BOSTON (SHNS) – More than three-quarters of Massachusetts residents support boosting funding for the state’s 15 regional transit authorities, which provide local bus and paratransit services beyond the reach of the MBTA.
A new poll by MassINC Polling Group found 79 percent of respondents wanted to see increased funding for RTAs, and 74 percent support using some of the new voter-approved surtax on earners who bring in over $1 million a year to fund the increase. Under the current budget, the state is expected to spend $96.5 million to fund RTAs this fiscal year.
Lawmakers in the RTA Caucus, who represent communities with RTA service, have filed legislation (H 3272 / S 2277) to set the annual state funding floor at $150 million to allow all agencies to provide daily and evening service. When asked if they support increasing how much RTAs get from the state budget to $150 million per year, 69 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the idea and 79 percent said they supported funding RTAs to run service at night and on weekends.
Current riders use RTA buses for a variety of types of trips, according to the poll, including shopping and errands (74 percent), health care appointments (62 percent), work (61 percent), visiting friends and family (57 percent), and going out at night (52 percent).
A majority of bus riders make less than $50,000 a year, and 43 percent have a high school diploma or less education. However, the poll shows that 35 percent of residents statewide — and only 28 percent in RTA service areas — think bus service near them is good enough to rely on it to get where they need to go. More than three-quarters, 77 percent, of residents said they would be more willing to ride the bus if it were free, 74 percent would be more willing if it were faster, 73 percent if it were more reliable and 72 percent if it served more in-demand destinations.
The 15 RTAs serve the Berkshires, Brockton area, Cape Ann, Cape Cod, Franklin region, greater Attleboro-Taunton, Lowell region, Martha’s Vineyard, Merrimack Valley, Metro West, Montachusett region, Nantucket, Pioneer Valley, Southeast region and Worcester area.
The poll, conducted in collaboration with the Regional Transit Authority Advocates Coalition and sponsored by The Barr Foundation, surveyed 1,401 Massachusetts residents between Feb. 23 and March 7. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.