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Frequently Asked Questions

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Answer: Using an SMS framework, the public transportation industry, the States and FTA can address gaps identified in recent accidents regarding safety accountability, safety communication, hazard management, and resource allocation. For example, SMS provides tools to require accountability for decisions affecting safety and to ensure that executive leadership fully understands and accepts identified risks. To make sure that the organization is doing what it is required to do in safety plans and procedures, SMS offers safety assurance techniques that complement existing system safety audit and review functions. Other SMS practices promote greater communication, discussion and understanding of safety issues and concerns through training, enhanced work practices, and improved labor-management partnerships.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.131(b), paratransit service must be provided to eligible individuals on a next-day basis (i.e., at any time tomorrow in response to a request made today). Section 37.133 permits the use of subscription service (i.e., trips provided to eligible ADA paratransit riders who make trips on a repeated or recurring basis, such as to school, work, religious services, dialysis treatment, etc.), as long as it does not absorb more than 50% of the available trips at a given time of day. Section 37.133(b) permits a transit operator to provide subscription service above the 50% ceiling if it finds it has excess capacity available (i.e., all requests for next-day service are met, and capacity to provide additional trips remains). If, after constant monitoring, it finds next-day requestors are being denied trips, the operator must either increase its passenger carrying capacity or reduce the number of subscription trips. Note that subscription service is discretionary and is not mandated by Section 37.133. Whether to provide subscription service beyond the 50% ceiling, or whether to provide subscription service at all, is entirely within the transit agency's discretion.
Answer: The Circular does not eliminate the use of “thresholds” for determining the presence of an EJ population. The Circular cautions grantees not to be too reliant on thresholds to serve as a “bright line” for identifying impacted populations. A very small minority or low-income population (statistically “insignificant”) in the project, study or planning area does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high and adverse effect on these populations. For instance, you could have a project with a geographic unit of 20% EJ population, which may not trigger further analysis compared to a 35% regional EJ population. Disregarding that geographic unit could be short sighted because it is possible there could be a disproportionate impact on the 20% EJ population for a given factor. If you were strictly enforcing a 50% EJ population threshold, this area would have been missed. EJ determinations are ultimately based on effects, not on population size; therefore, it is important to consider the comparative impact of an action among different population groups. Furthermore, meaningful identification and public involvement of EJ populations is the core principle of an effective EJ analysis.
Answer: No. FTA’s EJ Circular 4703.1, published in August 2012, does not introduce new requirements. FTA developed the Circular to clarify existing requirements, reiterate the importance of environmental justice considerations in transportation planning and project development, and to focus attention on examples of good practice.
Answer: Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations cover both public and private entities; however, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) oversight authority extends only to public entities. For ADA issues involving private transportation, such as charter, tour, and motor-coach companies, please contact the U.S. Department of Justice. Information on how to file a complaint may be found on the U.S. Department of Justice ADA homepage at http://www.ada.gov. You may also reach them on their toll-free, ADA Information Line: 1-800-514-0301 (TDD 1-800-514-0383).
Answer: FTA prior approval is not needed for force account plans (including justifications for use of force account) for purposes of emergency response and recovery work. Grantees are encouraged to update force account plans as needed for response and recovery projects on which force account labor will be used. For force account work to qualify for an allocation under Category 3, there needs to be evidence that the grantee had budgeted the expense prior to January 29, 2013.For more information about Force Account Plans, please see FTA Circular 5010.1D, "Grant Management Requirements, October 1, 2008, Chapter IV (PDF)."
Answer: No. The HMCE tool treats expected damages and historic damages in the same manner to estimate project benefits. However, because expected damages and historic damages are determined differently, there are different rules for their use (described below), and the HMCE tool cannot conduct an analysis based on a combination of expected and historic damages. Historic damages are based on records from actual past disaster events. Since the recurrence intervals (RIs) of historic damage events may be known or unknown, the HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of historic damages with events of known RIs, unknown RIs, or a combination unknown and known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Historic damages must be documented based on damage reports, insurance claims, or other historic records. Expected damages are based on damages predicted from a theoretical model or engineering analysis. For this reason, expected damages tend to be more difficult to justify than historic damages, and unlike historic damage events, the RIs of expected damage events must be known. The HMCE tool is capable of conducting analyses of expected damages with one or more events of known RIs. (Refer to the HMCE Tool User Guide for additional details.) Expected damages must be documented based on complete theoretical damage models, engineering analysis, or applicable historic damages with similar characteristics.
Answer: It depends. The rationale for the taxicab exception is the same for ride-sourcing companies when a public transit agency has a contractual or other arrangement with two or more ride-sourcing companies or taxicab companies to provide a specific service or type of service, and the public transit passenger chooses among the providers. In this case, the public transit agency would have to contract with at least two ride-sourcing companies and/or taxicab companies to ensure the passenger has a choice of which provider to contact for a ride. There may be some situations in which a public transit agency contracts with two or more ride-sourcing companies as well as one or more taxicab companies in order to ensure the service is available for all passengers. For example, the taxicab company may be the only contractor with accessible vehicles, or may be the only contractor able to schedule trips over the phone or accept cash payment from passengers. While some passengers may have only one choice, this does not change the fact that many passengers will have more than one choice, and so the taxicab exception will apply to all of the providers.
Answer: Yes. The drug and alcohol regulation (49 CFR part 655) extends the controlled substance and alcohol testing requirement to employees of contractors performing a safety sensitive function. This includes the independent drivers of a ridesourcing company contracting with a public transportation agency. FTA has consistently interpreted the regulation (49 CFR part 655) to include contractors who do not directly engage in public transportation operations, including taxicab operators, if the taxicab exception does not apply. The exception states: In accordance with the current rule (49 CFR Part 655), "the drug and alcohol testing rules apply when the transit provider enters into a contract with one or more entitites to provide taxi service. The rules do not apply when then patron (using subsidized vouchers) selects the taxi company that provides the transit service….[This policy] recognizes the practical difficulty of administering a drug and alcohol testing program to entitites that only incidentally provide taxi service on behalf of a transportation service. 66 FR 41996, August 9, 2001."
Answer: All vehicles must complete Altoona testing prior to receiving FTA funds. Applicants should specify whether their intended bus models have already completed testing, and if not, provide a proposed timeline for completing FTA’s Bus Testing requirements and provide assurance that the proposed model will successfully complete testing prior to deployment. This information should be included in the Project Implementation Strategy section. In no case will FTA reimburse an agency for costs associated with vehicles that have not completed testing.
Answer: FTA is relying on the local coordination process, as documented in updated metropolitan planning agreements between the MPO, transit providers, and State, to define the approach for how the MPO will integrate the information obtained from multiple transit providers into the MPO’s target setting and MTP and TIP planning process.
Answer: It depends on how it is related to the project. Data collection could qualify as incidental project management expenses associated with a Low-No partnership. Applicants would need to define how these expenses are a part of the project implementation strategy and are directly associated with acquiring these vehicles and deploying them in regular service.
Answer: MAP-21 included a new provision specific to vanpool services. The law allows a vanpool provider to use revenues in excess of its operating expenses to acquire rolling stock as long as the private provider and the grantee enter into an agreement that specifies the private provider will use the rolling stock in the grantee’s service area. Therefore, the amount in excess revenues and other capital, less operating expenses and any governmental assistance could be used by the grantee as a credit toward the local match.
Answer: If the RFP has been issued, but the contract has not yet been awarded, the project meets the test for eligibility under Category 2.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.131(a)(1)(i), transit entities must “provide complementary paratransit service to origins and destinations within corridors with a width of three-fourths of a mile on each side of each fixed route.” The measurement to destinations within the three-fourths of a mile corridor on each side of a fixed route is measured “as the crow flies” and does not vary based upon driving distance.
Answer: FTA recognizes that some transit providers may not have had complete data available to set their initial targets by January 1, 2017, which in some cases may be leading to ongoing delays for the transit providers to share with the MPO. In these cases, once the transit agency(s) submits its performance targets to the MPO, it should coordinate with all transit providers in the metropolitan area to set the MPO’s initial targets within 180 days. FTA will not require deviation from normal planning cycles, as per 23 U.S.C 134(l): The Secretary shall not require a state to deviate from its established planning update cycle to implement changes made by this section.
Answer: No. Please see the response to the question regarding non-resilience benefits. In accordance with the intent of the program, the HMCE analysis is designed to only assess the resilience benefits of a proposed project, which are those that are realized in the event of a natural disaster.
Answer: Each State should work with its Regional Office on the exact terms of the grant, and how it will be administered and amended.
Answer: FTA’s new vanpool policy and Transportation Development Credits (TDC) are similar in that they both apply to the local share of a grant and permit the non-federal share of a project’s cost to be met through a credit or “soft match”. The outcome of using TDC or this vanpool policy means that FTA, in essence, provides 100 percent of the total net project cost.
Answer: No. At this time, DOT does not intend to establish a DOT-wide grantmaking system.

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