Public Transportation Research

The Federal Transit Administration's research program seeks to deliver solutions that improve public transportation.

Its primary goals are to increase transit ridership, improve safety and emergency preparedness, improve capital operating efficiencies, protect the environment and promote energy

credit: Wikipedia
independence, and provide transit research leadership.

To accomplish this, FTA funds research on mobility management, transit operational efficiency, safety and emergency preparedness, transit capacity building, energy independence and environmental protection, infrastructure and equipment protection and innovation, and strategic research program planning.
Related Programs

Examples of Funded Projects

Nearly all projects funded in recent years were at the direction of the Congress under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

or annual appropriations acts.

Most projects funded in recent years were at the direction of the Congress under annual appropriation actions.

Projects funded during FY 2008 included: (1) Transit safety and Security Statistics; (2) Transit Safety and Security Training; (3) Rail safety research (4) Fuel Cell Research; (5) Hyrbrid Electric Vehicle research; (6) Rail Capacity Improvement Research and (7) Mobility Services for All Americans Research.

Agency - Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation's mission is to ensure fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation that meets vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Relevant Nonprofit Program Categories

Program Accomplishments

(1) FTA initiated the Bus Rapid Transit Demonstration Program integrating vehicle technology, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), coordinated services, traffic engineering enhancements, and innovative urban design. Seventeen cities have formed a BRT consortium to share ideas and experience in implementing BRT. (2) The Advanced Technology Transit Bus (ATTB) test vehicle was successfully developed and tested. This revolutionary low-floor, light- weight, easily accessible bus features low-emission propulsion. (3) FTA, working with an industry committee (natural gas suppliers and transit operators) produced a detailed technical guideline document defining basic safety requirements for fueling facilities, vehicles, bus garages and storage areas. (4) Four-quadrant gates linked to a vehicle detection system are being demonstrated on a commuter-rail highway grade crossing in the Boston area to prevent motorists from attempting to drive around closed crossing gates. (5) Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation in Our Nation) has implemented accessible transportation initiatives, made national presentations on accessible transportation and distributed thousands of copies of "how-to" publications. (6) The JobLinks program provided Welfare-to-Work pilot demonstrations, evaluations and technical assistance that were instrumental in designing the Job Access and Reverse Commute Program enacted in TEA-21. (7) In collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, FTA published a 3-volume guidance manual on developing and implementing Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures and developed and tested a pilot training course on TDM. (8) FTA prepared and disseminated descriptions of FTA Research and Technology programs and projects and annotated bibliographies of recent technical reports related to transit; these are available on the FTA Research and Technology website:

Uses and Use Restrictions

This program includes several types of projects, including research, development, demonstration and training projects (49 U.S.C., Section 5312), and human resource programs (49 U.S.C., Section 5322).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Grants and cooperative agreements: Public bodies, nonprofit institutions, State and local agencies, universities, and legally constituted public agencies and operators of public transportation services, and private for-profit organizations.

Beneficiary Eligibility

State and local governments, transit agencies, private organizations, profit organizations, nonprofit organizations, and universities.


Grants and cooperative agreements: Initial proposal should include project objectives, background, and project description, including time schedule, budget, and applicant's organizational experience. Legal opinion and compliance with labor requirements are required later. Costs will be determined in accordance with OMB Circular No. A-87 for State and local governments, A-21 for universities, A-122 for private nonprofit organizations, and the Federal Acquisition Regulations for private for profit organizations. Contracts are awarded in response to specific requests for proposal.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Although applications for research, development and demonstration projects may be submitted at any time, potential applicants are encouraged to communicate with FTA before submitting formal applications.

The initial contact may be by telephone, by submitting a written outline, or by personally meeting with appropriate FTA Headquarters staff.

This preliminary contact will serve to: (1) establish a base for communication between FTA and the applicants; (2) determine the a applicant's eligibility; (3) eliminate any proposal which have little or no chance for Federal funding before applicants incur expenditures involved in proposal preparation; and (4) determine funding available and conformance to FTA policy and program objectives.

This program is eligible for coverage under E.O.

12372, "Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs." An applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in their State for more information on the process the State requires in applying for assistance if the State has selected the program for review.

The standard application forms as furnished by the Federal agency and required by 49 CFR Part 18 or 49 CFR Part 19 must be used for this program.

Application Procedures

Potential applicants should follow instructions found in FTA Circular 6100.1C, "Transit Research and Technology Programs: Application and Program Management Guidelines." This Circular may be found at the FTA web site at This program is subject to the provisions of 49 CFR Part 18 for State and local governments and 49 CFR Part 19 for universities and private nonprofit organizations.

Award Procedures

The Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, makes the final decision to approve a project. An FTA grant or cooperative agreement award obligating Federal funds is reflected in a grant agreement or cooperative agreement. To access funds, the recipient must execute the grant agreement or cooperative agreement.


No fixed or standard deadlines for research, development, and demonstration projects.


49 U.S.C. 5314(a).

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time



Not applicable.


Not applicable.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Research, development, and demonstration projects: FTA encourages cost-sharing by performing organizations to the extent feasible and equitable. Cost-sharing is not a prerequisite to funding. However, it is actively considered in the evaluation of proposals. The amount of such sharing is determined by mutual agreement between FTA and the recipient. More weight is given to programs with a greater local share and proposals with cash contributions than to in-kind contributions.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Varies with the complexity of the project.

Post Assistance Requirements


(1) Quarterly financial; (2) quarterly or monthly progress; and (3) interim and final.

Electronic filing is preferred.


In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-133, "Audits of State and Local Governments and Nonprofit Organizations," nonfederal entities (including universities) that expend $500,000 or more in a year in Federal awards shall have a single or program specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $500,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year with certain exceptions as stated in OMB Circular No. A-133. For direct procurement contracts, audits will be conducted in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations.


Grant recipients shall retain records for 3 years following submission of a final expenditure report, pending resolution of audit findings, all project contracts documents, financial records, and supporting records.

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Transit Planning and Research Grants and Contracts) FY 07 est $34,414,761; FY 08 est $39,990,000; and FY 09 est not available.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance


Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Fiscal Year 2008 Annual List of Certifications and Assurances for Federal Transit Administration Grants and Cooperative Agreements; Notice, published October 1, 2008. For other fiscal years, contact the FTA Office of Research Demonstration and Innovation to obtain the publication dates. FTA website Other information will be made available upon request.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office


Headquarters Office

Associate Administrator for Research, Demonstration and Innovation (TRI-1), Federal Transit Administration, Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-4052. Bruce Robinson, Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation, (202) 366-4209.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Proposals must support the FTA Strategic Plan, available on the FTA Home Page of the Internet at If a preliminary proposal is judged to meet program and funding availability, FTA will invite formal proposal submission or cooperative agreement application. Criteria for preliminary approval include: (1) compatibility with FTA Strategic Plan and Strategic Research Plan; (2) availability of funding; (3) potential for impact on the state-of-the-art from the viewpoint of innovation in transit technology, services and operations; (4) technical feasibility and potential for successful introduction into use in the transit industry; (5) background, experience, and demonstrated capabilities of the applicant; (6) partnerships with public and private organizations; (7) non-FTA funding match; and (8) other pertinent matters, such as geographic distribution of projects and questions of environmental and labor impact.

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