- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will distribute $5 million in grants to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Tribal Transit Program. The grants will support 36 projects across 14 states.
- One grant will help Arizona’s San Carlos Apache Tribal Council purchase buses that have accessibility features, bringing tribal members to jobs in nearby cities. Another will help the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York build a bus maintenance facility, to protect vehicles during inclement weather.
- "These grants will help American Indian and Alaskan Native tribal governments provide transportation in rural areas to connect tribal residents with jobs, healthcare and other opportunities," Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
The FTA’s Tribal Transit Program has given out $5 million in grants a year for the past five years, on top of $30 million given to tribal governments a year through the transportation funding bill. The funds go to a variety of projects, from ferry services to bus routes to planning studies that will explore the possibility of new transit operations.
For example, the Village of Venetie in Alaska will use a $25,000 grant to launch a study on initiating transit service roughly 150 miles away from the city of Fairbanks, while the Ruby Tribal Council also received a $25,000 grant for a planning study for service on its land in Alaska. Other tribes — Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho — will use their grants to replace out-of-date vehicles.
The grants reinforce the importance of expanding equitable transit access, even in rural and tribal areas. Public transportation can be hard to fund in more distant areas outside of urban centers, but bus networks offer valuable access to jobs and other needs. Similar to the federal funding that has supported much-needed rural broadband infrastructure to bring internet access to non-urban customers, the FTA grants can supplement local and private funding.