Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Posts categorized under "Transit Industry News"

New ADA Amendments Regarding Service Animals and Mobility Devices and the FTA

As many of you are aware, the new ADA Amendments and the resulting U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) final rules regarding service animals and mobility devices went into effect on March 15, 2011.  They included provisions relating to the distinction between wheelchairs and other powered mobility devices and limited the types of animals that are defined as service animals.  However, it is important to note that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have issued no changes to their ADA regulations which cover transportation provided by both the private and public sector.

FTA clarifies that transit operators should not make any changes to their service animal policies or the manner in which they regard mobility devices as a result of the ADA Amendments and the DOJ regulations.  Changes to accommodate DOJ regulations could result in a grantee being out of compliance with the DOT ADA regulations.

FTA states that any amendments to the DOT ADA regulations would be announced through publication of rulemaking documents in the Federal Register with an effective date.  Until such documents are published, the DOT regulations remain unchanged.  For additional information, see:

Our thanks to Kim Johnson, Manager of the Transportation Services Section of the Michigan Department of Transportation for giving us the “heads up” on the discrepancy between the DOJ and FTA regulations during a recent training session in Michigan.

U.S. DOT Announces Funding for Livability Grants, State of Good Repair, Energy Reduction

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the availability of $175 million in livability grants. Local transit agencies will be able to compete for these funds, which are intended to improve transportation options for urban, suburban, and rural communities. A goal of the livability grants is for transportation and housing decisions to be made jointly.

The news release from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the following:

Up to $150 million of the livability funding being announced comes from the Bus and Bus Facilities Program, which provides money to purchase or replace buses and to build bus-related facilities. The remaining funds come from the Alternatives Analysis Program, which provides money to help communities evaluate and select the best transit options to meet their transportation needs. The money can be spent on a broad range of projects within those two categories.

Proposals must be submitted by July 29. For more information, see the June 27 Federal Register (pdf).

The FTA also recently announced the availability of funding in support of its State of Good Repair initiative. This initiative will be funded with up to $750 million in unallocated Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 discretionary Bus and Bus Facilities Program funds. Proposals must be submitted by July 29.

At least $101 million in funding is also available for the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program and Clean Fuels Grant program. The intent of these programs is to promote the usage and development of energy efficient technologies that reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Proposals must be submitted by August 23.

For more information on these funding opportunities, the FTA website provides links to the announcements in the Federal Register.

Gas Prices and Transit

A study released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts significant increases in transit ridership nationwide if gas prices continue to rise (News Release, Full Report).

In predicting how motorists will respond to changing gas prices, APTA used estimates from a few previous studies, including previous research conducted by SURTC in 2008. The SURTC report on gas prices and transit is available online here: Effects of Rising Gas Prices on Bus Ridership for Small Urban and Rural Transit Systems (pdf).

National and local media across the country are reporting on increased demand for transit given the recent spike in gas prices (CBS; KETV in Omaha, NE; New Mexico Business Weekly; WBKO in Bowling Green, KY; WYFF in Greenville, SC; 9&10 News in Northern Michigan; Washington Post).

While rising fuel prices could be spurring ridership, the increased costs for transit providers could lead to budget problems (AltTransport, Republican Herald). The previous SURTC study showed that the increased fare revenues earned from motorists switching to transit was more than offset by the higher fuel costs paid by the transit agencies.

Legislative Update

Last week the House Appropriations Committee voted to move ahead with a budget for the remainder of FY2011 that includes cuts to some transportation and housing programs. As reported in The Hill, spending on high speed rail, Amtrak, and the HUD Community Development Fund would be reduced.

Meanwhile, President Obama announced his budget proposal for FY2012 that included significant increases in transportation spending. Spending on transportation programs would increase from $77 billion in 2010 to $128 billion in 2012 (The Infrastructurist). The proposal includes a six-year $556 billion surface reauthorization plan (Reuters, Streetsblog). Transit spending would go up 127%, while funding for road and bridges would increase 48%. The plan would consolidate 55 different programs into 5 core programs: the National Highway Program, Highway Safety Improvement, Livable Communities, Federal Allocation, and Research, Technology, and Education (Streetsblog). It would create an Infrastructure Bank, Livability grants, and $2 billion in TIGER grants for FY2012 (Streetsblog, The Journal of Commerce). NRC Capitol Clips provides more detail about how transit is affected by the proposal, and the Department of Transportation released highlights of the plan.

As the president released this blueprint for the transportation re-authorization bill, the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee began a 10-state tour to gather information for the bill (The State Journal).

Small Urban and Rural Transit Roundup

  • Easter Seals Project ACTION has announced two new free audio conferences for February and March 2011. The first focuses on the importance of partnership in planning for and providing rural and small urban deviated fixed-route and demand response service. The second features a discussion of accessibility elements within livable and sustainable communities. Links for the audio conferences are as follows:

Deviated Fixed Route and Demand Response Service: Creating Solutions in Rural and Small Urban Communities

Planning for the Accessibility of Livable and Sustainable Communities

  • The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) launched a social media campaign to generate public opinion about the priorities for the new transportation bill. The public is invited to comment on AASHTO's Facebook and YouTube pages. See the AASHTO press release for more details.
  • A recent news story from Minnesota Public Radio identified transportation as topping the list of needs for older rural residents and discussed the role of volunteer driver programs. (Source: MPR)
  • Linx, a regional transportation cooperative connecting transportation providers across 27 counties in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, is getting of the ground and will be in pilot phase through 2011. (Source: Billings Gazette)
  • Researchers at DePaul University have shown that intercity bus transportation is growing faster than intercity rail or air travel. (Sources: The Infrastructurist, The City Fix)

FTA Awards Grants to Fund Environmentally Sustainable Transit Projects

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) last week announced funding for 63 environmentally sustainable transit projects across the country.

According to the  FTA news release:

The money is being provided through FTA’s Fiscal Year 2010 Discretionary Sustainability Funding Opportunity, announced last April, which comprises two programs: $89.7 million from FTA’s Clean Fuels Grant Program, including partial funding from the Bus and Bus Facility discretionary program, and $75 million from FTA’s Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program. The Clean Fuels funds were awarded to 36 transit recipients; TIGGER funds were awarded to 27 recipients.

Transit systems from both urban and rural areas received funding from these programs.  Examples of projects funded include those replacing traditional diesel-powered buses with hybrid electric or natural gas buses and those installing energy efficient technologies at transit facilities.  The complete list of winning projects is available on the FTA website.

Transit, Technology, and Public Participation Project Selected

The Transit, Technology, and Public Participation Project is one of five new projects selected by the Federal Transit Administration's Public Transportation Participation Pilot Program. The 18-month project will investigate the impact of technology in improving public participation in the public transportation planning process.

Project news and findings will be made available online at the project's website throughout the course of the project so that anyone with an interest in transit planning and technology can follow project developments as they occur.

The Transit, Technology, & Public Participation Project is being conducted by the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC), a program of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, in partnership with Metro Area Transit (MAT), the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments (Metro COG), and the Cities of Fargo and Moorhead.

Transit Roundup

  • A new Senate climate bill was introduced on May 12 that would provide more than $6 billion per year for transportation programs.  The funding, which would be generating by selling carbon emissions permits to fuel providers, would be split three ways: a third to the federal highway trust fund for projects that decrease greenhouse gas emissions, a third for competitive federal grants similar to the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, and a third for local land use planning. References: Streetsblog, Reuters, NY Times.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), on May 13, issued its Supplemental Fiscal Year 2010 Apportionments and Allocations and Corrections Notice, which provides transit funding information for the remainder of the calendar year and updates apportionment tables to reflect 100 percent of the FTA's grant programs for FY10. See the FTA website for more details.
  • The FTA, on May 13, also announced the availability of $15.1 million in funding provided by the Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Program (Tribal Transit Program (TTP)). Proposals must be submitted by June 28. For more information, see NRC Capitol Clips and the May 13 edition of the Federal Register (pdf).

FTA to Award $775 million for Bus Transit Upgrades

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $775 million of funding for transit providers to upgrade their bus systems.  The funding is being made available in support of the FTA's State of Good Repair initiative. The FTA news release states the following:

FTA will review applications for the discretionary bus and bus facility funds, and will prioritize proposals based on how they address the issue of the transit system’s state of good repair and recapitalization needs.

Eligible expenses for the funds include purchase and rehabilitation of buses and vans, modernization of buses, bus facilities and revenue service facilities, bus-related equipment and components of transit asset management plans.  Deadline for applications is June 18, 2010. Grantees are expected to be announced in late summer 2010.

Direct Recipients under the Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula program, States, and Indian Tribes are eligible. Proposals for funding eligible projects in rural (nonurbanized) areas must be submitted as part of a consolidated State proposal, with the exception of nonurbanized projects to Indian Tribes.

For more details, including instructions for application, see the notice in the May 4 edition of the Federal Register.

FTA Announces Funding for Sustainability Projects

The Federal Transit administration (FTA) announced the availability of funds for a new round of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program and the Clean Fuels Grant program, augmented with Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities program funds.

Applications should address the policy priorities of the FTA's sustainability program: breaking dependence on oil, producing more energy at home, and promoting energy efficiency.

According to the announcement in the Federal Register, there are two eligible purposes for TIGGER grants: (1) For capital investments that will assist in reducing the energy consumption of a transit system; or (2) for capital investments that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of a public transportation system. Only public transportation agencies or state DOTs may apply for TIGGER grants. A total of $75 million is available for these grants.

The purpose of the Clean Fuels Grant program is to assist nonattainment and maintenance areas in achieving or maintaining the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and CO and to support emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

Complete proposals for Clean Fuels/Bus and Bus Facilities discretionary grants must be submitted by June 14, 2010. TIGGER program proposals must be submitted by August 11, 2010.

More information can be found from the FTA website and the April 13 edition of the Federal Register.