Can FTA's Programs Provide Funding for Emerging Shared Mobility Services?
It depends. FTA grant recipients are responsible for ensuring FTA funds are used for eligible expenses. The eligibility of shared mobility services will depend largely on the specific contracts entered into between FTA recipients and third parties, such as shared mobility operators. When structuring such contracts, grantees should consider whether the terms of service will meet the legal definition of public transportation, for example, or whether such service may be permitted as an alternative to public transportation within several of FTA’s grant programs.
FTA funds may be used to reimburse recipients for expenses associated with public transportation capital projects, and in some cases, for the costs of operating transit service. The statutory definition (49 U.S.C. § 5302) of public transportation is “regular, continuing shared-ride surface transportation services that are open to the general public or a segment of the general public defined by age, disability or low-income.”
Examples of eligible public transportation capital projects include constructing waiting or pick-up/drop off areas at a transit facility, or providing information technology (IT) systems that support the use of shared mobility services.
When federal public transportation law allows funding for transit operating expenses, such as in small urban and rural areas, or for job access and reverse commute activities and ADA paratransit services, FTA may reimburse a transit agency for the costs of contracting with a shared mobility operator to provide shared ride service to the general public. This may be an option for off-peak services or first-mile/last-mile transportation. Where contract services are used, the transit agency must ensure that civil rights obligations continue to be met, as noted in the Americans with Disabilities Act FAQs.
In addition, FTA funds may also be used to support operating or capital costs for alternatives to public transportation, particularly under the Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities (Section 5310) program or as a job access and reverse commute project under FTA’s rural and urban formula programs. Such costs may include the costs of contracting with a taxi company or shared mobility operator to provide exclusive ride service or for voucher programs.