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Standards Development Program

Collage of four images consisting of a bus, light rail train, heavy railcar and Standards Development report cover and pages.

What's New

  • FTA is working with the American Public Transportation Association and its partner, the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), to identify current and future priorities for new standards development. This survey is meant to gather responses from a wide section of our industry – transit agency personnel across disciplines (operations, maintenance, safety, human resources, procurement, technology/systems groups, etc.) and within each transit mode – rail, bus, paratransit ferry, etc., transit industry associations, members of the academic community and other researchers, federal and state agency employees, consultants, industry vendors/business groups, and others.
  • On September 14, 2023, FTA published a link to Mobility Standards and Guidelines Resources (MSGR) tool. This tool was developed with the goal to provide information on available standards, open-source specifications, and case studies associated with the interoperability among various components of the Mobility on Demand (MOD)/Mobility as a Service (MaaS) ecosystem.
  • On August 4, 2023, FTA announced the selection of a multi-organizational team led by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to carry out the new FTA Standards Development Program (SDP). The goal of FTA’s new SDP is to develop voluntary standards, best practices, guidance and tools for the transit industry. Transit standards enable transit agencies to benefit from new technologies and operate their systems consistently and efficiently, and ensure manufacturers meet specific performance criteria, including safety, interoperability, and data integration. The project will begin with APTA and its partners performing broad engagement and assessment of industry needs, evaluation, and prioritization.


The Standards Development Program (SDP) seeks to develop meaningful transit standards, including minimum performance standards and best practices for efficient, reliable and safe operation of public transportation systems, both rail and non-rail modes.

The goals of FTA’s SDP are to:

  • Determine the need to revise or expand existing transit standards due to innovation and technological advancements
  • Determine the need for new transit standards in areas where standards are lacking or where there are gaps within existing standards
  • Work with the transit industry to develop and implement safety and other standards and best practices

The primary objectives of the SDP are to:

  • Conduct background literature review, data gathering and analysis to determine gaps and needs for standards development
  • Work with industry stakeholders to inform the standard development process, including associated transit research reports and findings
  • Work with Standard Development Organizations (SDOs) to develop guidance documents, standards, or recommended practices for voluntary adoption by the transit industry

Eligible Activities

In accordance with Federal public transportation law (U.S.C. § 5314(a)(1)(B)), activities may include technical assistance and the development of voluntary and consensus-based standards and best practices by the public transportation industry. This includes standards and best practices for safety, fare collection, intelligent transportation systems, accessibility, procurement, security, asset management to maintain a state of good repair, operations, maintenance, vehicle propulsion, communications, and vehicle electronics.

The SDP provides funding for background literature review, analysis, testing, and evaluation of industry critical topic areas, in accordance with Federal public transportation law (U.S.C. § 5314(a)(1)(B)). SDP program funds are used to advance FTA’s standards program through targeted technical assistance and the support activities indicated above in safety and non-safety topic areas to determine if standards should be developed or if existing standards should be modified to address these topic areas. Eligible activities also include the development of public transportation standards in partnership with the transit industry and SDOs. 

The SDP does not include funding for capital procurements.

Eligible Recipients

Eligible project partners and sub-recipients may include, but are not limited to:

  • Public transportation systems
  • Private for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including technology system suppliers and bus manufacturers
  • Operators of transportation, such as employee shuttle services or airport connector services or university transportation systems
  • State or local government entities
  • Other organizations that may contribute to the success of the project team including consultants, research consortia or nonprofit industry organizations, and institutions of higher education
  • Standard Development Organizations

Statutory References

Technical Assistance and Workforce Development (49 U.S.C. § 5314(a)(1)(B))

Allocation of Funding

Standards Development Program projects are funded under Technical Assistance and Workforce Development (49 U.S.C. § 5314).

Selected Project

American Public Transportation Association (APTA)


  • In calendar years 2021-23, FTA published the following reports under the Standards Development Program: 
Bus Rail Workforce
Guidebook for Deploying Battery Electric Buses (Report 0254) Research Report and Findings: Specifications and Guidelines for Rail Tunnel Inspection and Maintenance (Report 0236) FTA Standards Development Program: Medical Fitness for Duty and Fatigue Risk Management (Report 0223)
Procuring and Maintaining Battery Electric Buses and Charging Systems – Best Practices (Report 0253) Research Report and Findings: Review of Specifications and Guidelines for Rail Tunnel Repair and Rehabilitation (Report 0235) FTA Standards Development Program: Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drug Use in the Public Transit Industry (Report 0217)
Safety and Security Certification of Electric Bus Fleets - Industry Best Practices (Report 0252) Research Report and Findings: Light Rail Technology Scan and Case Studies (Report 0234)  
FTA Standards Development Program: Transit Bus Operator Temporary Barrier to Reduce COVID-19 Exposure (Report 0224) Research Report and Findings: Crash Energy Management for Heavy Rail Vehicles, Light Rail Vehicles, and Streetcars (Report 0233)  
Transit Bus Accident Investigations—Background Research (Report 0222) Research Report and Findings: Emergency Egress in Rail Transit Tunnels (Report 0232)  
Effective Practices in Bus Transit Accident Investigations (Report 0204) Research Report and Findings: Specifications and Guidelines for Rail Tunnel Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Rehabilitation (Report 0231)  
FTA Standards Development Program: Crashworthiness/Crash Energy Management for Transit Bus (Report 0179) FTA Standards Development Program: Mitigations for Trespasser and Suicide Fatalities and Injuries (Report 0227)  
FTA Standards Development Program: Crashworthiness/Crash Energy Management Follow-up for Less than 30 Ft Bus (Report 0141) Use of Event Data Recorders in Rail Transit (Report 0226)  
  FTA Standards Development Program: Needs Assessment for Transit Rail Transmission-Based Train Control (TBTC) (Report 0225)  
  Rail Transit Agency Accident Investigations—Background Research (Report 0221)  
  FTA Standards Development Program: Rail Transit Roadway/Pedestrian Grade Crossing, Exploratory Report (Report 0216)
  Research Report and Findings: Review of Standards for Track Inspection and Maintenance (Report 0215)  
  FTA Standards Development Program: Rail Transit Roadway Worker Protection (Report 0212)  
  Effective Practices in Rail Transit Accident Investigations (Report 0203)  
  Inward- and Outward-facing Audio and Video Recordings for Transit Rail Vehicles (Report 0200)  
  Emergency Lighting and Signage for Rail Transit Passenger Vehicles (Report 0199)  
Grant Type: Competitive