Barr Foundation Knowledge Center

This collection includes publications and resources from our partners and in our program areas, both current and legacy. These resources are completely free to access and download. Most of these works were funded by the Barr Foundation. We may occasionally feature items relevant to our program areas which were not funded by Barr. Please be aware that views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barr Foundation. We encourage you to search our collection and suggest potential content to include (use "content recommendations"). For questions or assistance, please contact learning@barrfoundation.org.
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Resurging Regional Ridership: An analysis of mobility flows, riders, and ridership in the WRTA region

April 21, 2023

This report is the second in the Worcester Regional Research Bureau's 2023 analysis of the WRTA and fare-free service, beginning with All Aboard: Financing a Fare-Free WRTA. To gain a comprehensive perspective of the WRTA, this analysis focuses not only on the profiles of the WRTA's riders and its ridership recovery, but also on regional mobility, key to understanding the context within which the WRTA's riders choose to use its service. This report ultimately finds that the WRTA experienced rapid ridership monthly-recovery since March 2020, and by December 2022 it exceeded pre-pandemic levels; in FY23, the WRTA is projected to have a total of 3,913,772 total UPT across all modes, the highest since its historic peak in 2016. Fare-free service undoubtedly played a role in that recovery.

Climate - Mobility

All Aboard: Financing a Fare-Free WRTA

March 10, 2023

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority Advisory Board has suspended fares at the agency since March 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent emergency. It has been extended several times, and the latest extension is set to end at the end of June 2023 unless the Advisory Board adopts a budget that will extend fare-free for a longer period of time. The Worcester Regional Research Bureau previously released two reports: In May 2019, The Implications of a Fare-Free WRTA and in November 2020, Bureau Brief—Addendum to "The Implications of a Fare-Free WRTA." Both reports analyses found a strong argument in favor of a fare-free program at the WRTA. This report on finances serves as an update to those reports after three years of fare-free service.The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is consistently the largest source of revenues used for operating expenses, followed by, in FY22, the Federal Government, and then WRTA member community assessments.According to a 2018 survey of riders, 65% of riders had an income of less than $24,999.Collecting fares, whether fixed or variable, will entail costs of its own that may mitigate the revenues collected by restarting fares.A thought experiment of what different fare collection revenues could look like, including the possibility of discounting fares by income.The Massachusetts' Legislature and the new gubernatorial administration have expressed interest in increasing transportation funding across the state. Moreover, the Regional Transit Authority Caucus in the legislature has begun to put forward bills to raise statewide RTA funding to $150 million a year, nearly $55 million more than funding for FY23. Governor Healey's initial FY24 budget includes $96.8 million for RTAs, in addition to $6 million for operating expenses from a new $25 million grant.The Federal Government will be increasing its transportation funding until 2026.The WRTA experienced a rapid ridership recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and FY23 ridership is expected to increase. While this report reviews WRTA finances relative to sustaining a fare-free policy, please look forward to a forthcoming report on WRTA ridership from The Research Bureau. It is evident that a fare-free policy at the WRTA has had significant impact, particularly on ridership.

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