$10m on offer for US public transport agencies to boost COVID-19 safety and rider confidence

14th October 2020 Sarah Wray

The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is making US$10 million available in grants for public transport agencies to develop, deploy and demonstrate innovative COVID-safe solutions.

The funding follows a series of FTA ‘listening sessions’ held over the last three months, during which transit agencies requested support for research to identify measures to address the operational challenges that they are facing as a result of COVID-19.

The FTA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) says that eligible projects should demonstrate how they will “improve the operational efficiencies of transit systems and enhance mobility for their communities” in four key areas:

  • vehicle, facility, equipment and infrastructure cleaning and disinfection
  • exposure mitigation measures
  • innovative mobility such as contactless payments
  • measures that strengthen public confidence in transit services

The FTA is looking for solutions which can be replicated by other transit agencies. regionally or nationally.

Urban and rural

As well as urban areas, the FTA is also interested in receiving grant applications for less densely populated locations, noting: “Addressing the deteriorating conditions and disproportionately high fatality rates on our rural transportation infrastructure is of critical interest to the Department, as rural transportation networks face unique challenges in safety, infrastructure condition, and passenger and freight usage.”.

Project proposals must be submitted through GRANTS.GOV by midnight on November 2. There is no minimum or maximum grant award amount, but the FTA said it intends to fund as many projects as possible.

The grants are authorised under FTA’s Public Transportation Innovation Program. The department said it may supplement the US$10 million if additional funding becomes available.

The NOFO also states that the FTA will consider applications in accordance with President Trump’s September 2 Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients of Federal Funds that Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities, issued following the wave of protests across the US. The memo threatens to withdraw federal funding for any “anarchist jurisdiction” it finds “disempowers or defunds police departments”. It specifically mentions the Democratic-controlled cities of Portland, Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C. Legal experts have cast doubt on whether the policy is enforceable and it was strongly criticised by mayors from the cities referenced.

[Image: Jeffrey Czum from Pexels]

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