-ride service, which is available for seniors over 60 in all of PVTA's communities. Trips are provided from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday, on a space available basis. Seniors must register for the service to ride.
Connections to regional services from PVTA's various hubs and other locations in the Pioneer Valley are available:
- Regional intercity bus service is provided by Peter Pan with connections from PVTA communities (Amherst, UMass, Chicopee, Deerfield, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, and Springfield) to regional destinations such as New York, Boston, Albany, Hartford, and New Haven (among others). Peter Pan is also headquartered in Springfield at the Peter Pan Bus Terminal.
- Regional intercity bus is also provided by Megabus, from Amherst and Holyoke to Hartford and New York.
- Amtrak intercity rail service stops in Springfield and Amherst:
- Springfield Amtrak service at Springfield Union Station is one block from the PVTA Bus Terminal. Three Amtrak routes stop at the station: the Lake Shore Limited that runs daily from Boston to Chicago; the Northeast Regional that connects multiple times per day through New York to Washington, DC and southern Virginia; and the Vermonter that runs daily from Washington, DC to northern Vermont.
- Amtrak service in Amherst includes the Vermonter service, linking Washington, DC and New York to Amherst, and terminating in northern Vermont.
- The New Haven-Springfield Line is owned by Amtrak and serves commuter trips between New Haven and Springfield, including Hartford. There are approximately seven daily round trips.
- PVTA connects to the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) at the UMass Haigis Mall stop, the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton, and at South Deerfield. Connections are available on weekdays only.
- PVTA also connects with Connecticut Transit (CT Transit) Route 5/13 at Mass Mutual in Enfield, CT. Route 5/13 provides express service on weekdays between Enfield and downtown Hartford via Route 91.
The Pioneer Valley has two major intermodal facilities: the Peter Picknelly Transportation Center, otherwise known as the Springfield Bus Terminal and the Holyoke Transportation Center. The Springfield Bus Terminal, located in downtown Springfield, is PVTA's service headquarters. The bus terminal is one block from Springfield's Union Station, which is scheduled to receive a $75 million renovation during 2012-3. The two facilities combined will provide access to local and regional bus and rail services. The Holyoke Transportation Center is the recently renovated former Holyoke Fire Department Headquarters and is served by PVTA, Peter Pan, and Megabus. The Center also includes daycare and preschool programs, and space for Holyoke Community College.
PVTA has maintenance and garage facilities in Northampton, Springfield, and at UMass. Administrative functions are currently housed in Springfield at the PVTA garage.
PVTA has the following fare structures for its primary types of service:
- Fixed-route service: $1.25 ($1.15 if a ticket is purchased at the Customer Service Center in Springfield)
- ADA complementary paratransit: $2.50, $3.00 or $3.50 depending on location
- Senior Service: $2.50, $3.00 or $3.50 depending on location
A variety of discounts are available on fixed-route service. Half-fare discounts are available to seniors over 60, 75Â¢ fares are available to children ages 6 to 12, and children under 6 ride free. Transfers are 25Â¢. One day, seven day, and monthly passes are also available. For ADA and the Senior Service, pre-paid booklets of tickets and a 31-day pass are available.
Students, faculty and staff attending one of the Five Colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass) ride local PVTA buses and shuttle services by showing their student ID cards. Five Colleges Inc. pays the local share assessment for the routes that serve the colleges.
In 2010, PVTA carried just over 10 million passengers, 97% of which used fixed-route services, with the remaining 3% on demand-responsive service. PVTA carries - by far - the most passengers among Massachusetts' RTAs. PVTA's ridership is nearly three times that of the next highest RTA (WRTA).
2010 FLEET SIZE
In 2010, PVTA had 169 vehicles for fixed-route service and 143 vehicles for demand-responsive service. PVTA has the largest fixed-route fleet and second largest demand-responsive fleet among the RTAs.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
PVTA's 2010 operating expenses were $35.7 million. Of this, $27.7 million or 78% was used to provide fixed-route service, and 22% was for demand-responsive service. As of 2010, PVTA's overall operating costs were the highest among RTAs.
PVTA's fare recovery rate was 18%. By type of service, fare revenues cover 21% of fixed-route costs and 8% of demand-responsive costs. With the highest ridership, PVTA also collects the highest amount of fare revenue among RTAs, but has only the eighth highest farebox return ratio, slightly below average of the RTAs. The lower farebox return may reflect the high number of student riders who pay for service through fees rather than directly into the farebox.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
PVTA's overall ridership trends in the past ten years decreased, with both fixed-route and demand-responsive services carrying fewer passengers in 2010 than in 2001. Loss in ridership is consistent with declines in the amount of service provided. Service costs also increased over the time period, with costs for fixed-route service increasing more substantially than demand-responsive.
Between 2001 and 2010, ridership on the fixed-route services decreased from 12.2 million to 10.1 million. Most of the loss of ridership occurred from 2001-2002 until 2005-2006, when ridership reached its lowest point (about 9.3 million) in the decade; since that time ridership has been increasing slowly.
During the ten year period, ridership on demand responsive service decreased from about 460,000 riders to 320,000. Ridership remained relatively steady throughout the decade, with the fewest demand-responsive passengers in 2007 (about 300,000).
Revenue Vehicle Hours
Since 2001, the total amount of service PVTA provided, in terms of revenue vehicle hours, decreased by 24%. This decrease is attributed to a 20% decrease in revenue vehicle hours for fixed-route service and a 31% decrease in demand-responsive service hours. The decrease over the ten year period obscures the fact that most of the loss in service hours occurred early in the decade.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
PVTA's operating costs increased from $25.5 million in 2001 to $35.7 million in 2010. Fixed-route operating costs increased by 50%, while demand-responsive costs only increased by 12%.
Over the same period, fare revenues also increased, but by a lesser extent. Since 2001, fixed-route fare revenues increased by 90%, as compared to demand-responsive fare revenues, which increased by 10%.
Operating Cost per Passenger
Between 2001 and 2010, PVTA's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service increased from $1.57 to $2.84, or by 81%. PVTA's operating cost per passenger for demand-responsive service increased from $15.39 to $25.15, or by 63%.
PVTA's 2010 operating cost per passenger is the lowest of all RTAs for fixed-route service and fifth highest for demand-responsive service.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
As PVTA decreased the amount of service, ridership also declined. The number of passengers carried per revenue hour, however, increased slightly, from 18.5 to 20.3, or by 9%.
For demand-responsive service, PVTA decreased the hours of service provided by 24%, and ridership decreased by 31%. Thus, passengers per revenue hour decreased from 1.9 to 1.8, or 9%.
As of 2010, PVTA carried the highest number of passengers per revenue vehicle hour among the RTAs for their fixed-route service. PVTA ranks 13th out of the 15 RTAs in the number of passengers per hour carried on demand response service.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
As PVTA's overall operating costs increased, cost per revenue vehicle hour for fixed-route and demand-responsive service also increased. Costs per vehicle hour on fixed-route increased by 87% and costs for demand-responsive service by 63%. As of 2010, PVTA ranked eighth in operating cost per revenue vehicle hour for fixed-route, and ninth for demand-responsive.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- PVTA is the largest RTA in the state, providing more than 10 million rides in 2010.
- PVTA recently opened the Holyoke Transportation Center, an intermodal facility in downtown Holyoke. The project was developed as a public-private partnership with the City of Holyoke, PVTA and Peter Pan Bus Lines; Peter Pan acted as the developer. The facility offers passengers a state of the art transfer facility and also contributes to Holyoke's economic development and downtown revitalization efforts. Construction of this project was managed by the developer and PVTA.
- PVTA partners with several institutions to increase agency funding and ridership. These partnerships include the Five Colleges, Westfield State University and the Springfield and Holyoke school districts, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services. PVTA also works with FRTA to coordinate service.
- Springfield's Union Station will be the northern terminus for the planned commuter rail line from Union Station in New Haven. The line is expected to be operational by 2015 and will reach speeds of 110 mph. Sixteen daily trains are expected at start-up, with 30 minute peaks, building up to 35 trains daily with 15 minute headways during peaks.
- PVTA is about to implement a full suite of Intelligent Transit System (ITS) products including cameras, automatic passenger counts, automatic vehicle locators, mobile data terminals and fareboxes. The agency also currently hosts a mobile website (http://m.pvta.com/), making it easy for customers with smart phones to view bus schedules and has route information uploaded in Google Trip Planner.