States can make creative use of federal transportation dollars

With the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, many advocates, community members, and even the federal government are asking state DOTs to deliver more projects geared toward improving multimodal safety and travel options, while addressing harmful environmental impacts and climate change. Some were hoping to see larger pots of money dedicated specifically to achieving those goals, but the reality is that recipients of federal funds already have considerable latitude to fund projects that do just that.

Protecting federal taxpayer interest; training a local workforce—L.A. Crenshaw light rail line

Long-standing FTA and USDOT policy prohibits geographic preferences in hiring for construction projects. With a shift in the percentage of funding coming from federal vs. local sources, state and local governments are asking for greater flexibility and room for policy changes that will improve options for local hiring. The tension between local hiring ordinances and federal geographic preference policy is currently playing out on the Crenshaw line in Los Angeles, which is expected to begin construction in 2014.

FTA pushes to link transit and affordable housing

In August, New and Small Starts Evaluation and Rating Guidance was released by the Federal Transit Administration. As part of the new guidance, FTA gives preference to projects that serve transit-dependent persons and evaluates plans and policies based on the tools in place to preserve or increase the amount of affordable housing in the project corridor.

Bike share programs’ support of transit constrained by FTA funding rules

New bike share programs offer another opportunity to provide better access to public transit, bridging the important “last mile” between trip origins and destinations. In the U.S., however, Federal Transit Administration funding for the installation of bike-sharing stations adjacent to transit services has stalled, in part due to funding eligibility rules. Currently, FTA funds may pay for planning and construction of the bike share station itself, but not the purchase of actual bicycles. Bicycles can be purchased using FHWA funding, however. FTA and USDOT officials have acknowledged the need to change eligibility rules to embrace the rapidly growing demand for bike share, but as yet no changes have been made.

FTA proposes shifting the focus of transit investment evaluations from commute time reduction to ridership and other metrics

The Federal Transit Administration’s proposed changes to the way it evaluates transit investment  funding under the New Starts and Small Starts programs would shift the focus from travel time reduction to projected ridership and the …