RTA PROFILE: MONTACHUSETT REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) serves an area covering 21 municipalities in north-central Massachusetts. Its core service area includes the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner, but its overall service area includes the adjoining towns of Ashburnham, Ashby, Ayer, Bolton, Boxborough, Hardwick, Harvard, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Royalston, Shirley, Sterling, Stow, Templeton, Westminster, and Winchendon. Most of MART's fixed-route service converges at the MART Intermodal Center in Fitchburg or at Monument Square in Leominster.
MART serves as the human service transportation (HST) broker for its service area. In addition, it also has the HST contracts for approximately 70% of state of Massachusetts, including Metro Boston, the Pioneer Valley, the North Central Area, Lowell and the South Central Area of Worcester County.
MART provides several different types of services:
- Local fixed-route service within and adjacent to Leominster, Fitchburg, and Gardner
- Longer-distance fixed-route service: Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) Route and G-Link services
- Boston and Worcester Shuttles (service to area hospitals)
- Subscription demand response service in Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster.
- Regular fixed-route and shuttle service for Fitchburg State University.
- Town-based demand response service through local COAs.
- ADA complementary paratransit
MART provides 13 fixed-route local bus services. These generally begin operations on weekdays between 5:00 am and 7:00 am and run through evenings ending between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. All but one route operates on Saturdays with service available roughly between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. MART operates one high (15-minute) frequency fixed-route connecting the main Fitchburg State University campus with remote parking facilities; most other routes operate with hourly or 45 minute headways.
MART also operates three longer-distance routes with more limited service. These include a route connecting MWCC in Gardner with Leominster and Fitchburg, and two "G-Link" routes, one of which connects Gardner to Orange and one connects Gardner to Winchendon. G-Link routes operate approximately every two hours during peak periods (6:00 am to 9:00 am; 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm; 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm). The G-Link buses also connect with FRTA services to provide public transportation along the Route 2 corridor. The MWCC Intercity/Commuter operates with higher frequencies during peak periods and operates with a limited schedule during the summer.
MART provides ADA complementary paratransit city-wide in Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner. Outside of these areas, MART provides ADA complementary paratransit within Â¾ miles of the fixed-route service. As part of its town-wide ADA service, MART also sells curb-to-curb subscription service to members of the general public. Subscription service fares vary by frequency of use, by origin and destination, and vary from about $40 to $102.50 per month.
MART member communities without fixed-route service can work with MART to receive town based demand response services. These services are typically operated by local Council on Aging (COA) organizations and MART provides the vehicle, vehicle maintenance and driver training; fuel reimbursements are also available. As long as the town serves older adults and persons with disabilities they are allowed to operate other services, such as shuttles to/from train stations.
MART also operates a general public shuttle service to medical facilities in Boston and Worcester. Each shuttle has three round trips on weekdays. The bus makes four scheduled stops in the MART service area and travels directly to the medical facilities in Boston and Worcester. Once in Boston and Worcester, the bus operates as a type of deviated fixed-route service and will take the passengers to their requested facilities. MART charges $12 to Boston and $10 to Worcester, with slightly lower fares for older adults and persons with disabilities.
Many MART services provide connections to the MBTA Fitchburg Commuter Rail line at the Fitchburg and North Leominster stations. Additionally, MART's Gardner to Orange G-Link route connects to FRTA service in Athol and Orange.
MART's administrative offices are located in a vehicle maintenance and operations facility on the town line between Fitchburg and Leominster. It also owns parking lots and garages at two MBTA rail stations, one at the MBTA Fitchburg commuter rail station and another at the Leominster MBTA commuter rail station. The Fitchburg station, known as the Fitchburg Intermodal Facility, is also the primary bus passenger facility. The HST brokerage function is also located at this facility. MART also recently opened a maintenance and storage facility in Gardner.
In addition to Fitchburg the commuter rail station, MART is coordinating the development of a new MBTA rail station in Littleton MA. MART has also partnered with the MBTA in the planning for the proposed Wachusett station approximately four miles west of the Fitchburg Intermodal Center.
MART has a basic fare structure that mirrors its primary service types:
- In-city fixed-route service (Fitchburg/Leominster and Gardner services): $1.00
- Inter-city fixed-routes service: $1.50
- ADA complementary paratransit: $1.50 (for local service) - $3.00 (intercity service - twice the fixed route fare)
- Boston/Worcester medical service shuttle: $12.00/$10.00 respectively
- Fares on subscription services vary by use and trip origin/destination
A variety of discounts are available. These include a half-fare discount for people over 60, disabled riders, and those with a Medicare card, and free service for accompanied children under 5, active veterans, and Fitchburg State University faculty, staff, and students with ID. On the Boston and Worcester shuttles, a $2.00 discount is offered for those with a disability; primary care assistants may ride for half price, and assistants under age 18 or over age 60 may ride for half price minus one dollar, while veterans ride for free. Monthly regular and student passes are also available.
The following figures describe MART's performance in terms of ridership, service levels (revenue hours), farebox revenues and operating costs. It should be noted that beginning in 2009, MART began including ridership and vehicles associated with its HST service into its reporting for demand-responsive services in the NTD. As a result, ridership and service levels spike dramatically between 2008 and 2009; this growth reflects a change in reporting practices rather than dramatic growth in service levels and ridership.
In 2010, MART carried approximately 860,000 passengers. Approximately 32% of these passengers used demand-responsive services, and 68% used fixed-route services. At this rate, MART carries the highest proportion of any Massachusetts RTA. In total overall ridership, MART lands in the middle of Massachusetts RTA's (seventh lowest volume overall). However, in terms of vehicle hours, MART provides the sixth highest amount of service, which reflects the large proportion of demand-responsive ridership.
2011 FLEET SIZE
In 2010, MART had 28 vehicles for fixed-route service and 167 vehicles for demand responsive service. MART has the largest demand-responsive fleet among Massachusetts RTAs, and the sixth smallest fixed-route fleet.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, MART's total operating expenses were $11.7 million dollars. Of this, $7.1 million or 61% was for demand-responsive service, and $4.5 million or 39% was for fixed-route service. MART's operating costs are sixth highest among RTAs. In 2008, prior to inclusion of HST data in NTD reporting, MART's operating expenses totaled $10.0 million, of which 35% was for demand-responsive service.
In 2010, fare revenue covered approximately 30% of MART's 2010's operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues cover 42% of demand-responsive costs and 11% of fixed-route service costs. High fares associated with demand-responsive service reflect HST service, which is a fully-funded service.
In 2008, fares covered approximately 13% of overall costs, and the farebox recovery ratio was about the same for demand-responsive and fixed-route services. As of 2010, MART collected the fourth highest amount of fare revenue among RTAs, and had the second highest farebox return ratio.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
MART service levels, costs, and ridership fluctuated during the last decade. Between 2001 and 2010, annual ridership on MART services varied between about 900,000 and 1.2 million. Between 2007 and 2009, fixed-route operating costs per hour rose sharply, increasing by over 100% in two years.
Between 2001 and 2010, annual ridership on MART services varied between about 900,000 and 1.2 million riders. Ridership on both types of service declined by approximately the same amount: between 2001 and 2010, ridership on fixed-route services declined by about 16%, while ridership on demand-responsive services dropped by about 18% in the same period.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
Since 2001, the total amount of service that MART has provided, in terms of revenue vehicle hours, increased by 4%. The overall growth masks a change in the type and mix of service provided by MART. Over the past decade the amount of fixed-route service decreased by 45%, while the amount of demand-responsive service increased by 45%. In addition to the broader trend, the amount of fixed-route service varied throughout the decade. Initially (2001 to 2004) fixed-route service hours increased, rising from 78,000 to 114,000; after 2004, however, MART began reducing the amount of fixed-route service provided such that by 2010, it provides 41,000 revenue vehicle hours of service, nearly two-thirds less than their peak year (2004).
Demand responsive service hours rose steadily between 2001 and 2005, increasing from around 100,000 to 129,000, and since then have fluctuated. In 2009, demand-responsive service hours rose sharply to a high of 143,000, but as discussed, much of this change reflects a change in reporting practices rather than growth in service hours.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
MART's operating costs increased from $6.9 million in 2001 to $9.2 million in 2010. This represents an increase of 33% over 10 years, or an average of 3% per year. Fare revenues declined over the same period from $1.7 million to $1.3 million, or by 21%.
Operating Cost per Passenger
MART's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service increased from $5.58 to $7.81, or by 40%. MART currently ranks sixth among the RTAs in terms of highest fixed-route operating cost per passenger. MART's operating cost per passenger for demand-responsive service increased from $6.49 to $18.19, or by 180% between 2001 and 2010. Yet, MART has the third lowest cost per passenger among all RTAs.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, the number of passengers that MART carried per passenger hour varied between 4.2 and 5.6, except for a spike in 2001 when MART carried 6.6 passengers per hour.
As discussed, revenue hours on fixed-route services dropped significantly between 2004 and 2010; ridership decreased during this time period, but not nearly to the same extent. In 2001, MART carried 8.8 passengers per revenue vehicle hour. Service declined to a low of 5.6 passengers per revenue vehicle hour in 2004, and then increased to 14.1 in 2010. MART currently ranks in the middle of Massachusetts RTA's (the seventh lowest) in terms of fixed-route passengers per hour.
On demand-responsive services, the rate of passengers per hour dropped from 4.8 in 2001 to 2.8 in 2010. The decline in demand responsive passengers carried per hour declined fairly steadily over the decade and has been about 2.5 to 2.8 passengers per hour for the past five years. MART is currently ranked as the third highest RTA in terms of demand-responsive passengers per revenue vehicle hour.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2002 and 2010, MART's operating cost per revenue vehicle hour for all services increased by an average of 6.7% per year. While the overall cost per hour of fixed-route service increased by 124% in that period, costs for demand-responsive service increased by 60%, less than half the cost increase for fixed-route service.
Between 2001 and 2007, fixed-route service costs remained relatively steady. In 2008 and 2009, however, the hourly cost for fixed-route service rose sharply, rising from $70.10 to $127.43; after this peaked in 2009, costs declined somewhat to $110.15 per hour. Costs for demand-responsive service costs, however, remained steady for most of the time period and began to rise more significantly after 2009. As of 2010, MART's demand-responsive operating cost per hour is about average among RTAs, but it has the highest fixed-route operating cost per hour.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- MART has an extensive Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), including real-time passenger information systems. Upcoming projects include new fareboxes and CharlieCard fare payment integration, which will include swipe payment options for paratransit/demand response riders.
- Over the course of several years, MART has developed several innovative services, including general public subscription demand response, longer distance medical shuttles and university shuttles.
- MART owns and operates parking facilities at two MBTA commuter rail stations and is currently working with the MBTA to re-develop a MBTA commuter rail station in Littleton.
- MART provides human service transportation for a large part of Massachusetts, including the Boston metropolitan area.