New Report from The Health Foundation of Central Mass Explores Regional Transit Funding Equity

May 15, 2024

A new report called “Regional Transit in Massachusetts: Where we Are and Where we Need to Go,” funded by the Health Foundation of Central Mass for the Quaboag Connector examines the operational funding landscape for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), to provide a common understanding of inequities between the MBTA region and other regions of the state.

The analysis behind this study was conducted by the Center for State Policy Analysis (cSPA) at Tufts University and references pre-pandemic efforts by the Task Force on Regional Transit Authority Performance and Funding. That task force released a detailed and comprehensive report on the steps needed to invigorate the system, including new funding options and calls for improved coordination between agencies. Then in 2021, the Legislature introduced a new, rough funding formula as a kind of appropriations add-on. The new RTA report explains that the amount of money subject to this formula was extremely small, however, and the era of experimentation it seemed to portend did not take hold.

The new report encourages several principles based off the Task Force’s finding:

  • Regional and rural equity, so that urban and rural regions alike have access to meaningful public transit options.
  • Progressivity, where the state provides extra support to lower-income areas with the least ability to generate their own funding and to lower-income rural residents without access to personal vehicles.
  • Transparency, including a formula built on easily measured criteria that can be evaluated and refined as needed.
  • Flexibility, to support micro-transit and other innovative approaches in underserved areas and across RTA boundaries.
  • Stability, limiting any shocks to existing RTA agencies, independent transit providers, or established rider needs, and providing multi-year funding which enables providers to plan over a longer time horizon.

More information can be found in the full report here.