RTA PROFILE: WORCESTER REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) provides transit service for 35 communities, covering 509,764 people in 866 square miles of Central Massachusetts within the greater Worcester region. Local fixed-route service is provided within 12 communities (Auburn, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Holden, Leicester, Millbury, Oxford, Shrewsbury, Spencer, Webster, West Boylston, and Worcester). Paratransit service is available to eligible individuals in the larger 35-community service area.
WRTA provides four different types of fixed-route and demand-response services:
- Local fixed-route service
- ADA complementary paratransit
- Non-ADA Paratransit
- Elder Shopper
WRTA operates 23 local fixed-routes that operate on weekdays from early morning (5:00 am - 8:15 am) to evening (7:50 pm - 9:05 pm) on weekdays, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on Saturdays, and 9:30 am - 6:00 pm on Sundays on some routes (some weekend routes operate earlier and/or later). Although service operates in 12 communities, it is heavily focused in Worcester, and all routes operate to and from Worcester.
WRTA provides two levels of paratransit service: basic ADA complementary service, and expanded paratransit that serves a 35-community area that is geographically larger than required by ADA. ADA complementary paratransit operates in the entire City of Worcester and within 3/4 mile of fixed-route services outside the City. This service operates during the same days and times as fixed-route services. Non-ADA paratransit service is available for elders and people with disabilities in all 35 member communities, with service hours varying by community or eligibility, but always at least on Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Depending on the community this service is provided by either a Council on Aging or South Central Mass ElderBus.
WRTA also operates an Elder Shopper service for Worcester residents aged 60 and over. Onboard volunteer helpers assist passengers with groceries.
Most WRTA services converge downtown at City Hall, Union Station or both. The WRTA is investing in a new $12 million hub facility at Union Station that will serve all routes, and house WRTA headquarters. Union Station in Worcester is also the terminus for the MBTA Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail Line, and is served by Amtrak. Additional transfers can also be made to private coach bus services at Union Station, which is owned by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.
The WRTA is also developing a new facility for storage, maintenance and operations on Quinsigamond Avenue in the City of Worcester. It will replace the current headquarters, operations center and maintenance facility, which was originally built in 1927 to house streetcars. The new center will be built adjacent to Union Station and will also be a WRTA owned facility.
WRTA has three basic fare structures for its three primary types of service:
- Fixed-route service: $1.50
- Elder Shopper: $0.50
- ADA paratransit: $2.25 within town, $2.50 one town away, $2.75 two towns away, $3.00 three or more towns away
WRTA does not offer free transfers between fixed routes. A variety of discounts are provided for local fixed-route services. These include a 50% discount for people aged 60 and over, disabled riders, those with a Medicare card, and children aged 5 to 13, and free service for accompanied children under 5. Single day passes, 31-day passes, and 10 ride transit passes are also offered to the general public. WRTA offers a UPASS service for $100 per semester to students with a valid ID. No discounts are offered for ADA paratransit or Elder Shopper.
In 2010, WRTA carried just under 3.5 million passengers. Of these, almost 3.3 million (or 94%) used fixed-route services, and 209,000 (or 6%) used demand-responsive services. In total, WRTA carries the second highest volume of riders among Massachusetts RTAs (only fewer than PVTA, which carries 10.8 million passengers), and provides the second highest volume of service in terms of vehicle hours.
2011 FLEET SIZE
WRTA has 47 vehicles for fixed-route service and 69 vehicles for paratransit/demand responsive service. WRTA has the second-largest demand-responsive fleet among RTAs, but only the sixth largest fixed-route fleet.
2010 OPERATING EXPENSES AND FARE REVENUES
In 2010, WRTA's total operating expenses were $18.9 million dollars. Of this, $14.3 million or 76% was for fixed-route service, and $4.6 million or 24% was for fixed-route service. WRTA's operating costs are the second highest among RTAs, lower only than those of PVTA.
Fare revenue covered approximately 17% of WRTA's 2010 operating expenses. By type of service, fare revenues cover 18% of fixed-route costs and 10% of demand-responsive costs. WRTA collects the third highest amount of fare revenue among RTAs and has the seventh highest farebox return ratio.
EFFECTIVENESS AND TRENDS1
WRTA has the second highest ridership among all RTAs, in spite of a decline in ridership experienced between 2002 and 2005. Overall efficiency, however, was not greatly affected by this decline because vehicle hours were adjusted simultaneously. WRTA's service efficiency may be influenced by the large service area in which dial-a-ride services are provided.
Between 2001 and 2010, total ridership decreased from 4.8 million passengers to 3.5 million passengers per year, or by 28% overall. Overall ridership declined sharply from 2002-2005, by 44% in three years. However, it increased in 2006 and has stabilized since that point.
While most of the fluctuation in ridership was on fixed-route services, demand-responsive ridership also dropped between 2001 and 2010, decreasing from 319,000 to 209,000 passengers, or by 34%. WRTA's demand-responsive ridership decreased throughout most of the 2000s.
Revenue Vehicle Hours
Since 2001, the total amount of service that WRTA has provided, in terms of revenue vehicle hours, has decreased by 36%. Both fixed-route and demand-responsive services decreased in hours, although demand-responsive service declined by somewhat more (45%) than fixed-route service (29%). In 2010, WRTAâ€™s demand-responsive services accounted for 38% of the service hours, but only 6% of the ridership.
Operating Costs and Fare Revenue
WRTA's operating costs increased from $16.9 million in 2001 to $18.9 million in 2009. This represents an increase of 12% over 10 years, or an average of only 1% per year.
From 2002-2010, overall fare revenues decreased from $3.4 million to $3.2 million, or by 5%.
Operating Cost per Passenger
Between 2001 and 2010, WRTA's operating cost per passenger for fixed-route service increased from $2.68 to $4.34, or by 62%. WRTA has the fourth lowest cost per passenger for fixed-route service among RTAs.
WRTA's operating cost per passenger for demand responsive service has also increased, from $14.88 to $22.08, or by 48%. At this cost, WRTA has the sixth lowest demand-responsive cost per passenger among all RTAs. Its operating cost per total passenger grew from $3.49 in 2001 to $5.41 in 2010, which ranks eleventh overall.
Passengers per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, the number of passengers that WRTA has carried per revenue vehicle hour has varied between 13.2 and 15.7. Demand-responsive services have remained extremely steady, carrying between 2.1 and 2.5 passengers per revenue hour, while fixed-route services have varied somewhat more, carrying between 22.4 and 27.3 passengers per revenue hour. This means that WRTA has the second highest level of ridership per hour among RTAs for fixed-route service, and the fifth highest for demand-responsive service.
Operating Cost per Revenue Vehicle Hour
Between 2001 and 2010, WRTA's operating cost per revenue vehicle hour for all services has increased by an average of 6.6% per year. Between demand-responsive service and fixed-route services, cost increases have been very similar. WRTA's operating cost per hour for fixed-route service is the second highest among all RTAs, only a few cents per hour less expensive than that of MART. The cost for demand-responsive service is fifth highest.
KEY FACTS/NOTABLE INITIATIVES
- WRTA has stabilized finances, operations and budgets over the last few years, with balanced
budgets three years running, and a trust fund for pension obligations.
- Most of WRTA's ridership (93%) is on fixed-route services. Overall, WRTA has the second highest ridership of any RTA, surpassed only by PVTA. However, ridership dropped by almost half between 2002 and 2005 and although it has increased by 12% in recent years, is still down by about one-third since 2001.
- The large majority of all fixed-route ridership (75% - 80%) is in Worcester.
- While ridership on WRTA's demand-responsive services is relatively low, these services account for almost two-thirds of the vehicle fleet, 41% of the service hours, and 24% of operating costs.