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As agencies think about technology deployment, one inevitable question arises: where will I get the funding to support a technology project? Navigating the funding landscape is somewhat complicated since Federal and other funding opportunities may not seem to support technology. However, with so many agencies planning and implementing technical solutions to facilitate human service transportation, more funding and grant programs, including more funding opportunities at the Federal level, are available now than in the past.
So, where do you start to look for financial support? Let’s begin with opportunities at the Federal level.
Federal Level: Specialized Grant Programs
Over the past few years, several specialized grant programs have funded technology planning and deployment projects. While the applications for the funding programs described below have closed for now, it is important to keep abreast of these Federal grant programs since new grants through these programs may become available in the future.
- Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA): This US Department of Transportation (USDOT) initiative began in Fiscal Year 2005. The overall objective of this initiative is to “improve transportation services and simplify access to employment, healthcare, education and other community activities by means of ITS technology.” Currently, there are three MSAA grantees that have been funded to plan technology systems that facilitate paratransit system coordination.
- Rides to Wellness Initiative: The purpose of this program is “to increase partnerships between health and transportation providers and show the positive financial benefit to such partnerships.” This includes financing innovative projects for the transportation disadvantaged that improve the coordination of transportation services and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services such as the deployment of coordination technology; projects that create or increase access to community; and One-Call/One-Click Centers. While the 2016 funding opportunity has passed, you can receive updates on the 2017 opportunity here.
- Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration Program (under grant program 5312): “MOD allows for the use of on-demand information, real-time data, and predictive analysis to provide travelers with transportation choices that best serve their needs and circumstances. MOD leverages technologies that allow for a traveler-centric approach that provides better mobility options for everyone.” $8 million has been made available through this program. Proposals were due on July 5, 2016 and project selections are expected to be announced in Fall 2016.
- Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Initiative: This program provides grants to develop model sites for deployment of advanced transportation technologies to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment. While this grant program focuses on large-scale implementation, it “also includes efforts to increase connectivity to employment, education, services and other opportunities; support workforce development; or contribute to community revitalization, particularly for disadvantaged groups: low-income residents, persons with visible and hidden disabilities, elderly individuals, and minority person and populations.” Proposals were due on June 3, 2016.
- Innovations in Accessible Mobility funded by the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center with funding from the Federal Transit Administration: “This grant opportunity is intended to support program innovations and approaches that increase accessible transportation options for older adults and people with disabilities living in the community and maximize the utilization of Section 5310 and other federal funding investments. Grants of up to $50,000 each will be awarded to as many as six communities for a twelve month period.” Application were due on August 26, 2016. Grantees will be announced in October 2016.
Federal Level: On-going and Current Grant Programs
In terms of on-going and current Federal grant programs, the following are available:
- Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & Individuals with Disabilities (Section 5310): “The program aims to improve mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities by removing barriers to transportation service and expanding transportation mobility options.” Section 5310 can fund, among other things, transit-related information technology systems, including scheduling, routing and one-call systems.
- Technology and Innovation Deployment Program: This program provides funding for five years beginning in Fiscal Year 2016 to “accelerate the implementation and delivery of new innovations and technologies that result from research and development to benefit all aspects of transportation.”
- Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program: “TIGER discretionary grants will fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region.”
- An example of a technology related TIGER grant is the Transit Tech Ohio Project, which received $6,839,860, to develop and deploy technology improvements for fixed and demand-response transit operators in rural transit services areas in Ohio.
Beyond these grants programs, there are numerous state, local and private funding opportunities to support technology planning and deployment.
State, Local and Private Funding Opportunities
- Washington State DOT made two grant awards for technology projects in their 2015-2017 time period: (1) $293,761 for Valley Transit in Walla Walla, WA to provide ITS information technology to increase access to transportation; and (2) $296,453 for Skagit Transit in Skagit, WA to provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant, next-stop-announcement system technology.
- Another state example is funding through Michigan DOT. In their Fiscal Year 2017 Public Transit Programs, there is a category for Service Development and New Technology Program (SDNT). “The SDNT Program provides funds for research, training/education, planning and coordination, and operational and technical projects that preserve or enhance public transit. Projects submitted for funding under this application must demonstrate statewide benefits and are subject to a competitive project selection process.”
- An example of a private source of funding is TransitCenter. TransitCenter provides “several grant opportunities including [their] annual open call and a rolling grant program known as Dispatch grants.” The next call for proposals for the Open Call program will be in early 2017. “Dispatch grants are available on a rolling basis to support timely opportunities and organizational capacity building.” In 2015, TransitCenter awarded nine grants totaling $838,700. One of these grants was “Intelligent Paratransit, an effort to improve the information technology, costs and service quality for transit service for the elderly and citizens living with disabilities in New York City.”
About the Author:
Carol Schweiger, President of Schweiger Consulting, has over 36 years of experience, and is nationally and internationally recognized in transportation technology consulting. Her wide-ranging and in-depth expertise is in several specialty areas including systems engineering, technology strategies for public agencies, public transit technology, and traveler information strategies and systems. Ms. Schweiger has provided nearly 50 transportation agencies with technology technical assistance, including developing and applying structured processes to procure and implement technology systems; providing detailed procurement and implementation assistance; evaluating technology deployments; conducting research and delivering training.