FTA Updates CIG Program Guidance

The Federal Transit Administration today updated its guidance book for its Capital Investment Grants program and asked for public comments on both the proposed changes in the guidance document and on some additional questions.

The proposed guidance book can be downloaded here in PDF format. The proposed new sections for comment are in red type.

Three new questions about land use evaluation for possible future changes in the guidance can be read here.

Comments on both are due by June 4.

Highlights of the changes to the CIG guidance document include:

  • Since FTA had trouble distinguishing from Amtrak use/benefits and New Jersey Transit use/benefits in the Hudson River Tunnel replacement, “FTA is proposing that during Project Development, the project sponsor must propose a methodology to FTA to differentiate intercity passenger rail costs from public transportation costs based on projected usage.”
  • Extensions of time in the Project Development phase must be requested 3 months before the scheduled end, will be limited to no more than 1 year, and are being combined with “postponement of entry into Engineering.”
  • They propose to overhaul the Land Use measure to make its factors more qualitative. There would be five factors: “1) average existing population density across all station areas; 2) total existing employment served by the project; 3) the proportion of existing LBAR housing units within a ½ mile of station areas to the proportion of LBAR housing units in the counties through which the project travels; 4) community risk; and 5) essential services within one mile of stations.” (4 and 5 are new.) Community risk would be measured using the Census Bureau’s Community Resilience Estimates tool and essential services access would be measured using data from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD).
  • FTA is updating its Cost Effectiveness breakpoints for post-COVID ridership and inflation. The difference is stark. In the January 2023 guidance document, a project had to be below $4.00 per rider to rate “high” on Cost Effectiveness and over $15.00 per rider to be rated “low.” The proposed new range runs from below $8.00 per rider to rate “high” and over $35.00 per rider to score “low.”
  • Mobility Improvements  – “FTA is proposing to increase the weight given to trips made on the project by transit dependent persons in the consideration of mobility benefits. The current measure assigns a weight of two in the calculation. FTA is proposing to assign a weight of five to trips made by transit dependent persons.” The breakpoints are also being changed.
  • Environmental Benefits – FTA is changing the way in which energy use reductions are counted, as well as simplifying the NOx and PM-2.5 categories.
  • Social Cost of Carbon – FTA proposes to use a $51 per ton estimate, the midrange estimate from the 2021 Executive Order at a 2 percent discount rate.
  • Safety – the Value of a Statistical Life is increased from $9.2 million to $12.5 million.
  • Economic Development – FTA is adding supportive zoning in station areas to its rating criteria, and is giving increased weighting to affordable housing.
  • Project Justification Warrants – New Starts below a certain dollar threshold and meeting certain ridership targets can get automatically qualified for Medium ratings on some factors without actually having to go through the rigamarole of applying. These factors are updated slightly (the cutoff for high-ridership projects jumps from $500 million to $600 million).
  • Local Financial Commitment – FTA proposes to let applicants use a 10-year financial plan and cashflow statement, instead of 20 years, if the construction period plus five years of operation is less than 10 years in length, and if all of the other forecasts (ridership, etc) are 10-year.

The three new questions identified in the Federal Register notice are:

  1. “Should FTA also add a measure of walkability to the New Starts and Small Starts Land Use Criteria?”
  2. “For New Starts and Small Starts projects, should FTA use the US DOT Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, an interactive web application that uses census tracts and data to explore the cumulative burden communities experience as a result of underinvestment in transportation, as a measure for Land Use?”
  3. “Should FTA do more to increase the relative weight of zoning as part of the Economic Development rating?”

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