Transit Grant Writing Part II
For the transit planner, grant writing is an essential task. Without grant writing, transit agencies would lose out on funding for extra bus services, buses, shelters, and other things. This section examines what to do after you have written your proposal; please see Part I to see how to get started in transit grant writing . To see what happens after you receive a grant award, please see Part III .
Step 3: Who To Submit Your Proposal To
Recall that there are two basic types of grants: formula and discretionary. Formula grants are automatically awarded to different parts of the country based on criteria such as population and are normally distributed through the regional metropolitan planning organization (MPO). MPOs, created by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962, are required in any urban area over 50,000 people and are responsible for creating short and long range transportation plans in addition to awarding federal transportation money to groups in the area.
Discretionary grants are also almost automatically distributed through MPOs, although theoretically organizations should be able to directly apply for federal grants through the grants.gov web portal.
For state and local grants, you should consult your state department of transportation and/or your local MPO for information on how to apply for grants.
Step 4: What Happens After Your Proposal Is Accepted
Most federal grants for operating funding, such as the JARC program, require annual reports on how many riders the service is carrying and the productivity of the service in passengers per revenue hour. In addition, recipients of grants such as these may be subject to filing Title VI reports even if they are not otherwise large enough to be required to do so. These reports are usually submitted in the same way as usual reports to the National Transit Database .
Recipients of small capital grants for things such as bus stop improvement likely need to file only summary reports after the improvements in created. If your transit agency is lucky enough to land a large capital grant, perhaps under the auspices of the New Starts Program , you can look forward to constant paperwork and likely a dedicated staffer at the Federal Transit Administration.
In addition to the above reporting, the federal government conducts triennial audits of award winners of most federal transit grants.
While many people find the grant process intimidating, the truth is that there is a lot of grant money available for transit, particularly money from the federal government. The amount of available money has been particularly high recently due to the Obama stimulus package, and while as I write this a new multi-year transportation authorization has yet to be passed by Congress, the fact that an attempt by House Republicans to limit transportation spending to only money that has been raised by the gas tax failed suggests to me that no matter what kind of bill is passed significant federal money will be available in the future to transit agencies in the United States. There are frequent webinars on the FTA website to assist applicants for individual grant programs, and I suggest readers of this article who desire to learn more about applying for federal grants attend one or more of these webinars.
In addition to grants the idea of getting a loan from the federal government, while once impossible, is slowly becoming more common. The idea of using proceeds from a sales tax increase as collateral for a loan to improve transit is the cornerstone of an extension of Los Angeles's Measure R as well as Mayor Villargosa's America Fast Forward plan . A significant expansion of the national infrastructure bank would allow Los Angeles and other regions to leverage additional money for transit at no cost to taxpayers.