WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced the availability of $5 million in competitive grant funds to enhance public transit service for American Indians, Alaska natives and other residents on rural tribal lands. Funding is provided through FTA’s Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Tribal Transit Program. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) appeared in yesterday’s Federal Register.
“We recognize that it continues to be challenging for many tribal residents to access some of life’s most basic community services,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This funding is so important because, for tribal members, many of whom live in remote areas, public transportation is the best – and only – way for them to access jobs, schools and other community services.”
The Tribal Transit Program supports projects that operate or enhance existing transit service, launch new public transportation services, invest in new or replacement equipment, or plan for future transit needs. Last year, FTA awarded $10 million in grants to 55 tribes for 65 competitively selected transit-related projects in 18 states. For example, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska received $300,000 to build a transit facility and purchase vans to enable tribal members to travel to jobs, education, healthcare and vocational training, while the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe of Washington State received $300,000 to initiate transit operations connecting residents to the cities of Auburn and Seattle, the state’s largest employment center.
“Supporting the transportation needs of tribal residents throughout the United States is critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s residents have access to the opportunities and services they need,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “These Tribal Transit Program funds help improve transportation options by connecting residents to important services, such as seeing a doctor, buying groceries or getting job training.”
The FY2016 program prioritizes projects that support the Secretary’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative, with a focus on access to jobs, economic opportunities, and supporting partnerships that link tribal communities to essential services. Beyond projects that link tribal residents directly with employment centers, the NOFO also requests projects that foster coordinated planning that links tribal communities to workforce development, training, and basic services that improve job prospects.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into law in December, authorizes $5 million in annual competitive funds as well as $30 million in annual formula funds to tribes providing public transportation. The FAST Act increased the Tribal Transit formula program from $25 million to $30 million to help tribes to provide and enhance existing transit services.