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FTA Invites You to Their Technology “Sandbox”

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Guest post by Chris Zeilinger, Community Transportation Association of America

The Federal Transit Administration is inviting transit agencies and their partners to apply for innovation grants in its new Mobility On Demand (MOD) “Sandbox.” There’s a total of $8 million available in these grants. Applications are due July 5, 2016. All projects under this initiative require a 20 percent non-federal match. In addition to grant awards, FTA may also recognize some non-funded applicants with “participation agreements” in the Sandbox program. There are no stated minimum or maximum amounts applicants may request, but all grants will be subject to the availability of FTA’s funds for this initiative.

An interesting feature of this initiative is that applicants may seek waivers from FTA regulatory requirements that are seen to stand in the way of successful project implementation.

Eligible applicants must be current operators of public transit (or, according to conversations with FTA staff, the state or local agencies that manage FTA grants; basically, it seems FTA wants to be sure the Sandbox grant funds are being managed by an entity experienced in doing business with FTA). To be selected, Sandbox projects must reflect partnerships that include some strategic alliance of private for-profit or non-profit organizations (including shared-use mobility providers and/or technology suppliers), public and/or private operators of transportation services, state or local government entities, and/or other partners such as consultants, research consortia or institutions of higher education. Projects must be able to begin to be implemented within 12 months of award, and must be able to be operational within 12 months after implementation has begun.

As FTA states in its Federal Register Notice of Funding Opportunity, the primary objectives of the Mobility On Demand (MOD) Sandbox are to:

Enhance transit industry preparedness for MOD;

  • Assist the transit industry to develop the ability to integrate MOD practices with existing transit service;
  • Validate the technical and institutional feasibility of innovative MOD business models and document MOD best practices that may emerge from these demonstrations;
  • Measure the impacts of MOD on travelers and transportation systems; and
  • Examine relevant public sector and federal requirements, regulations and policies that may support or impede transit sector adoption of MOD.

In defining Mobility On Demand, FTA says:

“MOD envisions a multimodal, integrated, automated, accessible, and connected transportation system in which personalized mobility is a key objective. MOD enables the use of on-demand information, real-time data, and predictive analysis to provide individual travelers with transportation choices that best serve their specific needs and circumstances. MOD leverages technologies that allow for a traveler-centric approach by providing improved mobility options for all.”

If this initiative is of interest to you, read the Federal Register Notice at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/03/2016-10320/public-transportation-innovation-funding-opportunity-mobility-on-demand-mod-sandbox-demonstration#h-11, or via www.fta.dot.gov. For more information, contact FTA’s Christina Gikakis by phone at (202) 366-2637, or by email at [email protected].

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