RTA PROFILE: FRANKLIN REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) serves the largest and most rural service area of all RTAs in Massachusetts, with 40 communities in Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2006, FRTA merged with the Greenfield Montague Transportation Area (GMTA) to create a single agency responsible for the entire region.
Of the 40 towns in FRTA's service area, 12 receive some form of fixed-route service and the remainder receive demand response service. All FRTA fixed-route service connects in Greenfield.
FRTA is also the human service transportation (HST) broker for its service area.
FRTA provides three types of services:
- Fixed-route service
- ADA complementary paratransit
- Demand response service for older adults, persons with disabilities and other special populations
FRTA fixed-route service is comprised of six routes, each of which stop in Greenfield. One route serves Greenfield only and the others serve multiple communities to the west, south, and east. Most routes operate from 6:00 am to 7:15 pm and are available Monday through Friday only. Minimum headways are 60 minutes and can be as much as 4 hours.
FRTA's ADA complementary paratransit is available within 3/4 mile of fixed-route service and during the same days and hours as fixed-route.
FRTA also manages curb-to-curb, dial-a-ride demand-responsive service for most communities in its service area. Eligibility for the service varies by town, but in most areas the service is available to adults over the age of 60, eligible riders at Franklin County Home Care, nursing home residents, and Veterans with a disability rating of 70% or greater.
FRTA routes provide several regional connections:
- FRTA connects to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) at the UMass Haigis Mall stop, at the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton, and at the South Deerfield Center. Connections are available on weekdays only.
- FRTA partners with Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) via a G-link route that offers connections between Athol and Orange to Greenfield and Gardner. FRTA's portion of G-Link extends from Greenfield to Athol (Route #32). Passengers can transfer at Orange Center,Wal-Mart, Hannafords, Ocean State Job Lots, YMCA, Uptown Common - Athol, and Athol Memorial Hospital.
Greenfield also has regional intercity bus service provided by Peter Pan. Connections are available to Amherst, Boston, Framingham, Holyoke, New York, Providence, and Springfield.
FRTA administrative offices are currently located in downtown Greenfield. FRTA is in the final stages of constructing an Intermodal Transit Center that will also be located in downtown Greenfield. FRTA's administrative offices will move to this new facility in January 2012 and buses are expected to start serving the center later in 2012.
FRTA currently maintains its vehicles at a facility developed by the former GMTA agency. GMTA continues to own this facility and leases it to FRTA. FRTA's future use of this facility is being negotiated.
FRTA's fare structure is varied and generally reflects a distance based structure:
- Route #21: Greenfield Community Route and Route #22: Montague/Greenfield Route: $1.00
- Route #31: Northampton/Greenfield Route, Route #32: Athol/Greenfield Route, and #41: Charlemont/Greenfield Route: $1.50
- Route #23: Amherst/Greenfield Route: $3.00
Discounts are available to certain groups who use FRTA's fixed-route services: half-fare discounts are available to persons over 60, those with a statewide access pass, ADA cards, and Medicare cards. Passengers with a Massachusetts Commission for the Blind card or a valid Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID ride for free, as well as children under 5. Transfers between FRTA fixed-routes are free. ADA complementary paratransit fares are set at twice the fixed-route fares.
Fares on the demand response service vary by service provider and distance. Towns where service is provided by a private contractor (Franklin Transit Management) pay $1.50 for a trip within the town, $2.00 for a trip to an adjacent town and $2.50 for a trip further out. Fares in towns where service is provided by the Council on Aging are slightly lower, but with the same distance based model (e.g., $1.00, $1.50 and $2.00). There are also a few exceptions where no fares are charged. These exceptions vary by town and trip, and may for example include shopping trips or trips to the senior center.
In 2010, FRTA's fixed-route and demand-responsive services carried more than 155,000 passengers. About three-quarters of the ridership was on fixed-route service and one-quarter on demand-responsive service. FRTA carries the fewest passengers of all Massachusetts RTAs. For fixed-route, FRTA also carried the fewest number of passengers, and it served the fourth lowest number of demand-responsive passengers.
2010 FLEET SIZE
In 2010, FRTA had 17 vehicles for fixed-route service and 37 vehicles for demand-responsive service. Compared to other RTAs, FRTA has the fifth smallest overall fleet.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, FRTA's total operating expenses were $2.0 million. Of this, $1.1 million or 54% was for fixed-route service, and 46% was for demand-responsive service. FRTA's overall operating expenses were the second lowest among RTAs (NRTA is the lowest).
Fare revenue covers approximately 23% of FRTA's 2010 operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues cover 6% of fixed-route costs and 60% of demand-responsive costs. FRTA collects the third lowest amount of fare revenue among RTAs, but has the fourth highest overall farebox return ratio.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
Prior to 2006, public transportation services in FRTA's current service area were provided by two independent agencies - FRTA and GMTA. As a result, data for time periods before 2006 reflect services provided by FRTA only, while data after 2006 reflect the combined services of GMTA and FRTA. As result, we structured our analysis of trends to begin in 2007, when all service is provided by a single agency.
Overall, the merger resulted in a tripling of FRTA's ridership, a doubling in operating costs, and a substantial increase in farebox revenues.
Between 2008 and 2010, FRTA ridership on fixed-route service decreased slightly from about 126,500 to 116,500 riders. Ridership on demand-responsive service decreased even more, declining from about 60,000 riders to 39,000.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
FRTA provides more hours for demand-responsive service (56% of hours) than for fixed-route. However, the gap is closing as hours for fixed-route service increased from 16,900 to 17,500 between 2009 and 2010 while hours on demand response service decreased (from 25,700 to 21,900) over the same time period.
In 2010, FRTA had the second lowest number of revenue vehicle hours of service for fixed-route services (higher only than NRTA) and the fourth lowest number of revenue vehicle hours for demand-responsive service.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
From 2007 to 2010, FRTA's operating costs increased by 7%. Fixed-route costs increased by 7% and demand-responsive by 8%.
Ridership data shows that there are slightly fewer riders on fixed-route service and slightly more riders on demand responsive service. As a result, fare revenues decreased on fixed-route service by 42% and increased for demand response service by 22%. Overall, service costs increased faster than ridership, thus the farebox recovery rate decreased from 30% in 2007 to 23% in 2010.
In 2010, FRTA had the second lowest operating costs of all RTAs (only higher than NRTA) and the third lowest farebox revenues (higher than NRTA and CATA). FRTA's farebox recovery rate is above average for RTAs, at 23%.
Operating Cost per Passenger
Between 2008 and 2010, FRTA's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service increased from $8.62 to $9.56, or by 11%. FRTA's operating cost per passenger for demand-responsive service increased even more, from $15.19 to $23.91, or by 57%. This is not surprising, as ridership on the fixed-route service declined while costs increased. This compares with the demand-responsive service where ridership increased more dramatically as costs increased.
FRTA's 2010 operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service is the highest of all RTAs and about average for demand-responsive service.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
In 2010, FRTA carried 6.6 passengers per service hour on its fixed-route service and 1.8 passengers per hour on its demand-responsive service. Overall, FRTA has the second lowest number of passengers per service hour compared to other RTAs (only to CCRTA).
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
In 2010, FRTA had an overall operating cost per revenue vehicle hour of $51.99. Cost per hour for fixed-route service were $63.54, and costs per demand-responsive were $42.78.
FRTA has the second lowest operating cost per revenue vehicle hour of all RTAs. For fixed-route, only VTA and CCRTA have a lower cost per hour; and for demand-responsive, only BAT and BRTA have lower costs.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- FRTA is about to open a new Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Greenfield.
This facility will provide intermodal connections with local and intercity bus services, and rail service. It will also become FRTA's administrative headquarters and house as well as the regional planning commission's offices.
- FRTA is implementing Intelligent Transportation System improvements. They currently have electronic fareboxes and cameras on all their vehicles. They are also updating their scheduling software (to Ecolane) and will be installing Automatic Vehicle Locators and Mobile Data Terminals on all their vehicles. Their new intermodal center will also have real-time passenger information.
- A study exploring the feasibility of extending bus service from Greenfield to Bernardston, Gill and Northfield via Route 5/10 was just completed.