FTA Announces $11 Million Innovation Initiative

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced (as of last month) the Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) initiative to encourage and advance innovation in the transit sector.  AIM will provide a total of $11 million in challenge grants to transit agencies experimenting with innovative ways of doing business, such as exploring new service delivery models, creative financing, novel partnerships and integrated payment.  As part of the AIM initiative, FTA’s Fiscal Year 2020 competitive grant programs, totaling $615 million, will highlight innovation as part of their selection criteria.   

The AIM initiative will establish a national network of transit agencies that will test and share project results.  FTA’s technical assistance centers will support the initiative through workshops focused on creating a space for transit agencies to discuss best practices, identify barriers, and advance the adoption of new technologies and practices while ensuring rider safety. 

Significantly, the AIM initiative seems to take a broad view of what “innovation in transit” means, specifically calling out “creative financing” as an area of interest.  While crowdfunding a large transit project could be an uphill battle, it will be interesting to see what role crowdfunding could play with respect to financing small transit projects with high potential for community engagement.     

Innovation has been and will continue to be an area of significant interest in the transportation sector, and agencies are already exploring alternative approaches aligned with the goals of the AIM initiative.  In 2015, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority established its Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI) charged with exploring and implementing convenient, affordable and effective mobility solutions in Los Angeles.  Since its inception, OEI has explored a number of innovative solutions ranging from new mobility to public-private partnerships.   

The FTA anticipates publication of a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the AIM initiative challenge grants this spring.  Nossaman will continue to monitor how the market responds as additional details regarding the AIM initiative emerge in the coming months.

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