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Frequently Asked Questions

View frequently asked questions on this topic below. Perform a word search to narrow your content or, if this topic has sub-categories, select based on your interest from the drop-down list. Answers to frequently asked questions are provided as guidance.

Answer:

To begin with, it is important to understand the difference between the concepts of “art” and “design.” FTA expects all transit projects to be designed and built by professional architects, engineers, planners, interior and landscape design professionals, and those in other professional trades.  The building and surrounding landscape designs should incorporate aesthetic considerations, including but not limited to decisions regarding the use of light, shape, color, materials, the use of space, and the historic setting to achieve a functional and welcoming public transit facility.  In fact, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “design” in this context as “the arrangement of elements or details in a product[…]” and as “the creative art of executing aesthetic or functional designs.”
Based on this definition, FTA does not interpret the law to exclude or prohibit the functional and aesthetic design of transit stations or related facilities, including designs intended to minimize adverse visual effects on the surrounding community as identified in the environmental review process.  For this reason, FTA will not require grantees to assess the often indeterminate incremental costs associated with functional design elements, including, but not limited to, the use of different types or colors of paint or tile, wayfinding elements intended to direct passengers or staff, or different or alternate construction materials in the design of a transit facility.
In contrast to design, FTA interprets the term “art” in this context as primarily aesthetic objects that do not have a meaningfully functional structural or transit-related purpose. “Art,” within the meaning of the statute, would include, for example, most decorative murals, sculptures, statues, musical installations, or similar objects or elements included for primarily aesthetic purposes.  Accordingly, in the case of primarily aesthetic elements or objects, FTA considers any costs directly associated with or attributable to creating, producing, or installing such elements or objects to be ineligible for FTA grant funding.

Answer:

Pre-construction activities (i.e. planning, NEPA review, preliminary engineering and design) are not required to be on the TIP and STIP prior to incurring costs to be eligible for potential reimbursement under pre-award authority. FTA considers these activities necessary to estimate the cost of a project for inclusion in the TIP and STIP.
All other project activities must be in the TIP and STIP prior to incurring costs.
FTA will determine the eligibility for reimbursement of pre-award activities once a grant is in development and the project has been included in the TIP and STIP.

Answer:

Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.121(a), “each public entity operating a fixed route system shall provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system.” Paratransit service is by nature a shared-ride service. The standard of service is not intended to reflect that of a taxi service, which typically transports passengers directly to their destination. A paratransit trip should be comparable in length to an identical trip on the fixed route system, including the time necessary to travel to the bus stop, wait for the bus, actual riding time, transfers, and travel from the final stop to the person’s ultimate destination.

Answer:

Yes, in the case of projects with scalable options or multiple independent sub-projects, it is permissible for an applicant to reallocate the funds associated with one or more specific sub-projects.  The remaining resilience funded sub-projects must have independent resilience utility, and may be identified based on their location or the specific proposed activity. Recipients are encouraged to identify why the particular sub-project has been chosen for reallocation, for example, if it has a lower benefit-cost balance than the remaining projects.

Answer:

Yes, it is permissible for a recipient to request the reallocation of a portion of a project’s proposed scope, provided that the remaining scope results in a viable project with an independent resilience benefit. In this case, the recipient should submit a revised project budget breakdown reflecting the reduced scope. 

Answer:

Eligible applicants include designated recipients, states, local governmental authorities, and Indian tribes. Eligible subrecipients may partner with eligible recipients but cannot be the primary applicant.

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An eligible recipient may partner with other entities that will assist in implementing the project. If an application that includes a partnership is awarded, then the competition itself fulfills the competitive procurement requirement. This provision only applies to the Low-No Program. Please refer to the Eligible Applicants and Project Implementation Strategy sections in the NOFO for additional information.

Answer:

States may apply for an amount that is less than what is available under the SSO Formula Grant Program. States may ask FTA to later amend the grant to add all or a portion of the remaining available funds until the end of the period of availability, which is one year from the end of the fiscal year that the grant funds are apportioned.

Answer:

Yes. At least until one year after the effective date of a final rule to require public transportation agency safety plans (PTASP) (49 U.S.C. § 5329(d)), a state may use SSO formula grant funding to comply with security requirements under 49 U.S.C. part 659. FTA will issue further guidance on this issue after publication of the final PTASP rule.

Answer:

Yes. At least until one year after the effective date of a final rule to require public transportation agency safety plans (PTASP) (49 U.S.C. § 5329(d)), a state may use SSO formula grant funding to comply with security requirements under 49 U.S.C. part 659. FTA will issue further guidance on this issue after publication of the final Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) rule.

Answer:

No. However, if a transit agency allocates project management or oversight staff time to an otherwise eligible ER project, that time would be an eligible expense for that project.

Answer:

Under the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement between FEMA and FTA, if and when FTA has funding available after a disaster for emergency relief, FTA will be the primary provider of transit-related emergency relief.

Due to the timing of FTA’s Emergency Relief funding becoming available, some transit agencies may have already received reimbursement for hurricane related expenses from FEMA. These reimbursements are allowable under the terms of the FTA-FEMA agreement, however, any expenses previously reimbursed by FEMA are not eligible for assistance under FTA’s ER program.

If a transit agency has disaster expenses under review by FEMA that have not yet been reimbursed , these must be transferred to FTA’s ER program. This includes expenses that have already been submitted to FEMA but have not yet been disbursed.

If a transit agency provided services that are not eligible under the FTA ER program, such as providing emergency shelter or meals to evacuees, the transit agency may seek reimbursement for those expenses from FEMA subject to all applicable FEMA requirements. If the transit agency also provided services eligible under FTA’s ER program, the transit agency may receive funds from both FTA and FEMA.

Answer:

Yes. It’s important to remember, though, that all ADA paratransit service criteria apply:
Origin-to-destination service
Service area (at least ¾-mile on either side of a fixed route)
Response time (next-day, with advance reservation and real-time scheduling permitted)
Fares (not more than twice the regular fixed-route fare for a comparable trip)
No restrictions on trip purpose
Hours and days of service (at least the same as fixed route)
No capacity constraints

Answer:

No, the HMCE analysis should always reflect the total project cost, as the analysis is based on the costs and benefits of the project to society, not to the Federal government. The application should clearly identify both the total project cost and the requested Federal funding amount.

Answer:

No. Environmental justice stems from an executive order from the President of the United States to Federal agencies and is intended to improve the internal management of the Federal government; therefore, it does not create legal rights enforceable by a party against the United States.

Answer:

CNG vehicles are eligible, but CNG-powered vehicles may not be rated as highly as other alternative fuel projects that have lower emission than CNG. Propane-powered vehicles are also eligible. Please refer to Eligible Projects section in the NOFO. Proposed vehicles must make greater reductions in energy consumption and harmful emissions, including direct carbon emissions, than comparable standard buses or other low or no emission buses (49 USC 5339(c)(5)(A).

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ER funds allocated to repair damage to a facility may be used for another eligible project at the discretion of the grant recipient. However, the purchase or construction of a new replacement facility is only eligible if the damaged facility for which funds are allocated is not repairable and must be rebuilt.

Answer:

No. Please see section 4.2.2 “Federal/Local Cost Sharing” in FTA’s Emergency Relief Manual for additional details on matching funds.

Answer:

ER funds cannot be used for projects for which FTA has already obligated funds. For example, if FTA has obligated funding to replace a piece of equipment but before the equipment is replaced it is damaged or destroyed during a disaster, ER funds cannot be used to replace that piece of equipment at a greater Federal share. The previously obligated grant and its corresponding Federal share must be utilized.

However, if a project with an obligated grant is under construction and is damaged, any additional expense to repair the damage may be eligible under the ER program, depending on the type of project, the type of damage, and what entity was responsible for the project at the time of the storm.

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