Worcester Regional Transit Authority


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WRTA ridership on the rise

September 28, 2011

WORCESTER _ For the first time in nearly a decade, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) is trending in a positive direction with its ridership. Today, the WRTA has almost 3.5 million riders, despite a level funding situation which has forced the organization to accomplish more with less. Since 2007, the WRTA has targeted operational strategies to improve routes, and while there has been a 3 percent decrease in actual miles of service since 2007, the WRTA’s ridership has increased by an impressive 13.5 percent in that same timeframe.

“It has been a continuous goal to improve the Worcester Transit System for the people who use it, and make it more user friendly for those in our community that have not yet used our public transportation,” said WRTA Administrator Stephen O’Neil. “Researching which routes are the most traveled, which are not being utilized, and with a concerted effort to work towards streamlining those routes, the WRTA has given our riders a transit system that works for them.”

Increase in public transportation usage appears to be a trend across the United States. Reports show increased ridership in both large and small transit authorities. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) noted an increase in public transportation nationwide including Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which saw its highest monthly ridership this past April, since September 2008. In May of 2011, Muncie Indiana Transit Systems (Muncie, IN) saw an 11.1 percent ridership increase, City Utilities of Springfield (Springfield, MO) saw a 13 percent increase, and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (Tampa, FL) saw a 16 percent increase.

“Trends are indicating that the community continues to need effective, efficient public transportation,” O’Neil said. “As an industry, we need to continue investing in public transportation, on both a state and federal level.”

The latest ridership trends shed a positive light on the nation’s regional transit authorities and this includes the WRTA. Increased ridership is just one of many positive steps for the WRTA.

As part of its strategic plan, later this fall, the organization will be installing innovative technologies that will enable dispatchers to see all buses in “real time.” This “real time” capability will give dispatchers the ability to let drivers know just how closely they are adhering to the schedule, and make adjustments as deemed necessary. In addition, riders will also have the capability to track the buses on their phones and computers.

The plan also calls for a new WRTA maintenance and operations center funded through a $39 million federal grant.  The WRTA was one of 152 projects selected last October to share in $776 million in FTA State of Good Repair Funds.  The new hub, to be housed at Union Station, will offer riders a central location to not only utilize the WRTA, but also the other transit services available at that location.

“We will also be working on installing new automated fare boxes and ticketing vending machines that will eventually be incorporated into the CharlieCard system that is used by the MBTA,” O’Neil said. “With more and more people turning toward public transportation, it’s imperative that we stay in the forefront of technology. We’re making sure we are ahead of the curve.”

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