What is the Rail & Transit Division?

Freight Train Traveling Through Forest

The Rail and Transit Division provides oversight and manages funding for all 15 Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), offers several competitive grant programs, and manages freight, passenger, and seasonal rail lines across the state. The competitive grant programs offered by MassDOT include:

  • the Community Transit Grant Program, which provides funding for lift-equipped accessible vehicles and technical assistance;
  • the Workforce Transportation program, which provides funding for operating assistance, planning funds and incentive programs to increase commuting options;
  • the Intercity Bus Program, which awards subsidy to intercity bus providers operating routes in rural regions in MA; and
  • the RTA Discretionary Grant program, which provides additional operating assistance to RTAs for targeted operating assistance, technology improvements and various pilot projects.

MassDOT owns 14 rail lines (totaling to 285 miles of track), 165 bridges, 747 culverts, 314 grade-crossings, and 12 rail yards, and works cooperatively with Amtrak and private railroad companies to provide intercity passenger and freight rail service to residents and businesses.

Organizational structure of Rail and Transit Division.

Regional Transit Performance

The transit section shares data on the 15 RTAs. RTAs in Massachusetts operate two main types of service:

  • Bus service, which includes regularly scheduled local routes and commuter routes which operate on fixed schedules (referred to as “fixed route” throughout the report); and
  • Demand-response service, which includes federally mandated paratransit service and other dial-a-ride services, whether using dedicated vehicles or taxi vouchers. This service will be referred to as “paratransit” throughout the rest of the report.

In fall 2018, MassDOT and the RTAs took part in a Task Force on Regional Transit Authority Performance and Funding, which produced a report titled A Vision for the Future of Massachusetts’ Regional Transit Authorities. Memoranda of Understanding have been signed between the Rail and Transit Division and each of the RTAs with performance metrics agreed upon by the state.

This year, MassDOT will report on the performance measures and targets set through this process in Tracker.

Impacts of COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the targets set by the RTAs were not reached, particularly in the areas of ridership and fare recovery. This aligns with nationwide trends for all transit agencies.

MassDOT Rail Performance

The MassDOT Rail Division manages freight, passenger, and seasonal rail lines across the state and maintains its rail assets. In 2019, the Rail Division completed an Asset Management Plan which presents the current state of the Commonwealth’s rail assets and defines what is needed to achieve State of Good Repair across the system.

Impacts of COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MassDOT Rail Division saw lower ridership than expected in its seasonal rail lines that were active during the peak of the pandemic earlier this year. MassDOT also reduced the Valley Flyer to a single roundtrip per day and put the evaluation of the pilot on hold. MassDOT is now developing criteria for restarting the second roundtrip and the pilot’s evaluation metrics. The pandemic caused challenges with the contractor workforce and the procurement of track materials also became difficult as some manufacturing plants closed due a shortage of workers due to COVID-19. The pandemic also affected the pace of asset condition work and inspections that could be accomplished during the last quarter of FY20.