RTA PROFILE: METROWEST REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) serves the suburbs west of Boston, primarily between I-95 and I-495. Services are centered in Framingham, and Natick, with service also provided to Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland and Weston. MWRTA commenced operating services in 2007, following passage of legislation allowing the formation of new RTA’s within the MBTA service area.
MWRTA provides six different types of services:
- Local fixed-route service
- A Green Line Shuttle service
- Veteran's Hospital Shuttle (to Boston VA Hospitals)
- ADA complementary paratransit (The RIDE) - Framingham and Natick
- "Dial-a-Ride" ADA complementary paratransit - Marlborough, Southborough, Ashland, Wayland
- Natick Grocery service
The 11 fixed-route services generally operate from morning to evening (5:30 am – 8:30 pm on weekdays with limited service provided on four routes from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm on Saturdays. Most routes operate throughout the day on weekdays, but some routes provide peak period service only. The Green Line Shuttle (Route 1) operates between 5:45 am and 7:18 pm on weekdays only. The Veterans Administration Hospital shuttle provides three round-trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays between Framingham and the VA hospitals in the Jamaica plain and West Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. This pilot program is expected to expand service to other hospitals in 2012.
In 2009, MWRTA assumed responsibility for the MBTA's 'The RIDE' operations within Framingham and Natick. 'The RIDE' ADA complementary paratransit service is provided throughout Framingham and Natick (and is not limited to the legally mandated 3/4 of a mile of fixed-route services). For clients who were screened for eligibility after July 1, 2009, service on MWRTA's 'The RIDE' is provided during the same operating days and times as fixed-route service. For clients who gained eligibility prior to this date, service is available following MBTA standards, between 5 am and 2 am seven days per week.
'Dial-a-Ride' ADA complementary and elder paratransit service operates in the other communities within MWRTA's fixed route service area. Dial-a-Ride service is open to riders in Marlborough, Southborough, Ashland, and Wayland. Advance booking is required two days in advance for elders, or one day in advance for ADA riders. For medical trips and pre-arranged group trips, service is also provided to all communities within and neighboring the MWRTA service area, plus Needham, Shrewsbury, Worcester and Boston for a higher fare. The Dial-a-Ride service is contracted to Busy Bee Transportation.
MWRTA offers a door-to-door grocery shopping shuttle to Natick residents who are 65 and older and have signed up for the senior transportation access ID card. Service must be reserved ahead and is subject to space availability. The service operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays to Market Basket in Ashland.
MWRTA provides service to three MBTA commuter rail stations (Framingham, West Natick, and Natick Center on the Framingham/Worcester line) and one station on the MBTA Green Line D - Riverside (Woodland Station). MWRTA is seeking an improved connection between their bus hub and West Natick station. MWRTA also maintains some reciprocity with WRTA on demand response service.
Most service operates to and from downtown Framingham, converging at Downtown Common, near the Framingham Commuter Rail Station. All fixed- route services also converge at the "Central Hub" on Waverly Street at the Framingham/Natick border. The Central Hub is also the MWRTA headquarters, and houses the operations and maintenance of MWRTA vehicles. MWRTA has been in this building for the past three years, and has substantially renovated and added value to it, including installation of maintenance, fare collection and technology systems.
MWRTA has a number of fare structures for its services:
- Fixed-route service: $1.50
- Green Line Shuttle (Route 1): $3.00/$1.50 for partial distance trip
- Veteran's Hospital Shuttle: $2.00
- Natick Grocery Shuttle: $3.00 round trip
- "The RIDE" ADA complementary paratransit: $2.00 (cash fares not accepted - advance billing only)
- "Dial-a-Ride" ADA complementary paratransit: $2.00 within service area; $3.00 for medical trips to other contiguous service areas plus Shrewsbury and Needham; $5.00 for medical trips to Boston and Worcester
A variety of discounts are provided for local fixed-route services. These include a 50% discount for people over 64, passengers with disabilities, and those with a Medicare card, a 33% discount for students, and free service for blind individuals and accompanied children under 6. Single day passes and 20 ride transit passes are also offered. Additionally, MWRTA has inter-operability with the CharlieCard fare system on fixed-route services and offers a discount of between $0.05 and $0.80 (depending on the service used and other discounts applied) for using the card. No discounts are offered for ADA paratransit and Veteran's Hospital Shuttle services. No passes are available.
Transfers among MWRTA fixed-route services are free with a paper ticket issued on board.
In 2010, MWRTA carried just under 420,000 passengers. In total, 76% of riders used fixed-route services and 24% used demand-responsive services. Overall, as of 2010, MWRTA carried the fourth lowest volume of riders among Massachusetts RTAs, and the sixth lowest amount of service in terms of vehicle hours.
2010 FLEET SIZE
In 2010, MWRTA had 23 vehicles for fixed-route service and 29 vehicles for demand-responsive service.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, MWRTA's total operating expenses were $5.6 million dollars. Of this, $2.8 million or 49% was for demand-responsive service, and 51% was for fixed-route service. MWRTA's operating costs are the sixth lowest among RTAs.
Fare revenue covered approximately 9% of MWRTA's 2009 operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues covered 10% of paratransit costs and 9% of local service costs. MWRTA collected the fourth lowest amount of fare revenue among RTAs, and had the second lowest farebox return ratio.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
MWRTA commenced service in 2006, and integrated services formerly provided by the Framingham Lift and the Natick Neighborhood Bus service. Due to transitions from this service, and continued takeover of previously provided MBTA paratransit (The Ride) service, numbers prior to 2010 are inconsistent and in the process of being updated. Demand Response ridership on The Ride service assumed from the MBTA had credited costs and service to MWRTA and ridership to the MBTA. NTD reporting data for 2010 is accurate and used for comparative purposes. According to MWRTA ridership has risen annually since MWRTA service began.
MWRTA ridership in 2010 totaled almost 420,000 passengers. The majority of this ridership, almost 317,000 passengers, is on the fixed-route service. An additional 100,000 riders are on the various demand-response services provided.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
In 2010, revenue vehicle hours totaled over 91,000 service hours. Though split somewhat equally, demand response hours (49,158) exceeded fixed-route service hours (42,661).
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
MWRTA's operating costs for 2010 are almost $5.6 million in 2010, with a fairly even split between demand response and fixed-route service costs. Fare revenue was approximately $520,000, likewise derived almost evenly from demand response and fixed-route service.
Operating Cost per Passenger
In 2010, MWRTA's operating cost per passenger on fixed-route services was $8.91, during this period, which is an increase from previously shown information. This was the among the highest costs per passenger among RTAs.
MWRTA's operating cost per passenger on demand-response services for 2010 is $27.74. This was the third highest cost among RTAs.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Passengers per revenue vehicle hour for MWRTA fixed-route service was just below 8 passengers/hour. For demand-response service these numbers were about 2 passengers per hour. MWRTA had the third lowest number of passengers per revenue vehicle hour among RTAs in 2010.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
In 2010, MWRTA had the fourth lowest operating cost per revenue vehicle hour of all RTAs. For 2010, MWRTA's operating cost per revenue vehicle hour was $60.83. Operating cost per revenue vehicle hour increased by 29% on fixed-route services, rising from $51.31 in 2008 to $66.17 in 2010.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- MWRTA is the newest RTA, having only been in existence since 2006.
- MWRTA continues to assume responsibility for The RIDE ADA complementary paratransit service within Framingham and Natick from the MBTA, with a significant impact on overall operating statistics for the agency.
- MWRTA continues to advance technologically. It was the first system in the Commonwealth to implement a virtual map service showing bus locations in real time online. MWRTA also has Charlie Card interoperability with the MBTA and uses the same fareboxes.
- Significant growth within MetroWest is envisioned, as 57% of employed MetroWest residents work in MetroWest, while only 12% work in Boston.
- In a short period of time, MWRTA has established partnerships with universities, large employers and TMAs, and continues to expand these.