The Federal Transit Administration recently issued two new rounds of grant funding to support COVID-19 response and economically distressed communities, along with a final report from its Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, which coordinates federal programs to improve access to jobs, schools, healthcare, and other opportunities.
[Above image via the FTA.]
First, the FTA will help fund 25 projects in 17 states via some $8.5 million in funding through its Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone or HOPE program to use transit systems as a springboard to create better lives for people in rural communities and areas experiencing long-term economic distress.
The agency noted in a statement that HOPE grant recipients will receive funding to support planning and technical studies to improve transit, such as evaluating new routes, creating new connections and incorporating modern technologies.
It added that all 25 of the HOPE projects are located in designated Opportunity Zones, created to revitalize low-income and economically distressed communities using private investment. On top of that, 19 are located in or benefit rural areas, consistent with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success or R.O.U.T.E.S. initiative it unveiled in 2019.
Next, the FTA is making $10 million in grant funding available through a new Public Transportation COVID-19 Research Demonstration program that will identify ways to make transit operations more efficient and improve mobility nationwide.
According to a statement, the agency said grants for this new program will: Support cleaning and disinfecting protocols for transit vehicles, facilities, and equipment; the development of effective exposure mitigation measures; contactless payment systems and other innovative mobility strategies; and encourage measures that strengthen public confidence in transit services.
“Public transportation is and will be vital to the social and economic recovery of our nation,” explained Nuria Fernandez, APTA chair and general manager/CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, during that event. “But getting there requires us to win back our ridership and encourage new riders to view public transit as a preferred mobility choice.”
Finally, the 65-page report from the FTA’s Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility – established in 2004 by President George W. Bush – identifies barriers to state and local transportation coordination that “make it difficult to reduce duplication, fragmentation, and overlap of transportation services.”
That report also laid out four key goals for the FTA to accomplish by the end of 2022: Improving access to community through transportation; enhancing cost-effectiveness of coordinated transportation; strengthening interagency partnerships and collaboration with state, local, and industry groups; demonstrating innovative coordinated transportation solutions.