Agency Issues New Rules on Transit Investments

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Transit Administration has finalized rules on criteria used to justify funding transit programs across the country.
     President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) July 8, 2012. The act changed the FTA's New Starts and Small Starts programs, which funds local projects, but did not change the evaluation and rating requirements.
     The new rules put into place features that are consistent with the new law, including: the regulatory structure in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued Jan. 25, 2012; the evaluation criteria and rating process outlined in MAP-21, including five of the six evaluation criteria not changed by MAP-21; and before-and-after study requirements for New Starts projects. Subsequent guidance and rulemaking cover new items included in MAP -21, but have not yet been the subject of a rulemaking process.
     The FTA also has announced it is inviting comments on proposed policy guidance to sponsors of New Starts and Small Starts projects. The guidance describes the new measures the FTA will apply to its evaluation of projects and how they are used in project ratings.
     The policy guidance addresses measures and methods for calculating both the local financial commitment criteria for a New Starts or Small Starts project, and the project justification criteria. It also lays out breakpoints for determining whether a project rates "high," "medium-high," "medium," "medium-low," or "low" against the various criteria for project justification and local financial commitment. The proposed policy guidance also addresses the use of time horizons for calculating various measures and the weighting of the criteria and measures to arrive at an overall project rating.