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USDOT Mode and Resource Description: Federal Transit Administration

VelociRFTA Bus traveling down a mountain road

FTA's mission is to make transit safer through policy development, hazard investigation, data collection, risk analysis, effective oversight programs, and information sharing. FTA invests more than $13 billion annually to support and expand public transportation services. That investment has helped modernize public transportation and extended service into small cities and rural communities that previously lacked transit options.

Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Grant Program

The Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Grant Program provides funding to States and local government authorities to replace, rehabilitate, or purchase buses and related equipment and to rehabilitate, purchase, construct, or lease bus-related facilities. Funding is provided through competitive grants. Per the NOFO, $423 million was available in FY19.

The FY19 NOFO stated that no single grant recipient may be awarded more than 10% of total available funding, and no less than 10% of total available funding must be used for projects in rural areas.  Applicants were required to provide 20% of the net project cost per FY19 NOFO guidance, with a higher share permitted for projects to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Clean Air Act. Transportation Development Credits or ‘toll credits,’ accrued when capital investments are made in federally-approved tolled facilities, could be used to fulfill the matching requirement per FY19 NOFO guidance. The FY19 NOFO stated that all proposals for rural projects must be submitted by the State, either individually or as part of a statewide application, except in the case of projects on tribal lands.

Capital Investment Grants (CIG)

The CIG program funds large transit capital investments, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit. Unlike many other USDOT discretionary grant programs, project sponsors seeking CIG funding must complete a series of steps over several years to be eligible for funding, outlined in FTA’s CIG program interim policy guidance found on the program’s website (hyperlinked in the program title for electronic viewers). The various types of eligible CIG projects, including New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity. FTA reported over $1 billion in funding in FY19, per the CIG program annual funding report to Congress. As outlined in FTA’s CIG program policy guidance, New Starts projects are fixed-guideway projects requesting $100 million or more of CIG funding or with a capital cost of $300 million or more. Small Starts projects are fixed-guideway projects or corridor-based Bus Rapid Transit projects requesting less than $100 million and with a capital cost of less than $300 million. Core Capacity projects are projects in a fixed guideway corridor that is at capacity today or will be in five years, where the project will increase the capacity of the corridor by at least 10%.

New Starts and Core Capacity projects must complete the Project Development and Engineering phases before receiving a construction grant agreement. Small Starts projects must complete the Project Development phase before receiving a construction grant agreement. FTA evaluates projects at various points in the process according to rigorous statutory criteria evaluating project justification and local financial commitment. While planning, engineering and design, and construction costs are eligible expenses under CIG, grants are not awarded until the construction phase. Thus, planning, engineering, and design work must be funded with other Federal, State, or local sources initially and reimbursed later if a CIG grant is ultimately awarded.

Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Pilot Program (ICAM) - Mobility for All

The ICAM Program provides funding to States, local government authorities, or non-profit organizations to improve access to public transportation by building partnerships among health, transportation and other service providers. This program provides competitive funding to support innovative projects that will improve the coordination of transportation services and non-emergency medical transportation services. Per the NOFO, $3.9 million was available in FY18. 
The FY18 NOFO stated that applicants must provide 20% of the net project cost, with a higher share permitted for projects to comply with the Americans with Disability Act or the Clean Air Act. 

Low or No Emission Grant Program

The Low or No Emission Grant Program provides funding to State and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. Per the NOFO, $85 million was available in FY19. 

According to the FY19 NOFO, applicants must provide 20% of the net project cost, with a higher share permitted for projects to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Clean Air Act. Transportation Development Credits or ‘toll credits,’ accrued when capital investments are made in federally-approved tolled facilities, could be used to fulfill the matching requirement per FY19 NOFO guidance. The FY19 NOFO stated that all proposals for rural projects must be submitted by the State, either individually or as part of a statewide application, except in the case of projects on tribal lands. 

Passenger Ferry Grant Program

The Passenger Ferry Grant Program provides competitive funding for projects that support passenger ferry systems in urbanized areas, including vessels and facilities. Services to rural areas are eligible if the origin or destination is an urbanized area. Per the NOFO, $30 million was available in FY19. 

According to the FY19 NOFO, applicants must provide 20% of the net project cost, with a higher share permitted for projects to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Clean Air Act. Transportation Development Credits or ‘toll credits,’ accrued when capital investments are made in federally-approved tolled facilities, could be used to fulfill the matching requirement per FY19 NOFO guidance.

Public Transportation on Indian Reservations (Tribal Transit)

The Tribal Transit Program provides funding for Federally-recognized tribes or Alaska Native villages, groups, or communities located in rural areas with a population of 50,000 or less for public transportation planning, operations, and capital expenses. Per the NOFO, $5 million was available in FY19.

Per the FY19 NOFO, applicants could request a maximum of $25,000 for planning projects and only applicants that received $20,000 or less in formula funding could apply for operating expenses. The FY19 NOFO stated that eligible applicants must provide 10% of the net project cost, unless financial hardship was demonstrated in the application. 

Additional FTA Resources

For more support with FTA grant programs, refer to the following resources and links.

FTA Funding Resources The FTA provides several resources to assist applicants through the grants process, including an overview of current grant programs and past award data. Grant recipient tools, including sample FTA agreements and webinars on how to use the FTA's Transit Award Management System (TrAMS), Map of FTA Regional Officesare highlighted to support new applicants. 

FTA Regional Offices |The ten FTA regional offices engage with local transit officials and the State Departments of Transportation to develop and manage grants. 

FTA Technical Assistance Centers: The FTA funds several centers that can provide direct technical assistance to local areas interested in initiating or improving public transportation services, as well as the delivery of training, templates, workshops, and reports. 

  • The National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) provides a wide range of professional services and products to address the training and technical assistance needs of rural and tribal transit programs across the Nation and supports State RTAP programs. National RTAP provides comprehensive free technical assistance program and resources including training materials, webinars, newsletters and technical briefs, peer resources, research, and innovative technology initiatives. Available webinars include Grant Writing for Small and Rural Systems. 
  • The National Center for Applied Transit Technology (N-CATT) delivers expert, focused technical assistance to transit agencies and organizations in rural areas and small cities to use or develop transit technologies and innovations that make services more cost-effective and efficient. N-CATT’s work support FTA’s mission and focus on innovation by developing and supporting transit programs and services in rural and small-city America. 
  • The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) promotes the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve the needs of people with disabilities, seniors, and caregivers with a focus on the Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program, and other transit investment. The NADTC provides technical assistance, information, and referrals, develops field training, implements interactive communication and outreach strategies, and supports communities in assessing their needs and developing innovative transportation solutions. 
  • The National Center for Mobility Management works to help communities adopt transportation strategies and mobility options that empower people to live independently, and advance health, economic vitality, and self-sufficiency. NCMM provides capacity-building technical assistance and training, catalogs and disseminates best practice information on innovative mobility management programs around the country, and works to improve and enhance the coordination of Federal resources for human service transportation, especially for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with lower incomes. 

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Last updated: Friday, July 23, 2021