Research & Innovation
- Join FTA as we develop our five-year research strategic plan. We want your input on opportunities for transit research and innovation. The Future of Public Transportation online dialogue, is open through January 5, 2024. We are partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor to get input from a wide range of stakeholders, especially transit riders. Go to the online dialogue to post your idea; review, comment, and vote on others’ input.
- On October 13, 2023, FTA announced funding for the Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems (ADCMS) Program. FTA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) solicits proposals from organizations interested in accelerating the use of advanced digital management systems in the transit industry to improve the delivery of transit infrastructure projects.
- The NOFO makes approximately $5.1 million available for an organization to promote digitally based systems that integrate every step of a capital project -- from planning through asset management -- to ensure projects stay on schedule and on budget. Project proposals are due February 12, 2024.
- FTA held a webinar for potential applicants on Thursday, October 26, 2023. The presentation is available here.
- On August 15, 2023, FTA posted the Federal Transit Administration National Transit Workforce Development Strategic Plan 2023 to 2028, which outlines goals and objectives to address workforce challenges and opportunities in the public transportation industry. The plan has six overarching goals: ensuring worker safety and health, investing in workforce development, driving workforce recruitment, ensuring worker retention, developing worker skills, and tracking success through appropriate metrics.
- On August 9, 2023, FTA announced a grant for $500,000 under a cooperative agreement with the University of South Florida for a research project to help transit agencies address transit worker and rider assaults. The project will identify public safety risks for transit workers and riders, determine the most effective mitigation strategies to minimize those risks, and promote the implementation of those strategies.
FTA strives to improve operations, enhance travelers’ experiences, and drive economic growth in America’s communities through research in safety, mobility innovation, and infrastructure.
FTA supports the U.S. DOT’s Smart Cities initiative through the Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM), Enhancing Mobility Innovation (EMI), Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI), and Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox programs and partnership with the Shared-Use Mobility Center. Smart, connected communities improve the quality of life through developing innovative technologies, fostering partnerships, and leveraging data to enhance equitable, accessible mobility for all.
Transit Frontline Worker Recruitment Campaign Toolkit
The FTA-supported Transit Workforce Center created a #ConnectingMyCommunity toolkit to help transit agencies address the national shortage of bus operators and maintenance staff. As transit agencies look to the future, a diverse and robust workforce is critical. The toolkit provides sample strategies, tips, and ready-to-use materials to design effective recruitment campaigns and offers:
- Templates for commercial scripts
- Postcard mailers
- Exhibit banners
- Talking points for public meetings
- Social media postings
- Informational video scripts
- Letters of introduction
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. See FTA’s Safety & Oversight Program for additional details.
The Cybersecurity Program supports the development of cybersecurity research strategies for transit that align with other cybersecurity research across the U.S. DOT and other federal agencies, address current and future cybersecurity concerns and make transit systems cyber-resilient.
The FTA Standards Development Program 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.
The Public Transportation COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant Program supports research that improves operational efficiency and enhances the mobility of transit users affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The Safety and Research Demonstration 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.
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 AIM Program supports innovation throughout the transit industry by promoting forward-thinking approaches to improve transit system design, service, and financing.
The Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) initiative identifies, coordinates, develops, and implements transformative solutions to advance accessible transportation and independent mobility.
The EMI Program supports innovations in passenger-centric mobility that improve mobility and enhance riders' experiences, including software solutions to facilitate demand response public transportation.
The IMI Program demonstrates innovative and effective practices, partnerships, and technologies to enhance public transportation effectiveness, increase efficiency, expand quality, promote safety, and improve travelers' experiences.
Mobility, Access & Transportation Insecurity: Creating Links to Opportunity Research and Demonstration Program
FTA will partner with one organization as program lead to develop and implement a research and demonstration program to improve access to affordable transportation options for everyday destinations and demonstrate the value of those options in reducing barriers to transportation and opportunity.
FTA’s MOD Sandbox initiative supports transit agencies and communities as they integrate new mobility tools such as smartphone apps, bike- and car-sharing, and demand-responsive bus and van services.
Mobility Payment Integration positions FTA to understand advanced and evolving technologies for transit payment systems and throughout the transportation network.
The transit bus automation research area focuses on studying the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics to public transit.
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 — designing buses, maintaining and managing important transit assets, and ensuring a state of good repair.
The Bus Compartment Redesign 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.
The Bus Exportable Power Systems (BEPS) Program builds on BEPS technologies developed under previous FTA projects and funds the development of interoperable BEPS standards.
Low or No Emission Component Assessment Program
The Low or No Emission Component Assessment Program conducts testing, evaluation, and analysis of low or no emission vehicle components intended for use in low or no emission vehicles.
Real-Time Transit Infrastructure and Rolling Stock Condition Assessment Research and Demonstration Program
The Real-Time Transit Infrastructure and Rolling Stock Condition Assessment Research and Demonstration Program funds innovative approaches to eliminate or mitigate infrastructure deficiencies in public transportation using innovative technologies and designs.
Unmanned Aerial Systems
The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) research area aims 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.
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.
Small Business Innovation Research Program
The goal of FTA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program 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 present too many risks to private investors.
Technology Transfer and Performance
The Technology Transfer and Performance 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.
Operated through the Transportation Research Board, the Transit Cooperative Research Program 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.