Today the Federal Transit Administration published final policy guidance to augment its New and Small Starts Program final rule published earlier this year. The final rule established how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates new major transit projects that seek assistance under these funding programs authorized by Section 5309 of Title 49, U.S. Code. The final rule does not address changes made by the MAP-21 legislation signed last July, rather it addresses parts of the program left unchanged by the 2012 legislation.
The New and Small Starts programs were developed as the Federal Transit Administration’s primary grant programs to fund major transit capital investments, such as rail, bus rapid transit, and ferries. The final rule and its appendix created the framework for the New and Small Starts project evaluation process, while the final policy guidance supports the framework by providing additional insight into the process.
The guidance issued today describes the methods for calculating both the financing commitment criteria and project justification criteria required for New Starts and Small Starts projects. Project justification criteria include: mobility improvements, environmental benefits, congestion relief, economic development effects, land use and cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, financing commitment criteria includes: availability of reasonable contingency amounts, availability of stable and dependable capital and operating funding sources, and availability of local resources to recapitalize, maintain and operate the overall public transportation system. Both the final rule and the final policy guidance are available on the Federal Transit Administration website.