RTA PROFILE: MERRIMACK VALLEY REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) provides transit services in the Merrimack Valley in northeastern Massachusetts. Fixed-route service is largely centered on Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, but also extends beyond its membership area to Lowell, Boston, and Hampton Beach (NH). MVRTA consists of 14 communities in the Merrimack Valley (Haverhill, Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, Methuen, Merrimac, Amesbury, Newburyport, Boxford, Groveland, Salisbury, Georgetown, and West Newbury and Newbury). MVRTA operates weekday commuter service to Boston and general public dial-a-ride. Local fixed-route service is provided Monday through Saturday.
MVRTA provides five basic types of service:
- Boston Commuter Bus
- EZ Trans (ADA complementary paratransit and non-ADA demand response service)
- Boston/Peabody Medi-Ride
- Ring & Ride (general public dial-a-ride and flex-route service)
MVRTA operates 23 fixed routes, with five different types of service. Eighteen are local fixed routes. Two provide intercity service between Haverhill and Lawrence, and between Lawrence and Lowell. Another route provides seasonal service to beach areas, including to Hampton Beach. The remaining fixed-route service is employment based service. Most local fixed-route services generally operate from early morning (5:00 am to 7:00 am) to late afternoon/evening (5:45 pm to 8:00 pm) on weekdays, and 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturdays.
EZ Trans provides both ADA complementary paratransit service in conjunction with MVRTA fixed-route services as well as demand response service for older adults and persons with disabilities living in municipalities with fixed route service. All ADA and demand response service have higher fares. ADA service is provided during fixed route operating hours, while demand response service is offered Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Boston Commuter Bus provides commuter connections from Methuen, Lawrence and Andover to multiple destinations in downtown Boston and the Back Bay, including Government Center, Park Street Station, and Copley Square. MVRTA provides four AM inbound trips and four PM outbound trips; the AM trips depart Methuen between 5:45 am and 7:00 am, and PM trips depart Boston between 4:40 pm and 5:40 pm. Service operates on weekdays only.
Boston/Peabody Medi-Ride operates three days per week, connecting the communities within the MVRTA service area to 13 Boston-area hospitals and the Lahey Clinic in Peabody. Service is provided to only one of three geographic areas on each service day (Greater Haverhill on Mondays, Greater Lawrence on Tuesdays, and Greater Newburyport on Thursdays).
Ring & Ride is a series of municipally based demand-responsive service that provides curb-to-curb service within a defined zone. There are eight Ring & Ride routes/zones. Two of these routes have restrictions on who may ride (the Groveland route is only available to individuals aged 60 years or more, and the Route 51 Ring & Ride is only available to residents of one of four housing developments). The remaining six routes or zones are open to anyone living in the designated zone.
Many of MVRTA's local fixed routes connect to either the MBTA's Commuter Rail stations in Haverhill and Lawrence. Haverhill Station is also served by Amtrak's Downeaster Service between Portland, Maine and Boston. Additionally, MVRTA's Route 41 service operates between Lawrence and Lowell, serving the Gallagher Transit Terminal in Lowell, where most Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) routes plus the MBTA's Lowell Commuter Rail Line converge. The connections create opportunities for travel between systems and across communities between Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Newburyport. MVRTA is also exploring service to Route 28/Rockingham Park in New Hampshire.
MVRTA's most significant passenger facility is the McGovern Center in Lawrence, which includes local bus service connections to the MBTA commuter rail, and incorporates a structured parking facility. Several additional projects are in the construction, design or planning stages. These projects will expand MVRTA's presence in several communities. The projects include the Gateway Project, a multimodal transportation center in Lawrence; a new parking facility in Haverhill adjacent to the Commuter Rail Station; and the Costello Transportation Center constructed in Amesbury, a hub for fixed and paratransit service. MVRTA also has plans for a transportation facility in Newburyport.
The MVRTA owns parking facilities and provides connecting bus service to several of MBTA commuter rail stations in its coverage area.
MVRTA bases all of its services and its administrative headquarters at a facility it has owned since 1980 and continues to upgrade. This facility is located at 85 Railroad Avenue in Haverhill, near the Bradford Commuter Rail Station. All service begins and is housed here, and all maintenance and cleaning is completed here.
MVRTA has five basic fare structures for its five distinct types of service:
- Fixed-route service: $1.25
- Boston Commuter Bus: $5.00
- Medi-Ride: $8.00 adult, $4.00 companion
- Ring & Ride: $1.00 or 2.00 (depending on route); rides for seniors to Senior Center are free; Groveland route is free
- EZ Trans: $2.00 (ADA trips); $3.00 to $9.00 (non-ADA trips)
On local fixed-route services and Ring & Ride, transfers between local fixed-route services are free, and a variety of discounts are provided. These include a 50% discount for people over 59, disabled riders, and those with a Medicare card, and free service for students aged 13-17 on school days only, and accompanied children under age 6 at all times. A variety of passes are also offered, including 31-day, one-day, 20-ride and 10-ride passes. No discounts are available on EZ Trans services.
On the Boston Commuter Bus, a discounted 10-ride pass is available, and there is a $0.50 discount for seniors.
In 2010, MVRTA carried approximately 2.1 million passengers. Ridership on demand-responsive services accounted for just 67,000 of these riders, or 3% of the total. This figure includes riders on EZ Trans service as well as on Ring & Ride. MVRTA carries the fourth highest number of riders among Massachusetts RTAs, but provides only the eighth highest volume of service in terms of revenue vehicle hours.
2010 FLEET SIZE
In 2010, MVRTA had 52 vehicles for fixed-route service and 20 vehicles for demand responsive service. As compared to the other RTAs, MVRTA has the fourth largest fixed-route fleet and the fourth smallest demand-responsive fleet.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, MVRTA's total operating expenses were $11.5 million dollars. Of this, $9.7 million or 85% was for fixed-route service, and 15% was for fixed-route service. MVRTA's operating costs are the fifth highest among RTAs.
Fare revenue covered approximately 12% of MVRTA's 2010 operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues cover 8% of paratransit costs and 13% of local service costs. The total amount of fare revenue collected by MVRTA is about average among RTAs, but MVRTA has the third lowest farebox return ratio.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
MVRTA's productivity is influenced by the fact that ridership on fixed-route services grew while ridership on demand-responsive services declined. As a result, their overall productivity has increased over time.
Between 2001 and 2010, total ridership increased from 1.8 million passengers to 2.1 million passengers per year, an overall increase of 17%. Ridership has grown every year since 2002. Fixed-route ridership accounts for almost all of the change in total ridership. Demand-responsive ridership dropped by 16% since 2001, but this only represents a loss of 12,000 annual rides.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
Since 2001, the total amount of service that MVRTA provided, in terms of revenue vehicle hours, decreased by 18%. However, while revenue vehicle hours on demand responsive services decreased by 39% â€“ dropping from 59,000 hours to 36,000 hours - annual fixed-route hours decreased by only 5%, dropping from 103,000 to 98,000. For demand response service, the decline in service provided corresponds with the decline in ridership.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
MVRTA's operating costs increased from $7.6 million in 2001 to $11.5 million in 2010. This represents an increase of 52% over 10 years, or an average of 6% per year. Overall, this increase is comparatively low, and reflects the overall reduction in service hours that took place during the same period.
From 2001 to 2010, farebox revenues increased from $850,000 to $1.4 million, or by 59%, seemingly largely due to the increase in ridership over time.
Operating Cost per Passenger
Between 2001 and 2010, MVRTA's operating cost per passenger increased from $4.16 to $5.39, or by 30% (for an average of 3.9% per year). MVRTA has the fourth lowest operating cost per passenger among RTAs.
MVRTA's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route services remained fairly steady over the decade, rising from $3.76 to $4.74, or by 26% overall. MVRTA has the fifth lowest fixed-route operating cost per passenger among all RTAs.
Between 2001 and 2010, MVRTA's operating cost per passenger on demand-responsive services increased from $12.83 to $25.42, an increase of 98%. Overall, MVRTA had the fifth highest demand-responsive operating cost per passenger (2008).
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, the number of passengers that MVRTA carried per passenger hour fluctuated somewhat, but overall increased from 11.3 passengers per revenue vehicle hour to 16.0 passengers per revenue vehicle hour, an increase of 42%. Increased efficiency occurred for both fixed-route and demand-responsive services. On fixed-route services, a 5% decrease in service hours resulted in a 19% increase in ridership, while a39% reduction in demand-responsive service hours was correlated with only a 16% loss in ridership. On demand-responsive services, efficiency remained fairly steady at between 1.4 and 2.2 passengers per revenue vehicle hour, while on fixed routes service levels rose from 16.9 to 21.0 passengers per revenue vehicle hour. As compared with other RTA's MVRTA carries the fourth highest number of passengers per revenue vehicle hour on all services. It also carries the fourth highest number of fixed-route passengers per hour, but the fourth lowest number of passengers per hour on demand-responsive services.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, MVRTA's operating cost per revenue vehicle hour for all services increased by 84%, or an average of 7.4% per year. While costs on both types of service rose, demand-responsive costs grew much faster: the cost of demand-responsive service grew by 174%, as compared with 57% for the fixed-route service. MVRTA's demand-responsive operating cost per hour is seventh lowest among RTAs, but fixed-route costs are fourth-highest. MVRTA has the second-highest operating cost per hour among all RTAs.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- MVRTA provides two different types of demand-responsive service: EZ Trans, the ADA complementary paratransit service, and Ring & Ride, a set of "flex" routes that provide demand-response service within defined areas. Two Ring & Ride services have eligibility requirements, but most do not.
- MVRTA operates a successful Boston Commuter Bus service to destinations within Boston (such as Park Street, Government Center, and Back Bay) that are not directly served by the MBTA Haverhill Commuter Rail Line (which serves North Station).
- MVRTA is one of the original five RTAs established under Chapter 161B.
- MVRTA has been heavily involved and successful in completing capital projects to enhance local service and complement economic development initiatives.