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FTA awards funds to transit service providers in competitive and formula grants. These funding sources each have specific requirements, funding cycles, and awards processes that should be carefully reviewed.
Applicants and the public are informed of appropriated funding levels through the publication of Annual Apportionments. This listing announces formula and competitive programs that FTA will administer and their appropriated program amounts. When funds are available for a competitive program FTA releases a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) through the Federal Register. This notice provides all the information needed to start the process to apply for a grant, including deadlines, required forms and basic requirements.
Numerous FTA programs include federally recognized Indian tribes or Alaska Native villages, groups, or communities as identified by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as eligible applicants or recipients.
- To be an eligible applicant, an Indian tribe may submit a copy of the most up-to-date Federal Register notice published by BIA: Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Service from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs as evidence of Federal recognition.
- To be an eligible recipient, a federally recognized tribal entity must have the requisite legal, financial, and technical capabilities to receive and administer Federal funds under a specific FTA’s funding program. Additional program requirements determine further program eligibility.
- For instance, applicants to the Tribal Transit Program must be located and provide service in a rural area with a population of 50,000 or less because the program is a set-aside from the Formula Grants for Rural Areas (Section 5311) program.
- A service area can include some portions of urban areas, as long as the tribal transit service begins in and serves rural areas.
- An applicant must be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) database and maintain an active SAM registration with current information when it has an active federal award or an application or plan under consideration by FTA.
- Tribal entities that are not federally recognized remain eligible to apply to the state as a subrecipient for funding under the state's apportionment.
Eligible applicants or recipients of FTA competitive and formula grants vary by program. Competitive awards will list the eligible applicant types in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. Formula programs will list the eligible recipient types on the dedicated FTA program site and/or the program circular. For clarification of program eligibility, contact the FTA Office of Program Management.
Federally recognized Indian tribes or Alaska Native villages, groups, or communities as identified by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are eligible direct recipients and subrecipients for numerous FTA programs. View the full listing of programs for which tribal entities are eligible recipients.
Typically, tribal entities working with FTA are the recipients of FTA’s Tribal Transit Program (TTP) funds. The TTP program provides two different types of funding: formula program funds and competitive program funds.
- Tribal Transit Formula Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5311(c)(1)(B): provides funds directly to tribal entities for the purposes of capital, operating, planning, and administrative expenses for public transit projects that meet the growing needs of rural tribal communities. To access TTP formula program funds, prospective recipients must have reported to the National Transit Database (NTD) in the most recent NTD report year at time of apportionment to be allocated funds under the TTP formula program. This typically means that prospective recipients must have reported to the NTD for two consecutive years before their first TTP formula allocation.
- Tribal Transit Competitive Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5311(c)(1)(A): to access TTP competitive program funds, prospective recipients may respond to a published NOFO and compete for planning, capital, or operating funds for transit projects. Tribal entities that do not currently operate public transportation service may apply to the Tribal Transit competitive program for a planning project or start-up costs.
Additionally, tribal entities are eligible recipients or sub-recipients of several major FTA formula programs, most commonly Sections 5310 and 5311. For further information about the following programs in their states, tribes should contact the state DOT.
- Rural Areas Formula Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5311: provides capital, planning, and operating assistance to states to support public transportation in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000, where many residents often rely on public transit to reach their destinations.
- Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Formula Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5310: Supports transportation services planned, designed, and carried out to meet the special transportation needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities in all areas – large urbanized (over 200,000), small urbanized (50,000-200,000), and rural (under 50,000). Eligible projects include both traditional capital investment and nontraditional investment beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complementary paratransit services.
Tribal entities have also been successful applicants in several other FTA competitive funding opportunities, including:
- Bus and Bus Facilities Competitive Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5339(b): provides funding to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities including technological changes or innovations to modify low or no emission vehicles or facilities.
- Pilot program for innovative coordinated access and mobility, FAST Act § 3006(b): A discretionary pilot program for innovative coordinated access and mobility to assist in financing innovative projects for the transportation disadvantaged that improve the coordination of transportation services and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services.
- Bus and Bus Facilities LoNo Program, 49 U.S.C. § 5339(c): Provides funding for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities.
FTA posts all competitive grant and cooperative agreement opportunities on Grants.gov, the comprehensive government-wide website for announcing competitive grant opportunities. Grants.gov is the single, secure federal website unifying grant programs from 26 federal grant-making agencies.
To access FTA funds for public transportation purposes:
- If you are a new FTA grant recipient, you must submit the following forms and documentation to begin working with FTA.
- Opinion of Counsel letter. This letter cites the legal authority that enables an entity’s eligibility to apply for, receive and spend FTA funds and to provide local match, if required.
- Authorizing Resolution that authorizes an individual(s) to execute and file an application for federal assistance on behalf of the grant applicant with the Federal Transit Administration for federal assistance authorized by 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53, title 23, United States Code, or other federal statutes authorizing a project administered by the Federal Transit Administration.
- Obtain access to FTA’s grant system of record, Transportation Award Management System (TrAMS) to apply for allocated funding and manage awards. The grant recipient must provide following information, forms, and documentation, including but not limited to:
- General contact information for the tribal entity
- TrAMS User Manager Form
- Designation of Signature Authority forms for all users with signature authority for handling various functions in TrAMS
- Obtain access to FTA’s Electronic Clearing House Operation Web (ECHO-Web) system. The ECHO-Web system/application allows FTA grant recipients to request payments from their grant awards.
- Once set up in TrAMS and ECHO-Web, the grant recipient may begin to develop a grant application(s) using the system. FTA staff will provide technical assistance, review, and process the application(s) prior to obligating (awarding) grant funds.
- If you are a current or returning FTA grant recipient, you must provide/submit the following on an annual or as-needed basis, including but not limited to:
- The annual Certifications and Assurances for FTA grants and cooperative agreements
- Maintain access to TrAMS by submitting updates to the following forms, as needed:
- TrAMS User Manager Form
- Once awards have been obligated by FTA, recipients must obtain access from FTA to the Electronic Clearing House Operation Web (ECHO-Web) to submit reimbursement requests to draw down FTA grant funds.
Additional Program Guidance
- FTA issues guidance on the administration and preparation of grant applications for various funding programs, often in the form of program circulars, to provide instructions to grantees or other stakeholders on how FTA grants will be administered. This guidance provides grantees with direction on program specific issues and statutory requirements. Grantees are required to comply with all circulars after signing the agreement accepting federal financial assistance. Some key program circulars:
- Award Management Requirements Circular (5010.1E). Assists recipients in administering FTA-funded projects and in meeting award responsibilities and reporting requirements. Recipients have a responsibility to comply with regulatory requirements and to be aware of all pertinent material to assist in the management of FTA federally assisted awards.
- Formula Grants for Rural Areas: Program Guidance and Application Instructions (9040.1G). Guidance on the administration and preparation of grant applications for the Formula Grants for Rural Area Program under 49 U.S.C 5311. A section is dedicated to the Tribal Transit Program.
- Third Party Contracting Guidance (4220.1F). Provides contracting guidance for recipients of federal assistance awarded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) when using that federal assistance to finance its procurements (third-party contracts).
- FTA Programs
- TrAMS Guidance and Training
- For TrAMS grant budget development, use Scope & Activity Line Codes
Additional Resources for Tribal Entities
- TAM for Tribes – Transit Asset Management Final Rule guidance for tribal recipients
- DOT Resources for Tribes and Tribal Governments
- FTA Tribal Consultation
- FHWA/BIA Tribal Transportation Program Coordinating Committee
Tribal Transit Technical Assistance Assessments
FTA does not conduct oversight reviews of tribal recipients. Since 2015, FTA has conducted Tribal Transit Technical Assistance Assessments designed to provide technical assistance to Tribes that are direct recipients of Tribal Transit Program funding. Areas of review include financial management and capacity, technical capacity, transit asset management, maintenance, procurement, charter bus restrictions, and other program requirements.
Each year, FTA identifies tribal recipients that could benefit from an assessment, considering geographic diversity, overall recipient coverage, and independent requests from tribes. An assessment consists of a desk review prior to the visit with assistance from FTA Region staff, an on-site visit with tailored technical assistance, and follow-up assistance on an as-needed basis for up to 90 days following the visit.
To indicate interest in a site visit, tribal recipients should notify their regional Tribal Liaison.
Technical Assistance Centers
FTA sponsors Technical Assistance Centers to facilitate direct assistance and training to transit operators. In addition to the comprehensive list of Technical Assistance Partnerships, some of the centers most relevant to tribal recipients include:
- National Rural Transportation Assistance Program (NRTAP): Offers direct and tailored technical assistance to tribal transit providers. Addresses the training and technical assistance needs of rural and tribal transit programs across the nation and supports state RTAP programs. National RTAP provides comprehensive free technical assistance programs and resources including training materials, webinars, newsletters and technical briefs, peer resources, research, and innovative technology initiatives.
- National Center on Mobility Management (NCMM): Helps communities adopt transportation strategies and mobility options that empower people to live independently, and advance health, economic vitality and self-sufficiency. NCMM provides capacity-building technical assistance and training; catalogs and disseminates best practice information on innovative mobility management programs around the country; and works to improve and enhance the coordination of federal resources for human service transportation, especially for people with disabilities, older adults and people with lower incomes.
- National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC): Promotes the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve the needs of people with disabilities, seniors and caregivers with a focus on the Section 5310 program and other transit investments. The NADTC provides technical assistance, information and referral; develops field training; implements interactive communication and outreach strategies; and supports communities in assessing their needs and developing innovative transportation solutions.
- National Center for Applied Transit Technology (N-CATT): Expert, focused technical assistance to transit agencies and organizations in rural areas and small cities to use or develop transit technologies and innovations that make services more cost-effective and efficient.
On October 2, 2019, the Department of Transportation issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would establish a Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program (TTSGP) pursuant to Section 1121 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (23 U.S.C. 207). Comments were due December 2, 2019.
The Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) is a federal interagency council established by Executive Order in 2004. The CCAM issues policy recommendations and implements activities that improve the availability, accessibility, and efficiency of transportation for the following targeted populations: older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals of low income.
Each year, FTA publishes a dedicated table for the Public Transportation on Indian Reservations (Tribal Transit Program) formula program. This table lists each formula recipient and the amount apportioned based on annual appropriations and program authorization.
Final project selections for individual competitive programs are posted in the Federal Register, on the program page, and announced through GovDelivery and press releases. These listings provide the transit system name, location, dollar amount awarded, and highlight project information.
Following the announcement of final project selections for competitive awards, applicants have 30 days to request a debrief to discuss their submissions.
The contents of this page and linked documents do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. These contents are intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.