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Research & Innovation

What's New

  • On November 22, 2022, FTA released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to provide up to $3 million for a cooperative agreement to an organization to perform a detailed industry assessment and develop standards, best practices, guidance, and tools in safety and other areas to address industry needs and demands. The NOFO builds on a prior FTA program that developed reports consisting of gap analyses and recommendations for transit standards development. Project proposals are due on February 6, 2023.
    • FTA hosted a webinar on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
  • The Transportation Learning Center and National Transit Institute hosted the Making Connections 2022: The National Transit Workforce Conference on December 13–14, 2022, in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together participants from urban, suburban, rural, and tribal public transportation and industry stakeholders in plenaries, workshops, networking, and ongoing dialogue. Discussions and sessions at this year’s conference included recruitment and retention, training, mentoring and apprenticeships, new technologies, preparing today’s and tomorrow's workforce, and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. 
  • On September 22, 2022, FTA announced a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) to solicit proposals from organizations interested in advancing research into transit bus automation through demonstrations of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and automaton of bus movements in transit bus yards. The NOFO provides $6.5 million for these demonstrations under the Public Transportation Innovation Program. Project proposals were due November 21, 2022. 
    • FTA hosted a webinar for potential applicants on October 6, 2022. Click here for FAQs.

Overview

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

Female transit operator

Safety


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.

Activities

FTA Standards Development Program

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. 

Public Transportation COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant Program

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.

Safety and Research Demonstration Program

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. 

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

The AIM Program supports innovation throughout the transit industry by promoting forward-thinking approaches to improve transit system design, service, and financing.

Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative

The Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) initiative identifies, coordinates, develops, and implements transformative solutions to advance accessible transportation and independent mobility.

Enhancing Mobility Innovation

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.

Integrated Mobility Innovation

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.

Mobility on Demand Sandbox

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

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

Transit Bus Automation Research

The transit bus automation research area focuses on studying the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics to public transit.

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 — designing buses, maintaining and managing important transit assets, and ensuring a state of good repair.

Activities

Bus Compartment Redesign Program

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.

Bus Exportable Power Systems

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.

Transit Cooperative Research Program

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.