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Transit Planning

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What is transit planning?

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What is transit planning?

Transit, Public Transportation, and the Federal Transit Administration
Transit plays a meaningful role in creating sustainable transportation systems. Transit services supported by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) span many groups and provide wide-ranging benefits. Since 1964, FTA has partnered with state and local governments to create and enhance public transportation systems, investing more than $12 billion annually to support and expand public rail, bus, trolley, ferry, and other transit services. That investment has helped modernize public transportation and extended service into small cities and rural communities that previously lacked transit options.


Transit Planning
The Federal Transit Administration: Improving Public Transportation for America's Communities

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How do transit services impact how transportation planners operate?

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How do transit services impact how transportation planners operate?

Transportation planners in the field need to understand how transit services are planned, funded, and operated. Transit agencies are key partners in the federal transportation planning and programming process. Facilitating the pro-active involvement of transit operators and planning for multi-modal services in both rural and urban environments improves mobility for all.

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What are the federal requirements related to transit?

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What are the federal requirements related to transit?

The FTA and the FHWA issued a joint final rule on Statewide and Nonmetropolitan Transportation Planning and Metropolitan Transportation Planning in May 2016. This rule implemented changes to the planning process, including:

  • Requiring a performance-based approach to planning
  • A new emphasis on the nonmetropolitan transportation planning process, requiring states to have a higher level of involvement with nonmetropolitan local officials and providing a process for creating regional transportation planning organizations
  • Adding a structural change to the membership of large metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to include transit provider representation
  • Adding a framework for voluntary scenario planning
  • Implementing new authority for integrating planning and environmental review processes as well as programmatic mitigation plans

FTA, through its Office of Transit Safety & Oversight (TSO) administers a national transit safety program and compliance oversight process to promote safe, reliable, and equitable transit service in the U.S. TSO works to make transit safer through policy development, hazard investigation, data collection, risk analysis, oversight programs, and information sharing. More transit safety information can be found at:

The FTA’s Transit Asset Management (TAM) program is a strategic and systematic practice of procuring, operating, inspecting, maintaining, rehabilitating, and replacing transit capital assets to manage their performance, risks, and costs over their life cycles, for the purpose of providing safe, cost-effective, and reliable public transportation (49 CFR § 625.5). This program reflects the FTA’s effort to maintain transit networks in a state of good repair.

The discretionary Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program (5309) provides funding for fixed guideway capital investments such as new and expanded rapid rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit, and ferries, as well as corridor-based bus rapid transit investments that emulate the features of rail. There are three types of eligible projects:

  • New Starts: For this type of project, the law requires completion of two phases in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement
  • Small Starts: For this type of project, the law requires completion of one phase in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement
  • Core Capacity: For this type of project, the law requires completion of two phases in advance of receipt of a construction grant agreement
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What resources are available to learn more about federal transit programs and services?

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What resources are available to learn more about federal transit programs and services?

FTA Grant Programs. FTA has several major transit assistance programs that make financial awards to authorized recipients in accordance with legislatively set formulas or via competitive application processes.

National Transit Institute (NTI) Course Offerings. The National Transit Institute at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, was established to develop, promote, and deliver training and education programs for the public transit industry.  Course offerings include Performance Based Planning and Programming, FTA’s Simplified Trips-on-Project Software (STOPS), Advancing Mobility Management, Environmental Justice, and numerous others.

FTA’s Regional Offices. FTA’s 10 Regional Offices are responsible for the development and execution of grants and the provision of technical assistance to FTA grantees, while the Headquarters Office is responsible for setting policy, competitive grant programs, and safety oversight.
Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program. New mobility concepts and solutions, from bike- and car-sharing systems to demand-responsive bus services, are providing travelers with flexible and convenient transportation options. These developments are impacting the traditional transit market, and could also disrupt current business and funding models. The MOD Sandbox program conducts research on new service options in combination with available technologies that allow for greater individual mobility; projects are funded under FTA’s Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment program authority.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). The Pilot Program for TOD Planning helps to support FTA’s mission of improving public transportation for America’s communities. It provides funding to local communities to integrate land use and transportation planning with a new fixed guideway or core capacity transit capital investment.