Research & Innovation
The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) mission is to enable a robust public transportation network that connects communities and protects the environment.
Learn more about FTA’s research program in our video, Harnessing Innovation for Public Transportation.
- In August 2021, FTA published the following:
- An Evaluation of the Valley Metro–Waymo Automated Vehicle RideChoice Mobility on Demand Demonstration (Report 0198): This report documents the evaluation of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority's (Valley Metro) pilot that used Waymo autonomous vehicles (AVs) as certified vehicles for Valley Metro’s RideChoice program, a subsidized curb-to-curb individual mobility service (via taxi or ride-hailing services) for paratransit-certified people under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and for older adults age 65 and over living in Greater Phoenix.
- Emergency Lighting and Signage for Rail Transit Passenger Vehicles (Report 0199): This report includes the results of a study that collected information necessary to issue recommendations, voluntary standards, or guidance documents related to emergency lighting and signage for rail transit passenger vehicles.
- Inward- and Outward-facing Audio and Video Recordings for Transit Rail Vehicles (Report 0200): This report documents the research necessary to assist APTA in developing a recommended practice for the industry to install inward- and outward-facing cameras and audio recorders, consistent with The National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) recommendation to FTA, R-17-13.
- On August 13, 2021, FTA announced a $545,000 Notice of Funding Opportunity under the Research to Practice (R2P) Program to support FTA research activities by identifying strategies to promote widespread adoption of innovative solutions that will improve public transportation for America’s communities. In addition, this initiative will identify the best communication methods for sharing FTA’s vast portfolio of past research with public transportation professionals. Apply by October 12, 2021.
- On August 2, 2021, FTA announced the selection of The International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC) to serve as FTA’s national Transit Workforce Center. The Silver Spring, MD-based organization will receive $5 million to establish and run FTA’s first national technical assistance center to help transit agencies recruit, hire, train, and retain a diverse workforce needed now and in the future. FTA anticipates the Transit Workforce Center will be operational in late fall 2021.
FTA strives to improve operations, enhance the travelers’ experience, and drive economic growth in America’s communities through research in safety, mobility innovation, and infrastructure.
Passengers boarding a light rail train (picture taken prior to COVID-19).
FTA’s Safety research program provides leadership in developing and managing initiatives that improve the safety of passengers, transit workers, emergency responders, and others who encounter the public transportation system. FTA supports research on technologies and practices that can reduce fatalities and injuries, improve safety culture, identify hazards and risk, and assess processes that can help transit agencies operate public systems more safely. (Also see FTA’s Safety & Oversight program)
This program builds a portfolio of demonstration projects that provides technical and financial support for transit agencies to pursue innovative approaches to eliminate or mitigate safety hazards.
FTA works with public transportation industry organizations to develop, modify and enhance voluntary safety standards as well as expand and reestablish partnerships with Standard Development Organizations (SDOs).
Passengers boarding a rural transportation bus while one passenger uses a trip planner to map an integrated trip (picture taken prior to COVID-19).
FTA’s research improves public transportation services by providing new mobility options that increase geographic coverage and service times, address "last mile" issues for travelers, and ensure accessibility. FTA uses emerging and innovative technologies and facilitates public-private partnerships to create a user-centric approach that improves mobility options for all travelers.
The Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) program supports innovation throughout the transit industry by promoting forward-thinking approaches to improve transit system design, service, and financing.
The IMI Program demonstrates innovative and effective practices, partnerships and technologies to enhance public transportation effectiveness, increase efficiency, expand quality, promote safety and improve the traveler experience.
FTA’s Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox initiative supports transit agencies and communities as they integrate new mobility tools like smartphone apps, bike- and car-sharing, and demand-responsive bus and van services.
This research area focuses on studying the application of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotics to public transit.
The ATTRI initiative identifies, coordinates, develops and implements transformative solutions to advance accessible transportation and independent mobility.
MPI positions FTA to understand advanced and evolving technologies for transit payment systems and throughout the transportation network.
Natural gas buses parked at a bus garage.
FTA has a successful history of supporting transformative transportation infrastructure research and demonstration projects. FTA explores advances in technology to enhance public transportation operations across all aspects of system services –the design of buses, maintaining and managing important transit assets, and ensuring a state of good repair.
Low or No (LoNo) Emission Component Assessment Program (LoNo-CAP)
The LoNo-CAP program conducts testing, evaluation, and analysis of low or no (LoNo) emission vehicle components intended for use in low or no emission vehicles.
Low or No (LoNo) Emission Bus Testing Centers
This program establishes, operates, and maintains facilities to conduct testing of new LoNo emission bus models.
This program funds the development of new transit bus operator compartment designs in partnership with bus manufacturers, technology vendors, vehicle engineering and design firms, and transit agencies.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
The focus of this research area is to identify the application of UAS technology to public transportation systems, with a focus on two use cases permitted under current regulation: infrastructure inspection and disaster response and recovery.
Real-Time Transit Infrastructure and Rolling Stock Condition Assessment Research and Demonstration Program
The program funds innovative approaches to eliminate or mitigate infrastructure deficiencies in public transportation using innovative technologies and designs.
The program supports research that improves operational efficiency and enhances the mobility of transit users affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Additional Supportive Research Programs
TCRP research report covers.
FTA supports programs and projects that address cross-cutting issues associated with the three research priorities—Safety, Infrastructure, and Mobility Innovation— and to support research-to-practice implementation.
Operated through the Transportation Research Board (TRB), TCRP provides applied research that addresses key challenges facing the public transportation industry. Recently published research reports tackle critical issues such as public-private partnerships, value-capture financing, shared-use mobility, rail transit safety, emergency response, and multiagency electronic fare payment systems.
The goal of FTA’s SBIR program is to help small businesses grow by funding product development research in strategic areas such as safety, infrastructure, mobility, and other topics important to transit. The program helps invest in promising early-stage innovations that may otherwise be too high of a risk for private investors.
Technology Transfer and Performance
This program serves as a framework through which the implementation of research and technology developed, with FTA research funds, and that advances the interests of public transportation is disseminated throughout the US. This program also monitors, reports on, and improves outreach efforts to drive bringing research to practice.