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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

The Federal Transit Program Turns 60

"Collage of photos - FTA program turns 60"

The idea for the federal transit program was born with a message to Congress by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 and launched in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Urban Mass Transportation Act.

Over its nearly six decades, the federal transit program has helped transform transit in America from scattered bus systems and a small number of high-capacity systems to a diverse set of transit providers in thousands of communities. Today, FTA administers a $20 billion annual program with the historic funding provided by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the federal transit program on July 9, 2024, FTA will highlight milestone programs and initiatives that have fulfilled the FTA’s mission to improve America’s communities through public transportation. 


In this video, we provide an overview of the federal transit program, from supporting small independent bus systems and a few subway lines in the 1960s to today’s network of transit providers serving thousands of communities nationwide.
Bus rapid transit is the fastest-growing mode of public transportation. Learn about how this transit newcomer became such a popular way to travel and FTA’s role in setting it up for success.
There is a direct relationship between civil rights, equity and public transportation. Learn about FTA’s work to promote civil rights throughout its 60-year history.
FTA Series 4 video

At FTA, safety guides everything we do. The 60th anniversary of the federal transit program provides an opportunity to reinforce the importance of FTA’s role in making the safest mode of surface transportation even safer. Watch video

Milestones in transit Several legislative accomplishments contributed to the success of the federal transit program. Learn about milestones in transit history.

Did You Know?

Social Media Posts

Facebook Post 07-09-2023 Happy Birthday to us! On July 9, 1964, the federal transit program was born as the Urban Mass Transit Administration following legislation championed by President Kennedy and signed by President Johnson. It was the nation’s first federal program to support “mass transportation.” See post

Did you know? More than 70,000 transit buses run on fixed routes every day in the United States, and about 75% of them are funded, in part, by FTA. These buses are on the streets in over 500 urban areas across the country, including thousands of cities and towns. See post

Did you know the nation’s transit systems have 4,530 miles of track in subway, light rail, streetcar and related systems?  Of these, 4,074 miles have been built or replaced since 1960 under the federal transit program – enough to lay track from New York to Milan! See post

Did you know? @mta in New York City is by far the largest transit provider in the nation. Every year, more than 2.3 billion commuters, residents and visitors travel on NYC subways and buses. To support a network that helps power the Big Apple’s economic engine, FTA provides $2.8 billion a year and supports capital projects to improve and expand the network. See post
Did you know? Colorado provides more rural transit than any other state. Colorado, which provides over 13 million rural transit trips annually, is also home to the nation’s first and longest rural bus rapid transit system, run by Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The VelociRFTA BRT opened in 2013 and runs 40 miles throughout Colorado’s Western Slope region. FTA supports the state’s 42 rural transit systems with about $22 million every year. See post
Did you know? The first exclusive bus lane on an urban highway, the Shirley Highway Busway, opened in September 1969 to carry commuters between northern Virginia and downtown Washington DC. FTA and FHWA collaborated with local transit authorities, including Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Virginia Department of Transportation to set up the innovative project, which immediately cut commuting times by an average of 15 minutes, decreased congestion and air pollution, and demonstrated the potential benefits of bus-only lanes to move transit riders more quickly and efficiently. After 1974, carpools were also permitted to use the lanes. Today, FTA supports bus rapid transit, many in exclusive lanes, to deliver fast and efficient service across the country. Did you know? The first exclusive bus lane on an urban highway, the Shirley Highway Busway, opened in September 1969 to carry commuters between northern Virginia and downtown Washington DC. See post
American Indian reservation Did you know? In July 1971, FTA awarded the first-ever federal grant to support transit on an American Indian reservation. The initial award of $120K went to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (the Three Affiliated Tribes) of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. See Post
Dial a Ride Did you know? In the early 1970s, FTA funded innovative experiments in on-demand transportation. The programs were called “Dial-a-Ride.” A demonstration project in Haddonfield, NJ allowed riders to call a control center to request a pickup, with a minibus ready to arrive at their location within 20 minutes.
See Post