Regional Transit is vitally important to Massachusetts
Massachusetts needs strong, statewide public transportation. You've come to the right place to learn about work in progress to support reliable, affordable and sustainable regional public transit all across Massachusetts.
- Read an update from MASSPIRG on Governor Baker's proposal to fund RTAs in the FY 2021 budget, and on recently awarded grants to RTAs as provided for in the FY 2020 budget.
Regional public transit is essential for mobility and economic opportunity; to reduce congestion and protect our climate, air quality and health; and to encourage strong and vibrant communities. Our RTAs are a lifeline for many in Massachusetts who do not own cars; for employers whose workforce needs transit; for students and educational institutions; and for health and wellness.
Urban, suburban and rural communities may be transit-dependent. The 2019 report of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission identifies improved and revitalized RTA service as a key factor in improving the lives of people in our rural communities. Download the report here.
Thank you for adding your voice for better public transit!
FY 2020 State Budget: Progress for RTA Riders
The Fiscal Year 2020 Budget provided a significant amount of new funding for RTAs, such that service cuts have generally been avoided. The House-Senate Conference Committee recommended funding of $87 million, plus $3.5 million subject to agreements ("MOUs") between RTAs and MassDOT that have been finalized. This is adequate funding to stabilize RTA service, but we as a state can and must do much better. See our Progress page for information about how we can better fund RTAs and all public transit.
See this MASSPIRG update for a quick look at Governor Baker's FY2021 RTA proposal. Progress, but more work to do.
A note about the budget process: The annual state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 starting July 1 began with the Governor's proposal in January, to be followed by the House Ways & Means budget, member amendments and a final vote in April, followed by the Senate Ways & Means budget, member amendments and a final vote in May, followed by a reconciliation through a Conference Committee, then final votes by both chambers. This page will have updates throughout this process.
How are RTAs funded, and why does that matter now?
Our 15 Regional Transit Authorities are independently operated and governed by local Advisory Boards representing the communities they serve. RTA operations are funded by a combination of farebox revenue, local assessments, state assistance, federal aid and other sources, such as advertising. RTA capital investments are largely funded by the Commonwealth, with local and federal support.
State operating assistance and oversight is a matter of annual discussion and debate. In the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, the legislature established the Task Force on RTA Performance and Funding, in addition to a level of operating assistance that was supported by many RTA advocates. After many meetings, the Task Force produced a report on April 5, 2019.
The RTA Task Force report helped to inform the FY 2020 state budget. The Governor in January 2019 proposed operating assistance of $86 million, a reduction from FY2019's level of $88 million. The House of Representatives voted a budget in April; the Senate budget was voted in May; and the legislative branches reconciled the two budgets for the Fiscal Year that begins July 1.
We support a base state funding level of $90.5 million. This funding will maintain service, and was anticipated by the Transportation Finance Act of 2013. We are pleased that the final Task Force report includes this funding level. The Legislature's budget totals $90.5 million, of which $3.5 million is subject to MOUs.
State funding is important, but governance and reform are also critical to RTA riders.
Is transit ridership declining? In many cases, yes. This is because of policy decisions to underfund transit service and artificially reduce the costs of driving. This TransitCenter report, Who's On Board 2019, explains why policy makers can - and should - help boost transit ridership.
Want more data? See the T4MA RTA Fact Sheet.
What is the long term vision for RTAs?
It is essential to ensure excellent transit, not bare-bones, sporadic or supplementary service. Public transit throughout Massachusetts must be great. In a world of technological disruption, economic inequality, climate risk and competing priorities, the importance of good transportation choices is critical. After years of back and forth on funding, the Task Force and its report represent a milestone.
Experts agree that public transit is essential. The Governor's Commission on the Future of Transportation's recently issued 2018 report recognized the importance of public transit and RTAs. Several important recommendations are cited in this comment letter to the Task Force as it was developing a report. Of particular importance:
|1. Prioritize investment in public transit as the foundation for a robust, reliable, clean, and efficient transportation system.|
17. Prepare MassDOT and other transportation-related entities to effectively oversee a changing transportation system
|18. Develop a fiscally sound and responsible transportation resource plan to to operate, maintain, and upgrade the transportation system.|
To create a good future, it is up to all of us! Through grass roots advocacy, strong legislative and local leadership, and responsible state and regional stewardship, we will achieve excellence in public transit. Thank you for helping out!
It's our move, Massachusetts.
Transportation for Massachusetts is a coalition of 70+ member and partner organizations all across Massachusetts. We work for a modern, statewide transportation network that is clean, reliable, efficient, and provides transportation choices to improve everyone's quality of life and economic opportunity. Transportation is important to every person, family, business and community, and we must invest and plan responsibly now to protect our future. Established in 2010, T4MA is supported by foundation grants and individual donations. Learn more at t4ma.org.