Author: niorka

Following MeVa’s lead, all RTAs in Massachusetts will be fare free this holiday season

HAVERHILL — Inspired by the unbridled success of MeVa Transit’s Fare Free initiative, all Regional Transit Authorities in Massachusetts will be fare free during the holiday season from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. The initiative is funded through a $2.5 million grant awarded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to all 15 RTAs in the state.  The program is designed to encourage new customers to “Try Transit” by offering no cost trips to shop or dine at local businesses, visit with friends and family, and commute to work during the holiday season.  As a result, in addition to MeVa buses, which have been fare free since last March, all public transit in Massachusetts will be fare free through the end of the year except for the MBTA.

“MassDOT is pleased to have worked closely with the Commonwealth’s 15 Regional Transit Authorities to utilize the funding awarded in the FY23 state budget for the “Try Transit” program. “This initiative is another example of the many efforts where MassDOT and the RTAs collaborate to improve mobility options for Massachusetts transit customers,” commented MassDOT Rail & Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger.

Of course, come January, when other RTAs go back to collecting fares, MeVa service will remain free to all riders. The MeVa Advisory Board authorized all MeVa buses and paratransit service to go fare free last December for at least two years starting in March 2022, when all fareboxes were removed from MeVa buses.  The additional MassDOT funding will allow MeVa to remain fare free for an additional six weeks, or until Patriots Day 2024, before having to make long term revenue determinations.  

The success of MeVa’s fare initiative is unassailable. Since going fare free, MeVa’s ridership has gone up a whopping 121.3% for fixed route service and 50.4% for paratransit service, based on October 2022 data. While the ridership numbers make a tremendous case for the value of going fare free in an of themselves, they only tell part of the story. By removing fares as a barrier to using transit, more riders translates into increased mobility, greater access to jobs, medical appointments, training, social outings, and more spending at local shops and restaurants, which will be even more important during the upcoming holiday season. 

Operationally, by going fare free, buses travel faster as they no longer have to wait for passengers to line up to pay their fares. It has even improved the driver-passenger relationship, as drivers no longer have to police fare collection. Tellingly, even as ridership has gone up significantly, the number of complaints received has gone down 31.4% since MeVa stopped collecting fares.

MeVa’s fare free initiative is part of a larger effort to provide a more welcoming transit experience, with increased service frequencies in Lawrence, more direct routings, a new name, and new, more colorful buses that have been plying the streets of the Merrimack Valley since October to rave reviews. Communications Director Niorka Mendez noted that “MeVa’s fare free initiative has been a boon to the entire Merrimack Valley and we couldn’t be prouder that MassDOT is seeking to emulate our success this holiday season across Massachusetts—we know it will spread the benefits our passengers enjoy to the entire state. Perhaps,” she added with a smile, “brightly colored buses are next!”  Happy Holidays!

The MVRTA will be Sporting a New Name and Colorful Look

Lawrence, MA.  A fresh splash of color has hit the Merrimack Valley and, perhaps surprisingly, the source is the local transit authority. The first hints of the rebranding of the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) as MeVa-Merrimack Valley Transit are the bright new buses, bedazzled in coral, aqua and yellow that can now be spotted along local roadways. MVRTA will officially unveil its new look buses, logo and name at a ribbon cutting event on Thursday, October 20 at the Buckley Transportation Center in Lawrence.

The impetus for the rebranding started over a year ago, when then-newly-appointed MVRTA Administrator Noah Berger and Communications Director Niorka Méndez-Almonte started going to community groups to access where the service was doing well and where it was falling short. Through their conversations, it quickly became clear that MVRTA was invisible to many of their potential riders. As Berger notes, “people who could use our service either didn’t know we were here or thought of us as irrelevant. For many reasons, our vehicles blended into the woodwork—of course it doesn’t help that we have the same color scheme as a mail truck!”

With a goal of increasing visibility and ridership, MVRTA put together a diverse focus group and began asking what the community wanted their buses to look like. Participants originally hailing from the Caribbean and Latin America shared that they were used to colorful, dynamic buses that do a much better job of getting people’s attention. Working with Studio Six Branding, which had been successful rebranding other transit authorities such as the Hop in Boulder Colorado, the focus group, along with additional stakeholders including drivers and riders, settled on a new design and name in May that better reflects the cultural and linguistic richness of the area, with special homage to what makes the Merrimack Valley unique and special. The colors are inspired by housing in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, while subtle ripples and water droplets honor the Merrimack River and abstracted clockfaces mirror the clocks adorning many of the area’s historic mill buildings.

The new name, MeVa, short for Merrimack Valley, was seen as hipper and easier to say than MVRTA. With the tag line “Let’s go/íVamos!” prominently displayed on the buses, the system is especially welcoming to its many Spanish-speaking riders. Méndez-Almonte proudly observed that: “Being Latina, born and raised in the Dominican Republic, I feel connected to the new brand, the cheery and happy colors perfectly reflect the Hispanic culture. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way.”

The new look is much more than mere cosmetics and supports a dramatic campaign to improve service, including going fare free systemwide back in March, doubling frequencies in Lawrence beginning last month, optimizing routings and adding bus stops. Through September, ridership is up 97.9% since going fare free and growing. Nine of the newly wrapped buses have been plying the streets of the Merrimack Valley since last week and the area has taken notice, as evidenced by posts of sightings on social media as if the new buses were exotic birds. After the initial launch, the authority will continue to work on wrapping the rest of the fleet. MVRTA was established back in 1974 and has had the same look ever since. It is time for a fresh look that reflects and supports a new, responsive and welcoming twenty-first century transit service.

MVRTA INCREASES SERVICE FREQUENCY IN LAWRENCE

August 22, 2022

MVRTA INCREASES SERVICE FREQUENCY IN LAWRENCE

Lawrence, MA.  For the first time in the history of the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA), all Lawrence-based bus routes will operate every 30 minutes, all day long, starting September 6, 2022. Historically, MVRTA buses in Lawrence only ran every 30 minutes during peak hours, with hourly service at all other times. For many riders, this proved to be confusing, as they were unsure when buses were running every half hour and when they were running hourly. Keeping a consistent 30-minute service all day long not only makes the schedule easier to understand, it also better reflects the reality that riders need the bus throughout the day and are not likely operating on a banker’s 9-5 schedule.

Since July, all service was only running hourly except for routes #1 and #41, due to a national driver shortage.  Thanks to an aggressive recruitment campaign and a top salary of $27.61/hour, MVRTA has been able to overcome the driver shortage and add new operators over the summer who will be deployed in September. Buses will operate every half hour out of the Buckley Transportation Center on Common Street from 5:00 AM until 7:00 PM on weekdays.  Saturday service will continue to run hourly, from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

With this service improvement, people living, working or visiting Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill, Andover and North Andover will have more flexibility when using public transportation. MVRTA Communications Director Niorka Mendez noted that “Adding more frequency will not only make our system more reliable, it will also improve the rider experience. Riders will no longer need to check the schedule to make sure they don’t miss the bus and wait for an hour for the next bus—they will know that the bus will show up every half hour.”

Rider Ana Salinas added that “Having the half hour pulse extended for longer hours helps with my time management and makes it that much easier and faster to get around.”

In planning this change, MVRTA worked closely with Lawrence Mayor Brian De Peña, who was very enthusiastic about the improved schedule, noting that the more frequent service will be a great benefit for area businesses: “I applaud the decision that MVRTA made to provide a more efficient and faster bus service in our city. This determination will definitely have a positive impact in our community by making our transportation system even more reliable.”

The new schedule is part of a larger campaign to make MVRTA service more responsive to riders’ travel needs, and be more visible and accessible. Back in March, all MVRTA buses went fare free, resulting in a 71.48% ridership increase.  Starting in April, MVRA began optimizing routings, starting with routes 35, 36 and 37, by making routes simpler and more direct.  As Administrator Noah Berger observed, “the 37 bus used to literally travel in a figure eight, which meant that in many instances, you couldn’t return to where you initially got on the bus. And since travel times are decreased, we are better respecting our passengers’ time.”  MVRTA will also be introducing bus stop signs and, through a grant from MassDOT’s Shared Streets Program, bus shelters, which will remove the intimidation of waiting for a bus. Finally, later this fall, MVRTA will introduce a new colorful bus design and logo that will add to the visibility and attractiveness of riding system.

Media Contact:

Niorka Mendez

Director of Communications

[email protected]

(978) 469-6878  Extension 116

MASK POLICY UPDATE

The TSA is no longer enforcing its mask mandate on public transportation and in transportation hubs, therefore, the MVRTA has adopted the same policy.

Masks are no longer required on the buses, commuter bus, STS vans, or while in MVRTA transportation centers. In following CDC guidelines, we still strongly recommend that you continue to wear your face masks. If the TSA once again enforces a mask policy, please remember the MVRTA will have as well.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program

Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority has established its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal for the next 3 years. The goal states 4.5% of contracts for goods and services procured over the next time period will be awarded to registered DBE firms. If you have any comments regarding our policy, please forward them to [email protected] by May 4th, 5 PM. To register as a DBE, information is found at: Apply for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification | Mass.gov

If you are interested in being added to the list of DBE vendors with MVRTA, please send your company’s information to Kathleen Lambert, Deputy Administrator and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Liason Officer (DBELO) for MVRTA at [email protected]. It is MVRTA’s practice to post all solicitations on our website under “Doing Business with MVRTA”. Feel free to check this page frequently for information. We look forward to doing business with you!

THE MVRTA GOES FARE FREE ON MARCH 1, 2022

Haverhill, MA The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) board voted unanimously yesterday to go fare-free for all local fixed route and EZ Trans paratransit services starting March 1, 2022 for at least a 2-year pilot. Fares will still be collected on the Boston Commuter bus.  

This pilot is an expansion of the City of Lawrence-funded initiative that has covered fares on three local routes in Lawrence since September, 2019.  The MVRTA will be using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the pilot.

One local champion of the free-fare pilot is Congresswoman Lori Trahan, MA-3, who called “the decision to waive fares for Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority riders a game-changer for folks across the region who rely on public transit for their commutes.” She noted that she was particularly gratified to see the work she is doing in Washington benefit transit riders back home.  “I was proud to vote for the CARES Act last year and applaud the Board for putting funding from the relief package to use helping Merrimack Valley residents and small businesses working to recover from the pandemic,” she said.

Some of the many advantages of a fare free transit system include winning back riders who stopped riding during the COVID-19 pandemic, returning dollars back to the local economy, increased access for people having a hard time affording transportation, faster and more efficient trips, and reduced conflicts between drivers and passengers.  In addition, another factor supporting the budget-conscious board’s decision to go fare free is the high cost and inefficiency of collecting fares. As MVRTA Administrator Noah Berger noted, “for every dollar we collect in fares, we only see less than 24 cents when the fully allocated costs of collecting fares are factored in.”

“I am really excited about this pilot,” said MVRTA spokesperson Niorka Mendez, adding that “going fare-free will attract new riders, increase patronage of our local businesses, offer economic relief to families that rely on our service, and connect people to jobs and other economic opportunities.”

New Leadership at the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority

If you see a new face aboard an MVRTA bus, come on over and say ‘hello’—of course if you don’t, he will likely come over to introduce himself to you. Noah S. Berger, the new Administrator for the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, started on July 31, 2021, and made a public commitment to ride every route in the system. “The best way to understand the mobility needs of people is to talk with them on the bus,” he explains. “Transit systems look much different on a map than they do when you’re on the vehicles, riding in traffic with everybody else.”

Berger succeed long-time Administrator Joe Costanzo, who retired last month after forty-two years at the helm. Berger, who was appointed by the MVRTA Board to the position during its June 22, 2021 meeting, will be only the third Administrator in the history of the MVRTA, which was first established in 1974. The MVRTA serves the northeast corner of Massachusetts with over 1 million miles of scheduled bus routes, as well as demand-response van transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.  

Berger comes to MVRTA with almost thirty years of experience in the transit industry, most recently serving as Deputy Administrator for the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, based in Hyannis, where he garnered a reputation for creative planning, management and funding of innovative transit projects and programs. He spent fifteen years at the Federal Transit Administration, primarily as Director of Planning and Program Development in the Region 1 Office in Cambridge, MA, where he steered the $1.1 billion annual regional transit grant program from concept through award, and has held leadership positions with CTTransit, the Greater Hartford Transit District, the Boston Foundation, the MBTA Advisory Board, Cambridge Systematics, and Vermont’s Enterprise Community Transportation Project. He even worked for the New York Yankees when he was a teenager, although he concedes that he worked as a vendor, not a ballplayer. “Mostly soda, ice cream or peanuts,” he explains, because “only the seniors guys got to sell hot dogs or beer.”  He is originally from New York, where he recalls collecting bus drivers’ autographs from the time he was six years old because, he says, to him “they were superstars.” He is also an exhibited illustrator and oil painter and has Master’s Degrees in City Planning from M.I.T., and Philosophy from the State University of New York.

When asked what the number one thing riders tell him about the service, he is quick to respond that the first thing he hears is how great the service is and how much people appreciate it, immediately followed by a desire for marked bus stops with shelters, like the new MassDOT-funded shelters on River Street near the intersection with Lowell Avenue. MVRTA has historically run as a flag stop system, where riders waive a bus down along the route. “Flag stops work well if you already know the route and know where to get on,” Berger adds, “but can be very intimidating for people who are unfamiliar with the system.”  Berger sees the addition of clearly-marked stops as part of a critical visibility campaign to attract new riders to transit. “After COVID,” he explains, “we need to draw new riders to the system—this means reassuring them that transit is a very safe, convenient, reliable, and even enjoyable way to get around.”

MVRTA Spokesperson Niorka Mendez added that “Noah has been in the MVRTA for only three weeks but it feels like he has been part of this family for a long time. He brings a combination of fresh ideas, experience, knowledge, motivation and positive attitude that makes him a great leader. We are very excited to have him on board and we are looking forward to this new journey.”

In addition to riders, Berger and his team are also meeting with leaders of all sixteen MVRTA cities and towns, as well as local community groups, the business community, and drivers, who Berger notes are on the front lines. Berger says that he has a great crew covering all aspects of operating a bus system, and that everyone at MVRTA looks forward to working with the community to deliver the best, most convenient transit possible.

Corona Virus Press Release

MVRTA Takes Recommended Precautions against the spread of Corona Virus:

We are following the procedures and guidelines recommended to all agencies from the US DOT and the CDC

  • The MVRTA Maintenance Team is sanitizing all vehicles each night.
  • Operators and supervisors have all been provided training on how to protect themselves from the virus in the last two weeks. The training was mandatory.
  • New and updated memos from the CDC continue to be posted on how everyone can protect themselves. These memos and updates will be posted at MVRTA transit centers, Buckley, McGovern, Washington Sq. Haverhill and Amesbury.
  • MVRTA’s Operations team has developed procedures should staff become infected; how to protect themselves and others from spreading infection.
  • All bus and van drivers carry pocket size hand sanitizer since soap and water is not available on the road. Sanitizer products are available to all staff.
  • Hand sanitizer stations are located in the MVRTA administration office lobby and transit centers. These are available to the public.
  • Finally use common sense, wash your hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, seek medical attention if your symptoms become severe.

FREE RIDES!

Starting Monday, September 9, 2019, thanks to a grant from the taxpayers of the City of Lawrence, the following routes will be FREE OF CHARGE:

  • Route 34 (Prospect Hill)
  • Route 37 (Beacon Street)
  • Route 85 (Lawrence Downtown Shuttle)

You will see the “FREE” sign next to the bus route information on the destination sign, on the front and side of the bus.

***NO TRANSFERS WILL BE GIVEN OUT FROM ANY OF THESE ROUTES***

HIRING NOW !

Job Opportunities

 

The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority serves the Northeast corridor of Massachusetts with over 1 million miles of city, suburban, interurban, and rural scheduled bus routes. MVRTA’s goal is to provide our passengers with affordable, safe, reliable and convenient transportation services by having well-trained, qualified, and professional staff.

The Merrimack Valley Area Transportation Company (MVATC) and Special Transportation Services, Inc. (STS) are under contract to providepublic transportation services for MVRTA, and both welcome a diverse, talented work force of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals to join our team.

All interested individuals can complete a job application on the premises of our administration building located at:

MVRTA – 85 Railroad Avenue
Haverhill, Massachusetts, 01835

Applications can be obtained Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, excluding holidays.

>>Current Job Openings<<

Equal Employment Opportunity

 

STATEMENT OF POLICY

 

As the operating company for the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) and as subsidiaries of First Transit Inc., Merrimack Valley Area Transportation Co. (MVATC) and Special Transportation Services, Inc. (STS) are committed to the goals of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employment practices, including recruitment, selection, promotions, terminations, transfers, layoffs, compensation, training, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. These practices will not discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment on the grounds of age, sex, creed, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, national origin, disability status, and any other characteristic protected under State or Federal law.

All employees and all applicants for employment have the right to file complaints alleging discrimination with MVATC/STS’s EEO Director. EEO complaints are tracked by the EEO Director, and include the date it was filed, the person(s) who filed the complaint, complaint summary, response/how it was corrected, and the date of the response. The Special Projects Manager, Monica Anderson is the EEO Director responsible for ensuring compliance and implementation of MVATC/STS’s EEO program. The EEO Director can be contacted at 978-469-6878, ext. 134 or [email protected].