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Livability Grant Programs

DOT and FTA believe all segments of the population must have access to safe transportation services to get to work, housing, medical services, schools, shopping, and other essential activities. Many of FTA’s grant programs offer States, metropolitan areas, rural and small communities the opportunity to create these accessible, livable communities. To find out how FTA’s grant programs and initiatives directly relate to livability please click on the tabs below.

Core Transit Programs

FTA provides financial assistance to States, municipalities, transit agencies, and other public bodies for provision and delivery of public transportation services, capital investments in transit systems and facilities, as well for maintenance and repair of public transit systems. Transit provides critical “lifeline” services that connect all members of the community with employment, health, educational, and other important opportunities and services.

The Livable Communities Initiative encourages transportation agencies and local governments to introduce proposed transportation improvements to communities in the early stages of the planning process. The Partnership focuses on improved livability of rural as well as urban communities.  FTA is committed to providing rural and non-metropolitan areas with opportunities to invest in public transit service to improve access for residents and offers unique programs tailored particularly for rural and tribal communities in order to increase access to basic human services and employment.

Metropolitan and Statewide Planning

Planning is the underpinning for livable communities. FTA recognizes that to improve planning, States, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), regional planning bodies, localities, and transportation providers must focus on the outcomes of their plans and investments. These partner agencies need to coordinate land use and transportation plans to ensure that investments of limited transportation funds support development patterns that are energy efficient, and increase the mobility and accessibility of a community’s residents and resources. To increase the capacity of States, regions and localities to meet their transportation planning challenges, FTA provides metropolitan and statewide planning grants and programs. This can provide a foundation for livable communities, encouraging consideration of land use, reduced  traffic congestion, the role of walking and biking, including for safe routes to schools, improved quality of life and public health, energy conservation, and environmental protection, including consideration of the environmental impacts of transportation decisions on minority and low-income populations. To view more on these impacts, go to the following link: click here.

Urbanized Areas

This formula program (49 U.S.C. 5307) makes Federal resources available to urbanized areas and to Governors for transit program and project assistance in urbanized areas and for transportation related planning. An urbanized area is an incorporated area with a population of 50,000 or more that is designated as such by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Eligible purposes include planning, engineering design and evaluation of transit projects and other technical transportation-related studies; capital investments in bus and bus-related activities; and capital investments in new and existing fixed guideway systems.

Rail and Fixed Guideway Modernization

This formula-based transit capital re-investment program (49 U.S.C. 5309) provides capital assistance for the modernization and/or rehabilitation of fixed guideway rail systems and ferries.

Bus and Bus Facilities Discretionary Program (49 U.S.C. 5309)

This program provides capital assistance for new and replacement buses, related equipment, and facilities, as well as intermodal transit centers.

Major Capital Investments (New Starts/Small Starts)

These discretionary programs are the Federal government’s primary financial resource (49 U.S.C. 5309) for supporting the planning, development and construction of major transit capital projects. These programs have helped make possible dozens of new or extended transit fixed guideway systems across the country – heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and ferries. These public transportation investments improve the mobility and accessibility of millions of Americans in metropolitan areas, provide alternatives to congested roadways, and foster the development of more viable, safe, and livable communities.

Rural and Small Urban Areas (5311)

This program (49 U.S.C. 5311) provides formula funding to states for the purpose of supporting public transportation in areas of less than 50,000 populations. Funds may be used for capital, operating, and administrative assistance to state agencies, local public bodies, Indian tribes, and nonprofit organizations, and operators of public transportation services.

Rural Transit Assistance Program (5311(b)(3))

The Rural Transit Assistance Program (49 U.S.C. 5311(b)(3)) provides a source of funding to assist in the design and implementation of training and technical  assistance projects and other support services tailored to meet the needs of transit operators in nonurbanized areas. RTAP has both State and national program components.

Public Transportation on Indian Reservations (5311(c))

The goals of the Tribal Transit Program include enhancing the access of public transportation on and around Indian reservations in nonurbanized areas to health care, shopping, education, employment, pubic services, and recreation; assisting in the maintenance, development, improvement, and use of public transportation systems in rural and small urban areas; encourage and facilitate the most efficient use of all Federal funds used to provide passenger transportation in nonurbanized areas through the coordination of programs and services; and providing for the participation of private transportation providers in nonurbanized transportation to the maximum extent feasible.

Intercity Bus (5311(f))

The Intercity Bus program under FTA’s nonurbanized Area formula grant program supports the connection between nonurbanized areas and the larger regional or national system of intercity bus service. The program provides critical transit access to residents in nonurbanized areas to employment, health, educational, and other important “human” services and opportunities.

Target Populations

The FTA believes that all segments of the population should have safe, reliable access to public transportation. FTA offers several grant programs directly tailored to target populations such as the elderly, Americans with disabilities and low-income workers who face particular challenges with access to critical services. FTA programs provide lifeline services through a “mobility management” approach to ensure access for Americans with disabilities to public transportation. FTA is also committed to maintaining affordable transportation services for all communities.

The Job Access and Reverse Commute Program (JARC)

The Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program was established to address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment. Many new entry-level jobs are located in suburban areas, and low-income individuals have difficulty accessing these jobs from their inner city, urban, or rural neighborhoods. In addition, many entry level-jobs require working late at night or on weekends when conventional transit services are either reduced or non-existent. Finally, many employment related-trips are complex and involve multiple destinations including reaching childcare facilities or other services. A recent study of the economic benefits of employment-related transportation services concluded that transportation funded through the JARC program provided access to approximately 43.4 million jobs, including 21.2 million low-wage jobs.

The New Freedom Formula Grant

Aims to provide additional tools to overcome existing barriers facing Americans with disabilities seeking integration into the work force and full participation in society.  Lack of adequate transportation is a primary barrier to work for individuals with disabilities.  The 2000 Census showed that only 60 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 64 with disabilities are employed.  The New Freedom formula grant program seeks to reduce barriers to transportation services and expand the transportation mobility options available to people with disabilities beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities

Provides formula funding to States for the purpose of assisting private nonprofit groups in meeting the transportation needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities when the transportation service provided is unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate to meeting these needs. Funds are apportioned based on each State’s share of population for these groups of people. For persons with mobility limitations related to advanced age, persons with disabilities, and persons struggling for self-sufficiency, transportation within and between our communities needs to be as available and affordable as possible.

Bus Livability Discretionary Grants

The Bus Livability Discretionary Grants program provides unallocated Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities money to projects that fulfill the six livability principle of the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which consists of EPA, DOT, and HUD.  The goal of the program is to invest in projects that increase transportation options, provide access to jobs and affordable housing, encourage economic development, and improve accessibiliy to transportation for the public.  The program funds capital expenses for projects ranging from intermodal facilities, to susainability oriented buses, to bicycle infrastructure and more. Past Bus Livability Project Selections awarded through this program.

View a recent list of Urban Circulator project announcements (PDF). Additionally, you can find answers to commonly asked questions.

Alternative Analysis Program

Here you can find a list of alternative analysis projects and a brief description of each.

Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program

The Alternative Transportation in Parks and Public Lands program protects environmentally sensitive national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal lands while improving visitor experience through funding public transportation and other alternative transportation. Administered by the Federal Transit Administration in partnership with the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service, the program funds capital and planning expenses for alternative transportation systems such as shuttle buses and bicycle trails in national parks and public lands. The goals of the program are to conserve natural, historical, and cultural resources; reduce congestion and pollution; improve visitor mobility and accessibility; enhance visitor experience; and ensure access to all, including persons with disabilities.

Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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