RTA Task Force Seeks Public Comment on Performance Report

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Tom Cahir.

BOSTON – A state task force on Regional Transit Authority Performance and Funding has released its draft final report on a vision for the future.

The task force investigated challenges and opportunities facing transit service providers, how RTAs can best provide and improve service to meet needs and ways to plan to maximize ridership.

The state legislature created the task force in last year’s state budget. The task force worked to develop “A Vision for the Future of Massachusetts’ Regional Transit Authorities” over the last seven or eight months.

The report includes 24 recommendations that focus on the categories of Investment & Performance, Accountability, Service Decisions, Quality of Service, and Environmental Sustainability. 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.

“It’s going to be very helpful to the legislature when they provide the resources that we depend on every year through state contract assistance, which is one of four revenue sources,” said Tom Cahir, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator and a task force member.

RTAs provide public transportation for 55 percent of the state, with the MBTA providing service for the remaining 45 percent.

“If you look at the resources they receive in comparison to the Regional Transit Authorities it is like 90-10,” Tom Cahir said.

Cahir said the report is a good opportunity to let the public know that the economy in each region depends on RTAs, along with getting people to work and school.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to show off what we do and educate more citizens as to how to access public transportation, which is safe, affordable and accessible,” Cahir said.

Fourth Barnstable State Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) was also a member of the task force and said it was an honor to work on the report to help ensure that vital public transit is available for those outside of MBTA areas.

“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.”

The full report can be found at www.mass.gov/orgs/task-force-on-rta-performance-and-funding-massdot.

A public comment period is open through March 29. Written comments can be submitted by email to Elizabeth.McCarthy@dot.state.ma.us.

A public meeting on the report will be held Thursday at the Hyannis Transportation Center from 3 to 5 p.m.

The meeting is one of three being held throughout Massachusetts this week. The others are Wednesday in Worcester and Friday in Amherst.

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