RTA PROFILE: MARTHA'S VINEYARD REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) provides public transportation to all six towns on Martha's Vineyard. VTA provides year-round service, plus additional peak tourist season service between May and October.
VTA provides three types of services:
- Fixed-route service
- ADA complementary paratransit
- Boston medical transportation
VTA fixed-route service is comprised of 13 routes, 12 of which operate year-round. Fixed-route services run seven days a week, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. During the summer peak, most VTA service runs every 30 to 60 minutes, from approximately 7:00 am - midnight. (Route #11 is the only seasonal service, which runs through downtown Edgartown at headways of 15 minutes.) Off-season, routes are less frequent and limited to service during AM and PM peaks. Service generally begins at 7:00am and ends at 6:00 pm, and operates every 60 to 120 minutes. All buses can be flagged down anywhere along the route, provided it is safe for the bus to stop. VTA is one of the few RTAs that provide seven day a week service.
VTA's ADA complementary paratransit service, "The Lift", is available to individuals who are unable to use the fixed-route services because of a disability. The Lift is available within 3/4 mile of fixed-route service during the same days and hours as fixed-route.
Boston-area medical facility transportation is provided year-round by VTA. Every Tuesday, a van leaves at 7:00 am, takes the ferry to Woods Hole, and travels to many Boston hospitals and medical facilities. The van takes a 5:00 pm ferry back to the island, arriving on the Vineyard at 5:45pm. To be eligible for the service, individuals must be over 60 years old or have a medical disability. Riders must receive certification before using the service, and reservations must be made in advance. There is also stand-by status for other passengers, available on a space-available basis.
VTA provides regional connections to the Vineyard's three ferry terminals and the airport. The services provided at the terminals and airport, which are not operated by VTA, include:
- Vineyard Haven
- Year-round ferry service to and from Woods Hole
- Peak season ferry service to and from New Bedford
- Oak Bluffs
- Year-round service ferry to and from New Bedford and Falmouth
- Peak season ferry service to and from Woods Hole, Falmouth, Hyannis, Nantucket, and Quonset Point, RI
- Peak season ferry service to and from Falmouth
- Martha's Vineyard Airport
- Year-round air service to Boston, Hyannis, Nantucket
- Peak season air service to and from New Bedford, Providence, White Plains, New York-JFK, Washington-Reagan, and New York-LaGuardia.
Major VTA facilities are limited to its administrative offices and garage, which are located in the same facility near the Martha's Vineyard Airport. VTA also has transit hubs in Vineyard Haven, West Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs, but these hubs have only limited bus stop facilities.
VTA has three basic fare structures for its primary types of service:
- Fixed-route service: $1.00 per town, each way, including town of origin. With this fare structure, regular fares on individual routes range from $1 to $3.
- Demand-response: $1.00 per town, each way, including town of origin.
- Boston medical transportation: $10 each way
A variety of discounts are on fixed route service: 50% for seniors over 65, and free for children age 6 and under. One, three, seven, monthly, and annual passes are also available. Annual passes are available for students for half-price.
In 2010, VTA carried just under 1.1 million passengers. The overwhelming majority of riders-99%-were on VTA's fixed-route services. VTA serves most of the island with fixed-route service, which limits demand for demand-response service to those who are unable to ride the bus.
It should also be noted that VTA's ridership is heavily concentrated in the summer tourist season. During July and August, ridership averages nearly 9,000 passengers per day, versus 700 to 800 per day in the middle of the winter.
2011 FLEET SIZE
For fixed-route service, VTA operates 31 buses that range in size from 25 to 40 feet. For demand-response service, VTA uses five vans. By size and age, VTA's fleet composition is as shown below. VTA has a very young fleet, with only one van that is beyond its useful life.
Compared to other RTAs, VTA has the seventh smallest fixed-route fleet and the third smallest demand-responsive fleet (only higher than NRTA and CATA).
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, VTA's total operating expenses were $4.1 million. Of this, 88% was for fixed-route service, and 12% was for demand-responsive service. VTA's fixed-route operating costs are the sixth lowest of all RTAs, and demand-responsive costs were the second lowest (again, only higher than NRTA).
Fare revenue covered approximately 33% of VTA's 2010 operating expenses, which is very high, and the highest of all RTAs. By type of service, fare revenues cover 37% of fixed-route costs and 4% of demand-responsive costs. In 2010, VTA collected over $1.3 million in fare revenue.
In total, VTA funds its operating costs through its farebox revenue (29%), state operating assistance (26%), federal funds (22%),local funds (18%), and brokerage and third party reimbursements (4%). VTA's combined share of local funds and farebox revenues, at 47%, is very high and helps the agency fund its evening and weekend service.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
Over the past decade, VTA's overall service levels, ridership, and productivity have increased dramatically.
Between 2001 and 2010, VTA's total ridership has increased by 202% from 364,000 passengers per year to over 1.1 million. As described above, 99% of VTA's ridership is on its fixed-route services, and demand-response ridership has remained very low, ranging from 17,000 passengers in 2001 to 15,000 passengers in 2010. Much of that decline was attributable to VTA's 2007 transition from demand-response to year-round fixed-route service.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
Much of VTA's ridership increases have been due to the expansion of service, which has included new year-round routes and more frequent service. These service increases have been particularly effective, as ridership increases have been much higher than increases in the number vehicle hours. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of vehicle hours that VTA provides for fixed-route service has increased by 74%, or only 36% as much as the 202% increase in ridership. All of the service increases were for fixed-route service; over the same period, demand response hours declined by 34%.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
VTA's operating costs increased from $2.1 million in 2001 to $4.1 million in 2010, with much of the increase attributable to service expansions in 2002 and 2003 (when the number of service hours increased by 25% and 17%, respectively. In total, operating costs increased by 123% between 2001 and 2010, which again was significantly less than the 202% increase in ridership.
Fare revenues increased to a much higher extent than ridership or operating costs-up 390% between 2001 and 2010. This very large increase was due to the combination of fare and ridership increases. Over the same period, VTA's farebox return ratio has increased from 13% to 34%.
Operating Cost per Passenger
With ridership increases that have exceeded increases in operating costs, VTA's total operating cost per passenger declined from $5.45 in 2001 to $3.69 in 2010. These figures are overwhelmingly driven by VTA's cost per fixed-route passenger, which comprises 99% of the total, and VTA's cost per passenger for fixed-route service declined from $4.47 to $3.30. Based on 2010 rankings, this cost was the second lowest of all RTAs, second only to PVTA.
However, low cost for fixed-route riders masks high costs for demand-response riders, where costs increased from $26.71 per passenger in 2001 to $32.42 in 2010. These costs are high, and the highest of all RTAs.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2002, when VTA expanded service, the number of passengers that it carried per passenger hour increased by 62% from 12.3 to 19.9. It then declined through 2004 but since has slowly increased to 20.5. Again, these numbers are driven very strongly by fixed-route service, and based on 2010 rankings, VTA carries the sixth highest number of fixed-route passengers among all RTAs. (During July and August, it is likely that VTA carries the highest numbers.)
Over the same period, ridership per hour for demand-response service has been very low, but has increased from 1.8 in 2001 to 2.4 in 2010. This performance was about middle among RTAs.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, VTA's operating costper total revenue vehicle hour increased from $47.03 to 61.37, or an average of 5.8% per year. For fixed route services, cost increases have been slightly lower, from $46.66 to $59.70. However, costs for demand-response service have increased at a much higher rate, from $48.40 to $78.09.
In 2001, operating costs per hour for fixed-route and demand-response service were essentially the same. However, in the mid-2000s, demand-response costs spiked significantly to over $100 per hour, and have come down to under $80 since that time. At most transit systems, demand-response costs are lower than fixed-route costs. This is usually because fixed-route drivers are paid higher rates than demand-response drivers; however, VTA pays both types of drivers the same rates. Based on 2010 rankings, VTA has the second lowest cost per revenue vehicle hour for fixed-route service, but the second highest for demand-response service.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- Over the past ten years, VTA has expanded its service significantly, more than tripled its ridership, and increased its productivity.
- VTA's service and demand is highly seasonal. In the peak summer season, ridership is over 13 times higher than in the winter, and in the winter, 1/3 of its fleet is idle (plates are taken off of the vehicles to reduce insurance costs; largest vehicles are taken off the road). Years ago, VTA leased some vehicles in the off-season to Vermont properties but in recent years, there have been no requests.
- Unlike most RTA's VTA provides seven day a week service and evening service.
- On a year-round basis, VTA carries the second highest volume of riders per revenue vehicle hour of all RTAs; during the summer it is likely the highest.
- VTAs fixed-route and demand-responsive cost structures are among the lowest of all RTAs.
- VTA's farebox return, at 33%, is the highest of all RTAs.
- VTA's local funding is also very high, e.g. for FY2012, the local share of funding is about 27%.
- The combination of a high farebox revenues and strong local support provides the resources for seven day a week and peak season evening service.