- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it will award $264 million in grants to improve cities' bus systems.
- The FTA chose to fund 139 projects in 52 states and territories. It received funding request applications for 453 projects worth $2 billion.
- The funding will help to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and bus-related structures such as storage and maintenance facilities.
Bus ridership has been on the decline over the past six years, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Still, total nationwide bus ridership far exceeds that of any other public transit; bus systems collectively had more than 4.9 million passenger trips last year, whereas heavy rail, the next closest category, logged less than 3.9 million.
APTA released a study last month examining the reasons for the overall decline in public transit ridership across the country since a peak in 2013-2014. Among the findings is that worsening traffic congestion makes bus service less reliable and time competitive and passengers therefore choose other modes of transportation. The decreased cost of car ownership, due to factors like low gas prices, has also made public transit less cost competitive, according to the study. Even so, bus fares remain some of the lowest-cost of any public transit systems in the country, which makes them especially used by low-income residents.
Despite widespread use, some bus systems have fallen into disrepair or at least could use significant upgrades. System neglect often stems from a lack of adequate funding, which is reflected in the whopping $2 billion in grant requests the FTA received from U.S. cities. While it can't help with the traffic congestion that can affect bus schedules, the funding can improve operating efficiencies and maintenance down-time, which ultimately could improve on-time performance.
Some grant money will go toward purchasing more environmentally friendly buses. Miami-Dade County will acquire compressed natural gas buses, Fort Wayne, IN will purchase electric hybrid buses and a number of California cities will buy no-emission battery electric vehicles.