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 video, Harnessing Innovation for Public Transportation.
- On January 19, 2021, FTA announced 37 projects in 35 states and one territory will receive a share of approximately $15.8 million in funding. The awardees will develop and deploy solutions that improve the operational efficiency of transit agencies, as well as enhance the mobility of transit users affected by the COVID–19 public health emergency through the Public Transportation COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant Program. View the project selections.
- On January 5, 2021, FTA posted its Annual Report on Public Transportation Innovation Research Projects for Fiscal Year 2020. This report provides information on safety, mobility innovation and infrastructure projects.
- FTA prioritized innovation for all Fiscal Year 2020 competitive grant programs, encouraging applicants to incorporate innovation. In addition, FTA has invested more than $34 million through the Integrated Mobility Innovation and Accelerating Innovative Mobility programs, which support projects for contactless payment options, transit automation and accelerate mobility initiatives and partnerships that will help drive innovation.
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 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).
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.
Mobility Payment Integration (MPI)
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.
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.
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.