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Rural Transit News
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DOT Has Issued New Guidance on Drug & Alcohol Testing During Coronavirus
Posted March 25, 2020
New guidance is available on complying with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing requirements during the Coronavirus pandemic (issued March 23, 2020). Please refer to the DOT Guidance on Compliance with DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations for further information applicable to public transportation agencies at https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/compliance-with-dot-drug-and-alcohol-testing-regulations.
Grant Opportunity: 2020 Innovations in Accessible Mobility Grant Applications Due May 1, 2020
Posted March 25, 2020
The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) is inviting applications for implementation of “ready-to-launch” program innovations to increase accessible transportation options for older adults and people with disabilities living in the community and maximize the utilization of Section 5310 and other federal funding investments. This grant opportunity is intended to support develop program innovations for increasing accessible transportation in the community that are ready to implement on Day 1 and can realistically be fully implemented within the six-month timeframe set for this grant funding program. Grants of up to $30,000 each each will be awarded to as many as 10 communities for a six-month period. Local and regional private nonprofit or government organizations that directly provide transportation services are eligible to apply for this funding opportunity. Learn more on the NADTC website.
U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Increased Flexibility to Help Transit Agencies Respond to Coronavirus
Posted March 24, 2020
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recently announced that expanded eligibility of federal assistance is available under FTA’s Emergency Relief Program to help transit agencies respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in states where the Governor has declared an emergency. This includes allowing all transit providers, including those in large urban areas, to use federal formula funds for emergency-related capital and operating expenses, and raises the cap on the federal government’s share of those expenses.
"Today, I have issued a notice of concurrence with declarations of emergencies issued by Governors that relate to COVID-19. FTA grantees may now use their Urbanized Area and Rural formula funds to take measures to protect the health and safety of their riders and their workforce," said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams on March 13, 2020. "Expansion of the permissible uses of federal funds will allow transit providers greater flexibility in the areas of the country that need it most. Invoking the eligibility of the Emergency Relief Program also provide funds at a higher federal share."
This announcement allows all transit providers in states where the Governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 to use their federal formula funds for operating expenses in addition to capital expenses and permits operating expenses to be covered at an 80 percent federal share rather than 50 percent.
In addition to allowing the expanded use of formula funds for transit providers, FTA has established an Emergency Relief docket that allows transit providers in states where the Governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 to request temporary relief from Federal requirements under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 as well as any non-statutory FTA requirements.
The U.S. DOT is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to provide guidance to the public transportation industry in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). FTA recently held a conference call with transit stakeholders and posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on its web site.
U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $11 Million in Funding Available for Transit Innovation Nationwide
Posted March 24, 2020
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recently announced the availability of $11 million in funding to support and advance innovation in the transit industry. The competitive grant funds are provided through the Innovative Mobility (AIM) initiative. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) appeared in the March 18, 2020, Federal Register. The AIM challenge grants are part of FTA’s ongoing effort to drive innovative transit technologies and practices that encourage travelers to choose public transportation, promote economic development in communities, and enhance mobility for all. The AIM challenge grants will help transit agencies explore new service models that provide more efficient and frequent service, which will help retain riders. As a funding partner, FTA will help alleviate the potential risks involved in adopting new technologies and practices.
Eligible applicants under the NOFO are providers of public transportation, including public transportation agencies, state and local DOTs, and federally recognized Indian tribes. To better address the needs of rural America, which has historically been neglected, FTA intends to award 50% of AIM grant funding to projects located in rural areas that deliver positive benefits for these communities, consistent with the Department’s R.O.U.T.E.S. initiative. Applicants are encouraged to partner with other entities. Applications are due April 17, 2020.
FTA will host a webinar on the AIM Challenge grant program on April 2, 2020.
U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $8.5 Million Funding Opportunity to Help Communities Prosper through Transit
Posted March 24, 2020
On March 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to apply for $8.5 million in Fiscal Year 2020 competitive grant funding for projects that help lift communities out of poverty and support recovery from substance abuse. The new Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) program supports planning, engineering and technical studies or financial planning to improve transit services in areas experiencing long-term economic distress.
The HOPE program will provide funding for planning, engineering and technical studies and financial plans that will result in improved public transportation, new transit routes and facilities, and innovative technologies in communities experiencing persistent poverty. It will also support coordinated human service transportation planning to improve transit service or provide new services such as rides to opioid abuse recovery and treatment.
Eligible applicants must come from counties with more than 20 percent of the population living in poverty for 30 years or more, as measured by the U.S. Census, or the 2013-2017 American Community Survey. Many of the communities are in rural areas, which experience unique challenges in providing public transportation, ensuring safety and keeping transit assets in a state of good repair. Applicants are encouraged to partner with nonprofit organizations engaged in public transportation and anti-poverty issues.
The NOFO encourages applicants to demonstrate how their proposed projects are consistent with the Department’s Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (R.O.U.T.E.S.) initiative, which seeks to address disparities in rural transportation infrastructure, and FTA's Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) program, which promotes innovative approaches to improve financing, system design and service.
Projects will be evaluated by criteria outlined in the NOFO. Applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 4, 2020.
FTA will host two webinars to provide information about the HOPE Program. Join FTA program staff on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at 2 p.m. ET, and on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at 2 p.m. ET, to learn more about this competitive funding opportunity, including application eligibility, evaluation criteria, and the application submission process. Click here to register.