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Study calls for better funding for public transportation in Massachusetts

PVTA  bus makes a stop in downtown Northampton, Mass.
Nirvani Williams
PVTA bus makes a stop in downtown Northampton, Mass.

A new study says that Massachusetts regional transit authorities need more reliable funding sources — and an expansion to rural areas.

The report highlights how agencies such as the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) rely heavily on local funding, as opposed to the MBTA in the Boston area, which receives a higher percentage from the state. The regional transit authorities receive about two-thirds of its funding from the state, with the rest coming from local sources including communities. The MBTA sees 88% of its funding from the state alone.

It suggests regional transit authorities should have a dedicated formula for how much money they receive, instead of being left to the whims of the legislature. Funding for RTA’s comes out of the state budget, which is negotiated on Beacon Hill.

“Given how important regional transit is for mobility and economic opportunity around the state, there’s tremendous value in thinking about how best to support RTAs and other innovative players,” said Evan Horowitz, executive director of the Center for State Policy Analysis, one of the study’s sponsors. “The funding-by-inertia process we’ve got really isn’t up to the task.”

The report goes on to say that more reliable public transportation options are necessary for rural areas to connect people with things such as jobs and medical appointments. This too could be possible if a more reliable funding mechanism is in place.

“We must do more to eliminate transportation deserts and to ensure that urban and rural regions alike have access to public transit, not only within each region but across a more connected system across the state,” said Dr. Amie Shei, President and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, another one of the study’s sponsors.

“Transportation is a public good, and we must invest in it today so we can achieve the Commonwealth’s climate, economic development, health and housing goals of tomorrow,” Shei added.

The report concludes residents in rural areas of Massachusetts should have meaningful access to public transportation, just like urban communities. It also says an expansion would also benefit lower income residents who live in rural areas, but don’t have access to their own vehicles.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.