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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Research & Innovation

The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) mission is to improve public transportation in America’s communities. In support of this mission, FTA’s research vision is to advance public transportation by accelerating innovation that improves mobility, enhances transit operations, and ensures safety for all.

Learn more about FTA’s research program in our latest video, Harnessing Innovation for Public Transportation.

What's New

Overview

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. 

Safety


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)

Activities

Safety and Research Demonstration 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 Standards Development Program

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). 

Mobility Innovation


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.  

Activities

Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM)

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.

Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI)

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.

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox

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.

Transit Bus Automation Research

This research area focuses on studying the application of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotics to public transit.

Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI)

The ATTRI initiative identifies, coordinates, develops and implements transformative solutions to advance accessible transportation and independent mobility.

Mobility Payment Integration (MPI)

MPI positions FTA to understand advanced and evolving technologies for transit payment systems and throughout the transportation network.

Infrastructure


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.

Activities

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.

Bus Compartment Redesign Program

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.

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.

Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP)

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.

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

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.