FTA Program Targets Needs of U.S. Tribes
The Federal Transit Administration last month issued a Tribal Transit Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), offering $5 million in fiscal year 2017 for transit projects initiated by American Indian and Alaska Native tribes that will compete for funding. The Tribal Transit Program, which connects tribal citizens to vital services and drives economic development in rural areas, complements an annual $30 million formula program.
In 2016, the Tribal Transit Program awarded $5 million in 34 grants. Among them: the Nome Eskimo Community in Alaska, which received funds to provide van service to low-income households, older adults, people with disabilities and youth. The $180,000 Tribal Transit grant allows the Nome Eskimo Community to expand its transit service to help people get where they need to go most – jobs and job training, schools, child care and grocery stores.
On the other side of the country in southeastern Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation received a $133,000 grant to initiate transit service for tribal residents. Before that, tribal residents lacked reliable public transportation options in their community.
Tribes typically operate small transit systems of half a dozen buses and a handful of vans. In many tribal communities, those buses and vans provide the only option for residents to address basic needs through grocery shopping or medical appointments. In other communities, transit buses provide long-distance travel to help residents get to faraway jobs.
FTA’s competitive grants provide funding for tribes to replace aging vehicles, maintain existing fleets, open and operate new transit systems or improve existing service. The FTA funding opportunity, which is open through March 20, offers grants that primarily support capital purchases, such as vehicles, bus-related equipment and communication devices, and maintenance facility construction and rehabilitation. The grants also support continued operations and planning initiatives.
Overall, the program aims to improve access for reservation residents to all that life has to offer.
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, FTA will host an instructional webinar to provide an overview of the Tribal Transit Program FY 2017 Notice of Funding Opportunity. The webinar will cover who is eligible to apply, evaluation criteria and application requirements.
Recognizing the benefits of tribal public transportation services, Congress established the Tribal Transit Program in 2006. Funding for tribal transit was increased to a total of $35 million in a mix of formula and competitive funding under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.