FTA Gives Out $9.9 Billion in FY20 Mass Transit Formula Grants

FTA Gives Out $9.9 Billion in FY20 Mass Transit Formula Grants

February 05, 2020  | Jeff Davis

This week, the Federal Transit Administration apportioned $9.9 billion in federal grant funding to local transit agencies and state governments to fulfill the bulk of the fiscal year 2020 funding promised by the FAST Act of 2015.

The full-year apportionment tables (downloadable Excel spreadsheets for each formula program showing every grant to every agency and government) are here. The overall apportioned funding, by program, breaks down like so:

49 U.S.C. Grant Program Total Grants
5303 Metropolitan Planning $123,181,798
5304 Statewide Planning $24,421,174
5307 Urbanized Area Formula $5,371,536,821
5310 Seniors/Disabled Formula $288,155,908
5311 Rural Area Formula, etc. $791,927,619
5329 State Safety Oversight Formula $24,647,263
5337 State of Good Repair $2,656,960,385
5339 Bus and Bus Facilities Formula $627,865,163
Total, FY 2020 Apportioned to Date $9,908,696,131

Most of the money apportioned this week comes from the Highway Trust Fund in the form of contract authority, but $40 million of the urbanized area formula grant money, $40 million of the rural formula grant money, and $167 million of the bus and bus facilities formula money came from the general fund of the Treasury, apportioned by the FY 2020 DOT Appropriations Act “on top” of the Trust Fund moneys.

The FY 2020 budget process also provided another $2.9 billion in competitive transit grants that local transit agencies and other partners must apply for. Those are:

49 U.S.C. Grant Program Total Available
5307 Passenger Ferry Grants $30,000,000
5309 Capital Investment Grants $1,958,220,000
5311 Indian Reserv. Transit $5,000,000
5339 Bus and Bus Facilities (Regular) $454,626,348
5339 Bus and Bus Facilities (Low/No) $130,000,000
FAST Act TOD Planning Pilot $10,000,000
FAST Act ICAM Pilot $3,500,000
Total, FY 2020 Competitive Grants $2,591,346,348

(Feb. 7 addendum: FTA sent out the funding notices soliciting applications for the $454.6 million in bus grants and for the $30 million in ferry grants on January 30. Applications for both are due March 30.)

The apportioned funds are given out via a variety of formulas. The urbanized area (UZA) grant program is by far the largest – its formula is complicated, but about 91 percent of the total is reserved for UZAs over 200,000 in population, and then of that 91 percent, two-thirds is allocated based on an amalgam of population, population density, and bus vehicle-miles, while the other third is based on fixed guideway (rail and BRT) vehicle revenue-miles and route-miles. Grant money can go towards capital costs of rail, bus, or van transit, or (for some smaller agencies) operating costs.

The 15 largest UZAs in the country got about 53 percent of the total UZA grant money in 2020, because they have the population and (in most cases) the transit systems and ridership. We used 2018 Census and National Transit Database data to rank the 15 largest urbanized areas by population and then correlated with total number of mass transit unlinked passenger trips in that UZA in 2018. This data was then compared with the total UZA formula program apportionments to each area so we could see how much the federal government is paying through this program per capita, and per trip.

2018 Pop. 2018 Trips Trips Per Cap. FY20 UZA $$ Per Cap. Per Trip
1. New York City UZA 19,979,477 4,114,906,519 206 $966,106,101 $48.35 $0.23
2. Los Angeles UZA 13,291,486 558,777,261 42 $318,430,680 $23.96 $0.57
3. Chicago UZA 9,498,716 574,216,102 60 $264,158,688 $27.81 $0.46
4. Dallas-Ft. Worth UZA 7,539,711 69,211,583 9 $82,502,324 $10.94 $1.19
5. Houston UZA 6,997,384 91,017,213 13 $84,921,795 $12.14 $0.93
6. Washington DC UZA 6,249,950 416,811,050 67 $194,084,189 $31.05 $0.47
7. Miami UZA 6,198,782 127,128,986 21 $114,980,378 $18.55 $0.90
8. Philadelphia UZA 6,096,372 360,559,268 59 $164,200,235 $26.93 $0.46
9. Atlanta UZA 5,949,951 127,165,393 21 $76,552,351 $12.87 $0.60
10. Boston UZA 4,875,390 382,209,644 78 $168,043,770 $34.47 $0.44
11. Phoenix UZA 4,857,962 70,353,448 14 $58,985,734 $12.14 $0.84
12. San Francisco-Oakland UZA 4,729,484 410,827,850 87 $146,470,033 $30.97 $0.36
13. Riverside etc. UZA 4,622,361 17,243,076 4 $35,353,112 $7.65 $2.05
14. Detroit UZA 4,326,442 36,130,473 8 $45,983,438 $10.63 $1.27
15. Seattle UZA 3,939,363 218,896,740 56 $113,224,796 $28.74 $0.52
Subtotal, Top 15 UZAs 109,152,831 7,575,454,606 69 $2,833,997,624 $25.96 $0.37
Remainder of U.S. 218,014,603 2,287,659,403 10 $2,537,539,197 $11.64 $1.11
U.S. Total 327,167,434 9,863,114,009 30 $5,371,536,821 $16.42 $0.54

The next-biggest grant program is the state of good repair program. This is descended from a former program called “fixed guideway modernization” (or “railmod” to insiders) which was just what it sounded like – modernizing existing subway and light rail systems. Now, bus rapid transit and a few “high intensity bus” routes that give buses priority in HOV lanes are eligible as well.

But, in any case, you have to have existing fixed guideway mass transit infrastructure in order to modernize said infrastructure, so this program is even more concentrated in the top 15 UZAs – they got 73 percent of the total spending.  And large urban areas that have a lot of bus transit but minimal rail transit miss out on this program. (We did not collate by trip because the NTD data we had did not distinguish between rail trips, bus trips, and mixed bus-rail trips.)

2018 Pop. 2018 Trips Trips Per Cap. FY20 SOGR $$ Per Cap.
1. New York City UZA 19,979,477 4,114,906,519 206 $728,160,009 $36.45
2. Los Angeles UZA 13,291,486 558,777,261 42 $111,211,519 $8.37
3. Chicago UZA 9,498,716 574,216,102 60 $260,002,967 $27.37
4. Dallas-Ft. Worth UZA 7,539,711 69,211,583 9 $30,139,516 $4.00
5. Houston UZA 6,997,384 91,017,213 13 $6,380,815 $0.91
6. Washington DC UZA* 6,249,950 416,811,050 67 $166,941,443 $26.71
7. Miami UZA 6,198,782 127,128,986 21 $45,751,148 $7.38
8. Philadelphia UZA 6,096,372 360,559,268 59 $147,026,321 $24.12
9. Atlanta UZA 5,949,951 127,165,393 21 $54,641,993 $9.18
10. Boston UZA 4,875,390 382,209,644 78 $145,275,918 $29.80
11. Phoenix UZA 4,857,962 70,353,448 14 $7,526,373 $1.55
12. San Francisco-Oakland UZA 4,729,484 410,827,850 87 $144,507,919 $30.55
13. Riverside etc. UZA 4,622,361 17,243,076 4 $13,280,859 $2.87
14. Detroit UZA 4,326,442 36,130,473 8 $1,285,614 $0.30
15. Seattle UZA 3,939,363 218,896,740 56 $70,801,529 $17.97
Subtotal, Top 15 UZAs 109,152,831 7,575,454,606 69 $1,932,933,943 $17.71
Remainder of U.S. 218,014,603 2,287,659,403 10 $724,026,442 $3.32
U.S. Total 327,167,434 9,863,114,009 30 $2,656,960,385 $8.12
*WMATA gets an additional $148.5 million bonus (not shown) from a separate capital program that no other metro area receives. If you consider that money SOGR, which it should be, then the DC area gets $50.47 per capita in FY20 for SOGR.

Focusing on the largest urbanized areas means that we are leaving the third-largest formula grant program, the rural area grants, out of this analysis. But the fourth-biggest grant program is the bus and bus facilities formula program, and its formula is not nearly as biased towards the largest metro areas – the 15 largest UZAs only got 32 percent of the FY20 formula grants (and they had 33 percent of the 2018 population, so the per capita distribution is almost identical across the board).

2018 Pop. 2018 Trips Trips Per Cap. FY20 Bus Form. Per Cap.
1. New York City UZA 19,979,477 4,114,906,519 206 $46,426,989 $2.32
2. Los Angeles UZA 13,291,486 558,777,261 42 $34,579,041 $2.60
3. Chicago UZA 9,498,716 574,216,102 60 $16,644,463 $1.75
4. Dallas-Ft. Worth UZA 7,539,711 69,211,583 9 $7,666,344 $1.02
5. Houston UZA 6,997,384 91,017,213 13 $10,027,844 $1.43
6. Washington DC UZA* 6,249,950 416,811,050 67 $12,381,173 $1.98
7. Miami UZA 6,198,782 127,128,986 21 $12,019,531 $1.94
8. Philadelphia UZA 6,096,372 360,559,268 59 $10,259,683 $1.68
9. Atlanta UZA 5,949,951 127,165,393 21 $6,979,464 $1.17
10. Boston UZA 4,875,390 382,209,644 78 $6,759,762 $1.39
11. Phoenix UZA 4,857,962 70,353,448 14 $6,717,621 $1.38
12. San Francisco-Oakland UZA 4,729,484 410,827,850 87 $8,666,696 $1.83
13. Riverside etc. UZA 4,622,361 17,243,076 4 $3,008,511 $0.65
14. Detroit UZA 4,326,442 36,130,473 8 $5,494,678 $1.27
15. Seattle UZA 3,939,363 218,896,740 56 $11,007,168 $2.79
Subtotal, Top 15 UZAa 109,152,831 7,575,454,606 69 $198,638,968 $1.82
Remainder of U.S. 218,014,603 2,287,659,403 10 $429,226,195 $1.97
U.S. Total 327,167,434 9,863,114,009 30 $627,865,163 $1.92

Just for fun, we then re-ranked the top 15 UZAs in descending order of their 2018 per capita transit trips. The bottom 5 are interesting, for different reasons. Phoenix, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are all Sun Belt areas where most building and expansion was fairly recent, and they have only just begun to embrace rail transit (some have better bus ridership than others). Detroit’s transit missteps over the last 50 years are legendary (Gerald Ford tried his hardest to give them a rail transit system, but it never got built). And the Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario metro area is so much larger than the others (about 27,300 square miles of land area for 4.6 million people, whereas San Francisco-Oakland crams 4.7 million people into just 2,500 square miles of MSA) that it’s hard to compare their transit numbers to other metro areas.

2018 Pop. 2018 Trips Trips Per Cap.
1. New York City UZA 19,979,477 4,114,906,519 206
2. San Francisco-Oakland UZA 4,729,484 410,827,850 87
3. Boston UZA 4,875,390 382,209,644 78
4. Washington DC UZA 6,249,950 416,811,050 67
5. Chicago UZA 9,498,716 574,216,102 60
6. Philadelphia UZA 6,096,372 360,559,268 59
7. Seattle UZA 3,939,363 218,896,740 56
8. Los Angeles UZA 13,291,486 558,777,261 42
9. Atlanta UZA 5,949,951 127,165,393 21
10. Miami UZA 6,198,782 127,128,986 21
11. Phoenix UZA 4,857,962 70,353,448 14
12. Houston UZA 6,997,384 91,017,213 13
13. Dallas-Ft. Worth UZA 7,539,711 69,211,583 9
14. Detroit UZA 4,326,442 36,130,473 8
15. Riverside etc. UZA 4,622,361 17,243,076 4
Average, Top 15 UZAs 109,152,831 7,575,454,606 69
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