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Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) Program Notice of Funding Opportunity Frequently Asked Questions

AIM Challenge Grant Notice of Funding Opportunity FAQs

Program Eligibility

Q: Are all types of public transportation eligible for the Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) Challenge Grant opportunity? Does this apply to rail and bus?

A: Yes, all types of public transportation are eligible.

Q: How do I know if my agency is considered a "provider of public transportation" to be an eligible applicant?

A: According to Federal Public Transportation Law (49 U.S. Code § 5302), the term "public transportation" means 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; it does not include:

  • passenger rail transportation provided by the entity described in Chapter 243 (Amtrak)
  • intercity bus service
  • charter bus service
  • school bus service
  • sightseeing service
  • courtesy shuttle service for patrons of one or more specific establishments
  • intra-terminal or intra-facility shuttle services

Q: Are state and/or local government DOTs eligible applicants?

A: If a state or local government is a provider of public transportation, it is an eligible applicant. State and local government DOTs that are not providers of public transportation may serve as the applicant if they are submitting an application representing a project within their state or a regional project for a public transportation provider(s).

Q: My agency has already received FTA funding from another grant program. Can we still apply for an AIM challenge grant?

A: As long as you are a provider of public transportation, you are eligible to apply. However, Federal funds made available under an FTA award may not be used as the non-Federal contribution towards costs under another FTA award. 2

Q: Our city self-funds and provides public transportation within the city. We are not an FTA funds recipient. Are we eligible to apply?

A: You do not need to be an existing FTA grantee to compete for this NOFO. If you are a provider of public transportation, you are eligible to apply. Please note that if you are not an existing FTA grantee, you will need to become one if selected for an award and will be responsible for compliance with any applicable Federal requirements.

Q: Do you need to operate transit service in a rural area to apply?

A: No, all providers of public transportation may apply, regardless of the type of community they serve. It is not necessary to operate transit in a rural area or partner with a rural jurisdiction or agency to apply. FTA requires applicants to indicate on their application if they serve rural, small urban, or large urban areas.

Q: For the purposes of this program, how are "rural areas" defined?

A: According to Federal Public Transportation Law (49 U.S. Code § 5302), a "rural area" is an area encompassing a population of less than 50,000 people that has not been designated in the most recent census as an "urbanized area" by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Q: My agency’s service area includes both urban and rural areas. Should we apply as an urban or rural area?

A: On the AIM Supplemental Form, you may select multiple service area types (i.e., large urban, small urban, or rural) as appropriate for your Project Location.

Project Partners

Q: What is "key partner," and is it different from a "partner"?

A: Applicants may partner with other organizations to carry out their projects. Applicants also may further designate any of their project partners as key partners. Key partners are considered essential to the project and therefore are eligible for non-competitive award by the applicant to provide goods or services described in the application. Because they are considered essential to the success of the project, there is an expectation that each key partner will participate in the project as described in the application and will not be substituted after award. Applicants must clearly indicate if any of their project partners are key partners on their application submission.

Q: How do I know if a project partner needs to be designated as a "key partner" in the application?

A: It is the applicants’ business decision whether and whom they would like to designate as key partners that share the interests, costs, risks, and/or rewards of early deployment, demonstration, and operation of innovative projects. 3

Q: Can a private company or other organization be listed as a partner or key partner on more than one application?

A: Yes. An organization or entity can be designated as a partner or key partner on multiple applications and may be part of multiple successful projects awards.

Q: My agency is partnering with another "provider of public transportation." Which agency should submit the application?

A: It is entirely your business decision which agency should serve as the applicant for this opportunity, but only one entity will be the lead entity that will submit the application; if selected for award, that entity will enter into an agreement directly with FTA with the other agency a partner under that agreement.

Q: My company specializes in automated driving technologies. We want to participate in the program as a project partner, but we do not know who to partner with. Can you help?

A: FTA currently does not have a mechanism to facilitate partnering. However, we encourage all potential applicants and public and private partners to reach out to each other to form teams for this competition.

Review and Selection Process

Q: Do certain review criteria receive more weight than others?

A: The six evaluation criteria are equally weighted.

Q: Will projects that ask for less than the 80 percent Federal match be more competitive?

A: FTA may prioritize projects proposed with a higher local share, for instance, when a higher local share indicates greater return on research investment (i.e., more learning and more knowledge) that benefits the public transportation industry.

Project Structure and Requirements

Q: After programs are launched, is there a requirement for how long they should operate?

A: The NOFO is silent on how long implementations or demonstrations should operate. That is left to the project team to determine and will be dependent on the technology, innovation, or business model implemented under the project. With that said, projects should be of a sufficient length to produce meaningful data on the implementation and any impacts and should be capable of producing project deliverables within a reasonable amount of time.

Q: What are AIM Incubators, and how are they different from AIM Challenge Grants?

A: Through the AIM Challenge Grants NOFO, FTA is launching a national network of innovative transit agencies, or AIM Incubators, to test new mobility solutions and share the results broadly with industry. AIM Challenge Grant recipients selected through this NOFO will be designated as the inaugural class of AIM Incubators. AIM Incubators are expected to share 4

the results with other agencies seeking to improve transit service and mobility in their communities as well as broadly with the transit industry. Applicants should allocate a portion of their budgets, up to $50,000 of the Federal project budget, to support their work as AIM Incubators, which may include travel or presentations at key industry gatherings, peer exchanges, and similar knowledge transfer activities.

Q: What it meant by "project teams should cooperate on data collection and evaluation"?

A: One of the goals of AIM Challenge Grants is to identify and promote the most promising innovations and share the results broadly with industry. To do that effectively, FTA must be able to collect data and evaluate the implementation and project outcomes. In reviewing project applications, FTA will consider if the project’s implementation strategy addresses how the project will support FTA program evaluation efforts, data access, and sharing of project results.

Q: What are eligible expenses and activities under the program?

A: AIM Challenge Grant projects are research and development efforts and, as such, FTA Research Circular 6100.1E will be used to administer the program. This circular provides detailed guidance on eligible expenses based on the program’s authorizing statute (49 USC 5312) and government-wide cost principles for Federal awards (2 CFR 200.400–200.475). Eligible activities include all activities leading to the development and implementation of the project such as planning, developing business models, obtaining equipment and services, acquiring or developing software and hardware interfaces to implement the project, project evaluation, and other project-specific expenses.

Applying for the AIM Challenge Grant Funding Opportunity

Q: Was the deadline for submitting an AIM Challenge Grant applications extended? When are applications due?

A: FTA’s AIM Challenge Grants 2020 Notice of Funding Opportunity will now close May 18, 2020, at 11:59 PM EDT.

Q: Can I submit my application by mail or as an email attachment?

A: No. For an application to be considered for funding, it must be submitted electronically through grants.gov.

Q: What forms are required to apply? Can I include other information?

A: Complete proposal submissions consist of two forms—SF-424, Application for Federal Assistance (available at grants.gov), and the AIM Supplemental Form (available at grants.gov or on the FTA website). A complete application must include responses to all sections of form SF-424, Application for Federal Assistance, 5

and the AIM Supplemental Form. Applicants may include additional optional supporting information with their submission, such as letters of support, project budgets, or excerpts from relevant planning documents.

Q: How do I access the AIM Supplemental Form?

A: The AIM Supplemental Form is designed to be filled out digitally, and it must be opened using the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (available free from Adobe’s website) or another compatible PDF reader. The form may not load in all browser viewers, and you may receive an error message if you attempt to open the form in your browser. To view the form, right-click on "aim-2020.pdf" from the AIM Notice of Funding page and choose "Save link as…." Save the file to a convenient and easy-to-access folder location and then open the file on your computer using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

These FAQs do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. These FAQs are intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. Grantees and subgrantees should refer to FTA’s statutes and regulations for applicable research program requirements, as well as the Notice of Funding Opportunity for AIM Challenge Grants, published March 18, 2020.

Last updated: Friday, May 1, 2020