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Frequently Asked Questions

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. FTA recipients and subrecipients should refer to FTA’s statutes and regulations for applicable requirements.

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The HOPE program provides funding for planning, including a planning and environmental linkages study that advances the environmental analysis and review process as part of the metropolitan planning process engineering, technical studies, or financial plans that improve transit services or facilities in areas of persistent poverty.

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An area of persistent poverty is a county with 20 percent or more of the population living in poverty over the 30 years preceding the date of enactment of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, or December 20, 2019, as measured by the 1990 and 2000 decennial census and the most recent Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates.  Alternatively, data to support eligibility may also be from any census tract with a poverty rate of at least 20 percent as measured by the 2013-2017, 5-year data series available from the American Community Survey of the Census Bureau. See the map and list of areas that meet those criteria

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Eligible applicants are defined as eligible recipients or sub-recipients Section 5307, Section 5310 or Section 5311 funding.  A State Department of Transportation may apply on behalf of eligible entities within its state. 

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Eligible projects for HOPE funds include planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans for projects eligible under Chapter 53 of title 49 United States Code. 

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Eligible Projects will be selected based upon the following criteria:

Demonstration of Need:  The quality and extent to which they demonstrate how the proposed activities will support planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans that would result in a project eligible for funding under Chapter 53 of Title 49 United States Code. 

Demonstration of Benefits:  How the proposed planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans that address the existing condition of the transit system, improve the reliability of transit service for its riders, enhance access and mobility within the service area, or accelerate innovation in areas of persistent poverty.

System Condition: The potential for the planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans to lead to an improvement in the condition of the transit system in areas of persistent poverty.

Service Reliability: The potential for the planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans to lead to a reduction in the frequency of breakdowns or other service interruptions caused by the age and condition of the agency’s bus fleet, and improve system reliability. 

Enhanced Access and Mobility: The potential for the planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans to lead to improved access and mobility for the transit riding public, such as through increased reliability, improved headways, creation of new transportation choices or eliminating gaps in the current route network. 

Accelerating Innovation: The potential for the planning, engineering, or development of technical, or financing plans to accelerate the introduction of innovative technologies or practices such as integrated fare payment systems permitting complete trips or advancements to propulsion systems.  Innovation can also include practices such as new public transportation operational models, financial or procurement arrangements, or value capture strategies.

Emissions Reductions: The potential for the planning study, engineering study, or development of technical, or financing plans with a project partner to lead to reduced vehicle emissions as a potential outcome.

Barriers to Low Income Housing: The degree to which the planning study, engineering study, or technical or financial plans identify proposed actions that reduce regulatory barriers that unnecessarily raise the costs of housing development or impede the development of affordable housing.

Regional Support:  Evidence of regional or local support for the proposed project.  Documentation may include support letters from local and regional planning organizations, local governmental officials, public agencies and/or non-profit or private sector partners attesting to the need for the project.

Improving Rural Transportation:  Consistent with the Department's R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative (https://www.transportation.gov/rural), the Department recognizes that rural transportation networks face unique challenges. To the extent that those challenges are reflected in the merit criteria listed in this section, FTA will consider how the activities proposed in the application will address those challenges, regardless of the geographic location of those activities.

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The FTA anticipates that the maximum grant award will not exceed $850,000, but the actual award amount may be lower, so that additional projects may be funded.

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The local, non-federal minimum share of the project cost is 10 percent of the total project cost.

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Yes. In-kind match is permissible provided the match is eligible and documented.

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Yes, provided that such entities coordinate with an eligible recipient of Section 5307, 5310, or 5311 funds or with your State Department of Transportation to develop your application and partnership agreements that support the application.

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The steps listed below will enable you to access the 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-year Data Series in order to view the percentage of the population at or below the poverty level for all census tracts in the United States.

  • Navigate to the Census poverty map
  • From the U.S. map displayed, locate and click on the census tract(s) of interest
  • Click 'Select,' which will highlight the selected census tract with shading
  • Click 'Table,' and the "Percent Below Poverty Level (Estimate)" statistic for the selected census tract will be displayed on the top row, 2nd column from the right-hand side.
  • Census tracts with 20% or greater of their population below the poverty level qualify as 'areas of persistent poverty.'
Answer:

No. Any recipient or subrecipient of Section 5307, Section 5310 or Section 5311 funding may apply directly through Grants.Gov for a HOPE award. However, as an option, a State Department of Transportation or designated recipient of FTA funding may apply on behalf of a recipient or subrecipient who receives Section 5307, Section 5310, or Section 5311 funds. This may be advantageous if the applicant has limited experience or resources for applying directly for Federal funding.

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Yes. If a subrecipient is awarded funding under the HOPE Program, it is advantageous for the State DOT or designated recipient of FTA funding with experience in FTA’s Transit Award Management System (TrAMS), to administer grant processing for the subrecipient, particularly if the subrecipient does not have experience administering a grant directly. In such cases, it is advisable for the subrecipient to discuss this possible role with the State or designated recipient before they submit their application in Grants.Gov.

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Yes, as stated in the HOPE Notice of Funding Opportunity, non-profit partners can be named in this grant, and DOT’s award competition would satisfy the requirement for a competitive procurement under 49 U.S.C. 5325(a). However, applicants are advised to be specific in their application with regard to the work the identified non-profit partner will perform. It is important for FTA to know the extent of the work being done by that non-profit organization when reviewing the application.

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No. The HOPE program is intended to fund new planning, environmental, technical and environmental studies.  Each application for funding will be evaluated based upon its merits and how the project meets the criteria in the NOFO. A project that has already incurred costs will not be considered eligible for a HOPE award. However, feel free to describe in your application how your proposed HOPE-funded project, as a separate, new effort, may enhance the effectiveness of other, separately-funded, work.

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No. An existing contract for private consultant services may not be utilized for the proposed HOPE-funded work unless all competition requirements are satisfied. Per 2 CFR 200.319(a), all procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner that provides full and open competition, eliminates unfair competitive advantage, and ensures objective contractor performance. Applicants also must avoid creating situations that would unfairly favor a private firm that may have helped develop the HOPE application or preclude other firms from competing.

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No. While a maximum number of months for conducting the study is not identified in the NOFO, we are expecting most applicants to propose a start-to-finish timeframe in the range of 24 to 36-months. If you believe a time frame of longer than 36 months is needed, please make the reasons for this as clear as possible in your application.

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