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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Rural Transit

USDOT’s Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative is designed to address disparities in rural transportation infrastructure. ROUTES addresses the unique challenges that need to be considered to meet our nation’s goals of safety and economic competitiveness by helping establish strong rural transportation networks.

Rural Transit Grants

Formula Grants for In Rural Areas (Section 5311)

The Formula Grants for Rural Areas program provides capital, planning, and operating assistance to states to support public transportation in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000, where many residents often rely on public transit to reach their destinations. The program also provides funding for state and national training and technical assistance through the Rural Transportation Assistance Program. Eligible recipients include states and federally recognized Indian Tribes. Subrecipients may include state or local government authorities, nonprofit organizations, and operators of public transportation or intercity bus service. 

Ferry Grant Programs

FTA's Ferry Grant Programs provide competitive funding for capital, operating and planning expenses to improve and expand ferry service in communities across the country.

Tribal Transit Program

The Tribal Transit program provides funding for federally recognized Indian Tribes. This program allocates funds by both statutory formula and through a competitive discretionary program. FTA apportions the available formula funds for grants to Indian tribes for purposes eligible under Section 5311, including capital investments, transit operations, and planning.   For the discretionary allocations, specific project eligibility will be announced in a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFO).

Also see Resources for Tribal Entities: 

Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program

The Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program provides federally recognized Tribes and Tribal organizations with greater control, flexibility, and decision-making authority over federal funds used to carry out tribal transportation programs, functions, services, and activities in tribal communities.

Buses and Bus Facilities Program

The Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program (49 U.S.C. 5339) makes federal resources available to states and direct recipients to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities including technological changes or innovations to modify low or no emission vehicles or facilities. Funding is provided through formula allocations and competitive grants.

Low or No Emission Vehicle Program

The Low or No Emission competitive program provides funding to state and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. This program helps contribute to the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the end of the decade.

Rural Transit Technical Assistance

FTA Technical Assistance (TA) Centers

FTA’s Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program (49 U.S.C. § 5314) funds technical assistance projects through national nonprofit organizations across a number of areas to improve public transportation by enhancing accessibility and leveraging new transit technologies. These nonprofit partners and the work they do play a critical role in supporting public transit agencies and rural communities while accelerating innovative mobility practices and strategies. 

  • National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC)
    • A national technical assistance center funded by FTA with guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living to promote the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve the needs of people with disabilities, seniors and caregivers with a focus on the Section 5310 program and other transit investments.
  • National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM)
    • This technical assistance center works to help communities adopt transportation strategies and mobility options that empower people to live independently, and advance health, economic vitality and self-sufficiency. NCMM provides capacity-building technical assistance and training; catalogs and disseminates best practice information on innovative mobility management programs around the country; and works to improve and enhance the coordination of federal resources for human service transportation, especially for people with disabilities, older adults and people with lower incomes.
  • National Rural Transportation Assistance Program (RTAP)
    • This technical assistance center addresses the training and technical assistance needs of rural and tribal transit programs across the nation and supports state RTAP programs. National RTAP provides comprehensive free technical assistance programs and resources including training materials, webinars, newsletters and technical briefs, peer resources, research, and innovative technology initiatives.
  • National Center for Applied Transit Technology (N-CATT)
    • This technical assistance center delivers expert, focused technical assistance to transit agencies and organizations in rural areas and small cities to use or develop transit technologies and innovations that make services more cost-effective and efficient. N-CATT’s work supports FTA’s mission and focus on innovation by developing and supporting transit programs and services in rural and small-city America.
  • Shared use Mobility Center (SUMC)
    • The Mobility Innovation Technical Assistance Center (MI-TAC) is a partnership between the Shared Use Mobility Center (SUMC) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). MI-TAC supports FTA’s Mobility Innovation programs by providing a comprehensive suite of technical assistance and knowledge sharing activities that spread the benefits of innovation in mobility to communities around the country. MI-TAC supports public transportation agencies, communities and regions in the development, selection, deployment and oversight of innovative service delivery models, creative financing, novel partnerships, and integrated payment solutions. 

Rural Transit Assistance Program

The Rural Transit Assistance Program (49 U.S.C. 5311(b)(3)) provides a source of funding to assist in the design and implementation of training and technical assistance projects and other support services tailored to meet the needs of transit operators in nonurbanized areas. The program provides states with an annual funding allocation for this purpose. Funds are available the year appropriated plus two years (total of three years). There is no Federal requirement for local match.

Transportation Technical Assistance Coordination Library (TACL)

TACL provides a sustainable methodology and platform for access and findability of rural and tribal transit coordination resources across a diverse range of transportation technical assistance centers and FTA.

Rural Transit Coordination

The Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) is a federal interagency council that works to coordinate funding and provide expertise on human service transportation for three targeted populations: people with disabilities, older adults, and individuals of low income. The CCAM works at the federal level to improve coordination of transportation resources and to address barriers faced by states and local communities when coordinating transportation. The CCAM’s mission is to issue policy recommendations and implement activities that improve the availability, accessibility, and efficiency of transportation for CCAM’s targeted populations, with the vision of equal access to coordinated transportation for all Americans.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law webpage to learn more about its historic investment in America’s infrastructure.

Build America Bureau Rural Initiatives

The Build America Bureau offers financial and technical assistance opportunities to support transit and other surface transportation projects in rural and tribal communities:

  • The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program provides long-term and low-cost financial assistance for rural projects, including: 
    • Rural Project Initiative (RPI) provides direct loans to eligible rural projects with total project costs between $10 million and $100 million.
    • State Infrastructure Banks (SIBs) can borrow TIFIA funds on behalf of smaller entities that may otherwise be unable to access the program due to project size, experience, or capacity.
  • The Rural and Tribal Technical Assistance Pilot Program provides technical, legal, and financial advisory assistance to rural and tribal communities. 

Learn more at the Bureau’s Rural and Tribal Resources Page.

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