Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – Beginners’ Overview

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)  http://www.fta.dot.gov/
The FTA administers federal transit regulations and funding.  Like the FHWA, the FTA is an agency under the Department of Transportation. A common mistake is to confuse the FTA with the FRA. FTA is not the same as FRA, the Federal Railroad Administration. See eg Federal Railroad Administration environmental reviews FRA environmental reviews and specifically the Texas Bullet Train or more formally the Dallas to Houston High-Speed Rail – Passenger Service from Houston to Dallas https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0700.

Background Information
For beginners, history, and detail buffs, FTA has a 55 minute YouTube intro Understanding FTA and its Programs for FTA operations, history, and programs   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riVB_D4bV6Y.

Mass Transit Magazine http://www.masstransitmag.com/
Mass Transit Magazine is the only magazine dedicated exclusively to mass transit and is a great source of news and information about what is currently going on in terms of mass transit initiatives.

Legislation and Funding.
For transit and transit support, understanding a little about the FTA’s funding is crucial
.  The statutes and regulations are far less comprehensive than those for FHWA. Most of the laws are in Chapter 53 of Title 49, the Transportation Code, but several Title 23 (Federal-Aid Highways Act) provisions also apply even though this is not highways. This includes items such as performance measures in transportation planning, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), the Surface Transportation Program (STP), the Congestion Management and Air Quality program (CMAQ), and acceleration of project delivery through streamlining environmental reviews.

The funding is far more complex for FTA (local mass transit) than it is for FHWA (federal aid highways) although it involves far less money. The transit projects are more discrete than those for roads, money is tight, and Congress generally has a bad attitude toward transit because transit metrics and lack of performance are far more noticeable than for highways. It is a vicious cycle getting traction for FTA and mass transit in Houston even though 1 in 5 persons in Houston does not drive. Mass transit marketing and outreach efforts are lacking and ineffective in our car centric environment in the H-GAC region. This leaves a vast hole in mobility in Houston.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
On July 6, 2012 President Obama signed into law a new two-year transportation authorization, entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). The new law authorizes $10.6 billion in FY 2013 and $10.7 billion in FY 2014 for public transportation.
MAP-21 replaces SAFETEA-LU upon its expiration in September 2012.

An excellent summary of MAP-21 can be found through the FTA website at

A webinar dated August 24, 2012, is also available.

Among the key MAP-21 provisions are…
1-State of Good Repair. MAP-21 furthers several important goals, including safety, state of good repair, performance, and program efficiency.
2-Grants and “New Starts.” MAP-21 improves the efficiency of administering grant programs by consolidating several programs and streamlining the major capital investment grant program known as “New Starts.”
3-Other programs under MAP-21 include a Bus and Bus Facilities program

MAP-21 will take effect on October 1, 2012. Until then, FTA will continue to manage agency programs under existing law (SAFETEA-LU), which expires on September 30, 2012.








In addition to the MAP 21 information, the Calendar of Events of upcoming major conferences and initiatives: http://www.fta.dot.gov/newsroom/calendar.html


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