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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

Formula Grants for Rural Areas - 5311

What's New

  • FTA is seeking input on proposed updates to the Rural Areas Formula Grant Programs Guidance (9040.1) Circular, which updates FTA guidance regarding grants under the Formula Grants for Rural Areas (Section 5311), the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities (Section 5339(a)), and the Tribal Transit programs.
    • FTA published a notice summarizing the proposed circular updates in the Federal Register, with comments due by June 3, 2024.
  • The 2023 Biennial FTA State and Tribal Programs and Transit Partnerships Conference was held August 16-18 in Washington, DC.
    • More than 220 people attended and over 60 speakers provided a wealth of information to participants from 43 states and 11 tribes.
    • The conference website includes an “Agenda” tab with both the conference program and links to presentation slides.


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

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. 

Eligible Activities

Eligible activities include planning, capital, operating, job access and reverse commute projects, and the acquisition of public transportation services.

Statutory References

Funding and Match

The federal share is 80 percent for capital projects, 50 percent for operating assistance, and 80 percent for Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) non-fixed route paratransit service. Section 5311 funds are available to the States during the fiscal year of apportionment plus two additional years (total of three years). Funds are apportioned to States based on a legislative formula that includes land area, population, revenue vehicle miles, and low-income individuals in rural areas.

Intercity Bus Program

Each state must spend no less than 15 percent of its annual apportionment for the development and support of intercity bus transportation, unless it can certify, after consultation with intercity bus service providers, that the intercity bus needs of the state are being adequately met.

FTA has published a Dear Colleague letter stating that intercity bus providers that use a nationwide allocation model to allocate costs are eligible to be reimbursed for net operating costs under Section 5311(f), including funding provided by supplemental COVID programs such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Technical Assistance

Transportation Technical Assistance Coordination Library (TACL)

The Transportation Technical Assistance Coordination Library (TACL) provides a sustainable methodology and platform to access resources across a diverse range of transportation technical assistance centers and FTA. Participating FTA-funded technical assistance centers include:

For additional technical assistance resources, visit Coordination-Related Technical Assistance Centers.

Training and Technical Assistance is available through the National Rural Transit Assistance Program

Transportation Coordination

In March 2022, FTA posted guidance clarifying coordination on human services transportation on a new transportation coordination webpage. Coordinated transportation involves multiple entities working together to deliver one or more components of a transportation service to increase capacity. The transportation coordination guidance aims to reduce overlap between the 130 CCAM programs across nine agencies that may fund human services transportation and incentivize collaboration by clarifying eligible reporting into the National Transit Database (NTD). This new guidance addresses the following topics as they relate to NTD reporting: definition of public transportation; paratransit; charter service; incidental use of transit assets; and trip brokering.

Statutory References

49 U.S.C. 5311

Grant Type: Formula