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Transit Asset Management: Frequently Asked Questions

The requirements for complying with the Transit Asset Management (TAM) rule are set forth in 49 CFR part 625. These FAQs can be used to help determine if the rule applies to you and what you must do if it does apply. These FAQs are not a substitute for reviewing the TAM rule.

Last updated 8-14-2017

What is transit asset management?

Transit asset management (TAM) is the strategic and systematic practice of procuring, operating, inspecting, maintaining, rehabilitating, and replacing transit capital assets to manage their performance, risks, and costs over their life cycles to provide safe, cost-effective, and reliable public transportation. TAM uses transit asset condition to guide how to manage capital assets and prioritize funding to improve or maintain a state of good repair.

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What is the TAM rule? 

The TAM rule (49 CFR part 625) is a set of federal regulations that sets out minimum asset management practices for transit providers. The current estimated cost to bring all of the nation’s transit assets into a state of good repair is $89.8 billion. FTA estimates that annually $17.0 billion of capital investment would be needed get the nation’s transit systems to a state of good repair. This is 8.6 percent higher than is currently spent on asset preservation and expansion combined. The TAM rule aims to address the backlog by requiring transit providers to create TAM plans that will help them systematically address their maintenance needs which will, in turn, improve service. Well-developed asset management systems have been shown to lower long-term maintenance costs. Additionally, TAM will have important non-quantifiable benefits, such as improved transparency and accountability. Implementing a TAM system will require transit providers to collect and use asset condition data, set targets, and develop strategies to prioritize investments to meet their goals.

The purpose of the FTA rulemaking is to help achieve and maintain a state of good repair (SGR) for the nation’s public transportation assets. Currently, there is an estimated $89.8 billion transit SGR backlog. The rule develops a framework for transit agencies to monitor and manage public transportation assets, improve safety, increase reliability and performance, and establish performance measures.

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Compliance

Who has to comply with the TAM rule?  

The TAM rule applies to all recipients of Chapter 53 funds that either own, operate, or manage capital assets used in providing public transportation services.  

The rule applies to you The rule does NOT apply to you
If you own an FTA-funded capital asset used in providing public transportation services, then you must comply with the TAM rule, even if you do not operate or manage that asset. If you do not receive Chapter 53 funds and you have never received Chapter 53 funds, then the TAM rule does not apply to you.
If you manage or operate an FTA-funded capital asset used in providing public transportation services, then you must comply with the TAM rule, regardless of who owns that asset. If you receive FTA funds, but do not use those funds for public transportation services, then the TAM rule does not apply to you (e.g., Planning or Research grants)

NOTE: Public Transportation is defined by law as “regular, continuing shared-ride surface transportation services that are open to the general public or open to a segment of the general public defined by age, disability, or low income.”  49 U.S.C. § 5302(14).

An example of public transportation service to a segment of the general public is service for all senior citizens or all persons with disabilities in a particular town or county.  However, if you are providing a courtesy shuttle service for patrons of a specific establishment with a senior citizen clientele, then your service is not considered to be public transportation.  Similarly, if you provide service that requires membership in an organization such as a church or club, then, your service is not considered to be public transportation.

In addition, commuter rail service providers operating on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) should also reference 49 USC §24904(c) for additional asset management regulations. 

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How do transit providers comply with the TAM rule? 

Transit providers must complete several key actions to comply with the TAM rule, including developing a TAM plan and submitting two reports to the NTD annually: a data report and a narrative report.  More detailed descriptions of each requirement will follow in the FAQ. 

Develop TAM plan. All transit agencies that own, operate, or manage capital assets used in the provision of public transportation and receive federal financial assistance under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 either as recipients or subrecipients must develop a TAM plan. A TAM plan is a tool that will aide transit providers in:

  1. Assessing the current condition of its capital assets
  2. Determining what the condition and performance of its assets should be (if they are not already in a state of good repair)
  3. Identifying the unacceptable risks, including safety risks, in continuing to use an asset that is not in a state of good repair
  4. Deciding how to best balance and prioritize reasonably anticipated funds (revenues from all sources) towards improving asset condition and achieving a sufficient level of performance within those means

TAM plans must include at a minimum an asset inventory, condition assessments of inventoried assets, and a prioritized list of investments to improve the state of good repair of their capital assets.

Complete NTD asset inventory module (AIM) report. You must develop an inventory of your assets, and you must report the data and other information required to the NTD asset inventory module report annually. Additional data required by NTD includes information used to calculate the TAM metrics.  

Conduct and report facility condition assessments. You must assess the condition of all the capital assets in your TAM plan, and you must report the condition assessments for facility category assets to the NTD for a portion of your agency’s facility capital assets. Every year thereafter, you must report the condition assessments for another proportion of your agency’s facility capital assets, until all of the condition assessments for all facility capital assets have been reported to the NTD. You must then renew the process of conducting condition assessments. 

Set Performance Targets. You must set targets annually for the performance of your assets and submit those targets to the NTD as part of your annual data submission. Each asset category has its own performance measure by which to set targets:

  • Rolling stock:   % of revenue vehicles exceeding ULB
  • Equipment:      % of nonrevenue service vehicles exceeding ULB
  • Facilities:         % of facilities rated under 3.0 on the TERM scale
  • Infrastructure: % of track segments under performance restriction 

Submit narrative report to the NTD. You must submit an annual narrative report to the National Transit Database that provides a description of any change in the condition of the provider’s transit system from the previous year and describes the progress made during the year to meet the performance targets set in the previous reporting year.

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My agency is the public transportation provider for a tribal government. What are we responsible for under the TAM Rule?

The TAM Rule characterizes all tribal transportation providers as Tier II providers, regardless of size. This means you have the option to either develop your own TAM plan or join your State DOT’s group TAM plan, if the tribe receives funds through the State DOT. If the tribe only receives 5311(c) funds directly through FTA, then it can participate in the State group plan by mutual consent between the State and the tribe’s accountable executive, which can be the Tribal Chairman or CEO equivalent. In addition, the 5311(c) only tribe could choose to develop its own plan, or serve as the Sponsor of a tribal group plan. 

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What deadlines must I comply with under the TAM rule?  

Depending on when your fiscal year runs, you have the following deadline requirements for complying with TAM Rule components:

 

If your fiscal year runs

July-
June

Oct-
Sept

Jan-
Dec

- Share initial targets with planning partners July2017
- Report FY17 asset inventory module (AIM) data to NTD
- Submit targets for FY18 to NTD (optional)
Oct
2017
Jan
2018
Apr
2018
- Complete compliant TAM Plan (1st required)
- Share TAM Plan with planning partners
Oct 2018
- Report FY18 AIM data to NTD (1st required)
- Submit targets for FY19 to NTD (1st required)
Oct
2018
Jan 
2019
Apr
2019
- Report FY19 AIM data to NTD
- Submit targets for FY20 to NTD
- Submit narrative report to NTD (1st required)
Oct
2019
Jan
2020
Apr
2020
- Report FY20 AIM data to NTD
- Submit targets for FY21 to NTD
- Submit narrative report to NTD
Oct
2020
Jan
2021
Apr
2021
- Complete Updated TAM Plan
- Share TAM Plan with planning partners
Oct 2022

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What is a transit asset management plan (TAM plan)? 

The 2012 Asset Management Guide specifies that in general, an asset management plan outlines the activities that will be implemented and resources applied to address the asset management policy and strategy. For many transit agencies, the plan will address the activities and changes to be implemented to increase the maturity of asset management practice.

Primarily, asset management plans have two major components:

  1. Enterprise-wide implementation actions that provide enabling support and direction for asset management across all asset classes and services.
  2. Direction and expectations for asset class owners and department managers regarding lifecycle management planning and processes—with a focus on the lifecycle management plans (see later in this section).

Plans should outline how people, processes, and tools come together to address the asset management policy and goals. They also provide accountability and visibility for increasing the maturity of asset management practices, and can be used to support planning and budgeting activities, communicating to internal and external stakeholders, and as an accountability mechanism.

The TAM Rule requires every transit provider that receives federal financial assistance under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 to develop a TAM plan or be a part of a group TAM plan prepared by sponsor. All TAM plans must contain:

  • An inventory of assets
  • A condition assessment of inventoried assets
  • Documentation of the use of a decision support tool
  • A prioritization of investments

Larger transit providers also have to include the following items in their TAM plans:

  • TAM and SGR policy
  • Implementation strategy
  • List of key annual activities
  • Identification of resources
  • Evaluation plan

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What process must I follow to develop a TAM plan?

The TAM rule sets a process for developing a TAM plan that will vary depending on whether you are a Tier I or Two II provider, and whether you are preparing a TAM plan for only your own agency or your agency is participating in a group TAM plan. There are nine required elements to the TAM plan for a tier I provider. There are four required elements to the TAM plan for both groups and tier II providers. You will not submit your TAM plan to FTA, but you must share it with your planning organizations (e.g., Metropolitan Planning Organization, State Department of Transportation).  

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Group TAM plans

Who must be a sponsor of a group TAM plan?

Any direct recipient of Chapter 53 funds which passes along some or all of those funds to subrecipients that own or operate capital assets used in providing public transportation must sponsor a group TAM plan on behalf of any of its subrecipients that are not 5307 direct recipients themselves.  Thus, in many instances, State Departments of Transportation and other designated recipients of Chapter 53 funds must be group TAM plan sponsors.  

A direct recipient that is a tier I provider must also develop its own TAM plan independent of the group TAM plan it sponsors on behalf of tier II subrecipients. In rare instances, a tier II direct or designated recipient may have its own tier II subrecipients, in which case the direct recipient may both participate in and sponsor a single group TAM plan.  See also Am I required to be a TAM group sponsor?

Who is allowed to participate in a group TAM plan?

All tier II subrecipients of Chapter 53 funds are eligible to participate in a group TAM plan.  However, any tier II subrecipient that is also a direct recipient of Section 5307 Urbanized Area formula funds is not automatically included in any group TAM plan; it must request permission to participate in a group TAM plan. See Am I going to be a participant in a group TAM plan?

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What assets must I include in a TAM asset inventory?

There are four categories of capital assets that must be included in a TAM asset inventory:  facilities, equipment, rolling stock, and infrastructure. Your TAM plan must include an inventory of all the capital assets in each of the categories that you own, operate, or manage. More information on what assets must be included in your TAM asset inventory can be found in the “What do I need to report to the NTD” section of this FAQ.

In those instances where capital assets are shared among multiple transportation agencies, the agencies must determine, collectively, which of them is responsible for conducting the condition assessment of that asset, even though all of those agencies will be responsible for including that asset in their own asset inventories and in reporting data on that asset to the NTD.

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Condition assessments

For which assets must I conduct a condition assessment?

The TAM final rule requires you to assess all assets for which you have direct capital responsibility, including those that are owned by someone else but for which you have at least partial direct capital responsibility. 

Condition Assessment Required
and Reported to NTD
Condition Assessment
Not Required
  • Passenger stations
  • Parking facilities
  • Administrative buildings
  • Exclusive use maintenance facilities
  • Bus shelters
  • Shared maintenance facilities

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How do I know if I have direct capital responsibility for an asset?

You must consider the financial obligations you have to the condition of the asset. You must assess the condition of the assets listed in your asset inventory for which you have direct capital responsibility.

You have direct capital responsibility You do NOT have direct capital responsibility
You own the asset You do not own the asset AND you are not responsible for replacing, overhauling, refurbishing, or conducting major repairs on that asset, or the costs of those activities are not itemized as a capital line item in your budget.
You jointly own the asset with another entity  
You are responsible for replacing, overhauling, refurbishing, or conducting major repairs on that asset, or the costs of those activities are itemized as a capital line item in your budget.  


 

NOTE: Performing minimal preventive maintenance work on an asset, like cleaning, does not in itself indicate that you have direct capital responsibility for the asset. An infrastructure asset itemized as capital line item in budget does not necessarily mean you have direct capital responsibility; you must also have management or oversight responsibilities for that line item project. 

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What method must I use for conducting condition assessments of assets?

You can assess the condition of your assets in a way that is most useful to your agency.  The TAM rule does not require any method for conducting condition assessments of assets.

FTA requires that facility condition data be fully updated and reported to the NTD every four years, at a minimum. Agencies may choose to assess a quarter of their facilities every year or more frequently, though at a minimum, they must report the condition of one quarter of their facilities to the NTD annually. Each annual report must include updated facility condition data incorporating any assessments completed since the last report.

You must report the condition of your facilities to the National Transit Database using the Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM) condition assessment scale of 1-5. Under the TERM scale, an asset in need of immediate repair or replacement is scored as one (1), whereas a new asset with no visible defects is scored as five (5). Should you choose to use some other methodology for measuring the condition of your assets; you will need to convert the results of that assessment to the TERM scale for NTD reporting. 

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We have two examples of shared use of facilities: 1) our contractor conducts maintenance for our revenue vehicles in a “shared” maintenance facility that we do not own; and 2) we share our administrative facility with other non-transit uses (e.g., we’re department of city government and our offices are in a small room in city hall). Do we have capital responsibility for the facility? What do we need to do for asset inventories, reporting on its condition and setting performance targets?

If you have direct capital responsibility for the facility, then you must include the facility in your TAM plan inventory and your NTD asset inventory. You must also report on the condition of the facility in your condition assessment,  and include it in your performance targets and your investment prioritization. If you own the facility, have a line item for the facility in your budget, or have recently paid for capital projects on the facility, then you have direct capital responsibility (see “How do I know if I have direct capital responsibility for an asset?”). If you do not have direct capital responsibility for the facility, then you must only include the facility in your TAM plan inventory (unless it is a passenger station which is always included in the NTD inventory).Further clarification of requirements for specific facility types are itemized below.

For Maintenance and Administrative facilities: Any maintenance or administration facility under 100 square-ft. does not need to be included (e.g. security guard shack, stand-alone restroom, storage shelter in which no work is performed) in either of your inventories. If your vehicles are the only vehicles that the maintenance facility services, then it is considered an “exclusive use” facility and thus must be inventoried in your TAM plan. If the administrative office is in a building that has only incidental transit use (e.g. city hall), then it is not required to be included in either of your inventories.

For Passenger and Parking facilities: All passenger facilities must be inventoried in your TAM plan and reported to the NTD regardless of ownership. You must inventory all parking facilities for which you have direct capital responsibility, and that are immediately adjacent to a passenger facility (e.g. a park-and-ride lot or a garage).

Useful life benchmarks (ULBs)

What is a "useful life benchmark"?

Useful life benchmark (ULB) is the measure agencies will use to track the performance of revenue vehicles (rolling stock) and service vehicles (equipment) to set their performance measure targets. Each vehicle type’s ULB estimates how many years that vehicle can be in service and still be in a state of good repair. The ULB considers how long it is cost effective to operate an asset before ongoing maintenance costs outweigh replacement costs. FTA has developed default ULBs, which will automatically populate in the NTD collection field. Alternatively, your agency can develop its own ULBs based on your operating conditions, warranty information, and any other criteria that would affect your assets’ maximum useful life. 

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Where does a ULB come from?

ULBs are derived from FTA’s Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM). The TERM model estimates the age at which each of the vehicle types would enter the SGR backlog, or have a rating of 2.5 or below on the TERM scale. See the table of useful life benchmarks here.

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What is the difference between TAM’s ULBs and the useful life definition used in FTA’s grant programs?

The useful life under grant programs was set forth in the 2017 FTA Circular 5010.IE and refers to eligibility for replacement of an asset with FTA funds. For more information on useful life determination, review Award Management Requirements Circular 5010.1E and Program Circulars. The TAM ULB refers to the maximum age of the asset, or the point at which the asset enters the state of good repair backlog. The ULB is used solely for setting state of good repair performance measure targets for equipment and rolling stock asset categories. 

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The Default ULB Cheat Sheet states that transit agencies can adjust their ULB with approval from FTA. Can FTA provide guidance on the process?

When entering your fleet data in the NTD, you will have the option to either accept the pre-populated default ULBs or submit your customized ULBs. In cases where the ULB is significantly different from the default ULB value, you may be prompted to verify it is not a typo and/or submit justification for the value. If FTA accepts your NTD report, then it accepts your customized ULB.

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Targets

What does a high or low performance target value mean?

For each of the four asset categories, FTA has defined performance measures to evaluate the performance of the assets within the category. You must set state of good repair (SGR) performance targets for certain assets within each category (see “What is the difference between assets in my TAM plan and NTD inventory and targets?” to determine which types of assets require performance targets).

For each asset category, the performance measure is a characterization of the percentage of the number of assets that are not in a state of good repair. For equipment and rolling stock, the performance measure is the percentage of vehicles that have met or exceeded their ULB. For infrastructure, the performance measure for rail fixed guideway, track, signals, and systems is the percentage of track segments with performance restrictions. For facilities, the performance measure is the percentage of facilities within an asset class, rated below condition 3 on the Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM) scale.

All of the performance measures are designed with the goal of having low values. As the age increases or condition of assets deteriorates, the value of the performance measures will increase. To move toward a better state of good repair, you would want to set your targets to be lower than your current year’s performance measure value. 

Lower Performance Measures Values = Better State of Good Repair

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Who needs to approve the TAM Performance Measure targets before we submit them to the MPO?

The TAM Rule requires that the transit provider’s accountable executive approve its TAM plan, which includes the performance measure targets. Any other aspects of your approval process are considered a local decision. 

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What is the difference between assets in my TAM plan and NTD inventory and targets?  

Your TAM plan inventory will be more inclusive than the asset data you report to the NTD. The table below explains in detail which assets you need to include in which steps of your TAM plan and which to report to NTD.

 
Assets
TAM Plan Inventory
NTD Inventory
TAM Plan Condition Assessment
SGR Targets
Revenue Vehicles
Owned yes yes yes yes
Direct capital responsibility yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (direct capital responsibility) yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (NO direct capital responsibility) yes yes* no no
Equipment: Non-Revenue Vehicles (regardless of cost)

Owned

yes yes yes yes
Direct capital responsibility yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned no no no no
Equipment: Over $50,000 Acquisition Value
Owned yes no yes no
Direct capital responsibility yes no yes no
3rd party owned no no no no
Equipment: Under $50,000 Acquisition Value no no no no
Facilities:
Owned yes yes yes yes
Direct capital responsibility yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (direct capital responsibility) yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (NO direct capital responsibility) yes yes** no no
Infrastructure: Non Rail Fixed Guideway
Owned yes no yes no
Direct capital responsibility yes no yes no
3rd party owned (direct capital responsibility) yes  no yes no
3rd party owned (NO direct capital responsibility) yes no no no
Infrastructure: Rail Fixed Guideway
Owned yes yes yes yes
Direct capital responsibility yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (direct capital responsibility) yes yes yes yes
3rd party owned (NO direct capital responsibility) yes yes no no
 *representative vehicles
**yes only for passenger facilities

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I’m a bus rapid transit (BRT) and/or ferry operator with fixed guideway assets, but we don’t operate rail fixed guideway. Am I Tier I or Tier II? Do I need to set Infrastructure category targets?

If you do not operate rail fixed guideway public transportation, and if you do not have enough vehicles to qualify as a Tier I provider (see “Am I a Tier I or a Tier II Agency?” to determine your agency’s tier), then you would be considered a Tier II provider, even if you provide fixed guideway service like BRT or ferry service. As a Tier II provider, you are eligible to participate in a group TAM plan or develop an individual Tier II TAM plan (responsible for elements 1-4).

The infrastructure performance measure required by FTA is limited to rail fixed guideway assets. Therefore, a transit provider that operates a fixed guideway service that is not rail-based (such as a BRT or ferry) would not have to set or submit a performance target for its non-rail infrastructure assets. Agencies may choose to set additional performance measures and targets for infrastructure as part of their TAM plans, although these are not required to be submitted to FTA.

The TAM infrastructure asset category includes infrastructure assets for all modes. The NTD has and will continue to collect data for all modes within the infrastructure category. However, BRT and ferry fixed guideway assets are not included in the expanded asset inventory for TAM performance measures. Please see the NTD Asset Inventory Module Reporting Manual for more information regarding reporting requirements.

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How do I handle non-vehicle equipment? 

What does the $50,000 threshold refer to?

The $50,000 amount refers to the threshold for including non-vehicle equipment assets in the asset inventory. All non-revenue service vehicles are included as equipment assets, regardless of cost. You may exclude non-vehicle equipment assets with an acquisition value (original cost) under $50,000 from your asset inventory. 

The $50,000 threshold does not apply to any other asset categories or to service vehicles. Therefore, you must include in your asset inventory all rolling stock, infrastructure, facilities (except bus stops), and service vehicles, regardless of their acquisition value.

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Does the $50,000 threshold mean $50,000 in total equipment value, or $50,000 per unit of equipment?

If your program of capital projects or capital plan identifies equipment assets as individual units, or multiple line items, and each unit is less than $50,000, then you do not need to include each individual unit in your asset inventory. However, if your program of capital projects identifies equipment assets as one grouping of units or one line item and its value is greater than $50,000, then you must include it in your asset inventory.

For example, if your capital plan lists projects to purchase solar panels for 10 different park-and-ride lots and they are itemized as separate line items by location, each is likely to cost less than $50,000, and you are not required to include panels in the TAM inventory as an equipment asset. If, however, your capital plan lists the purchase of a new solar power system as one line item (purchasing 10 panels) that costs over $50,000, you would be required to list the system in your asset inventory. 

What about equipment in a facility?

Equipment with an acquisition value between $10,000 and $50,000 may be considered part of an administrative or maintenance facility. If equipment is valued at $50,000 or more, or is a piece of equipment you would take to another location, it would be considered a separate equipment asset and not considered part of a facility.

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Do information technology (IT) systems hardware and software need to be included in equipment category? 

The final rule does not explicitly indicate how agencies should handle their IT hardware or software. If you want to create an asset class for systems and inventory your IT hardware and software, you are welcome to do so, but FTA does not endorse any specific approach to create an asset inventory of IT systems. However, the final TAM rule preamble suggests that systems belong in the infrastructure category. The FTA Transit Asset Management Guide includes systems under Infrastructure, and Chapter 5 of Appendix A, the Asset Management Guide Supplement, goes into greater detail regarding management of systems assets. 

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What technical assistance is available for compliance with the TAM rule?

Checklists

If a transit provider is new to TAM and/or unfamiliar with the requirements of the TAM rule, the FTA recommends starting TAM research with the following checklists. These checklists provide tools intended for transit providers to determine how to comply with the TAM rulemaking and better understand how the rule relates to their agencies. After completing the series of checklists, they should have a better understanding of which steps to undertake next, associated timelines, and online resources to help them reach compliance.

FTA outreach materials

FTA and its partners have developed a number of resources associated with the TAM rule. Click on the headings below to find specific types of material:

FTA technical assistance

Click on the links to our resource pages for links to technical documents developed by both FTA and the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), with case studies and best practices on TAM, both internationally and within the United States. These technical documents are categorized into seven broad topics:

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Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017
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