FTA Awards Pandemic Relief Grants

The Federal Transit Administration has released $15.8 million to 37 transit projects through its new Public Transportation COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant Program.

The program, which began last October, was created following transit agency requests that FTA support research addressing COVID-19-related operational challenges.

FTA officials said in a news release the 37 project grants will implement new cleaning and disinfecting protocols; contactless payment systems; data collection and reporting on ridership, vehicle capacity and other factors; and other solutions to improve agency decision-making and transparency and to increase rider confidence.

Among the recipients is the Central Ohio Transit Authority of Columbus, which will receive $600,000 to develop a comprehensive data model, including incorporating cell phone data to understand travel patterns, to drive decision-making based on travel changes pre- and post-COVID-19.

The analysis will help improve operational efficiencies and demonstrate how communities with multimodal transit networks can provide more efficient and reliable service with data-driven decision-making, especially during and after emergencies.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in partnership with Drexel University, will receive $584,618 to evaluate air ventilation and surface cleaning in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

The project seeks to improve passenger safety and strengthen public confidence to return to mass transit during the pandemic of the Philadelphia-based agency.

South Bend Public Transportation Corporation in Indiana will receive $122,638 to implement a new, contactless payment option for riders, streamlining the boarding process and operational efficiency of each route and reducing contact between operators, riders and fare boxes, improving safety during the pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will receive $450,000 for automated wheelchair securement systems on buses at five transit agencies in rural and urban service environments throughout the state.

MDOT also will deploy a smart phone app that integrates dispatching, scheduling and fare payment to lessen exposure to the COVID-19 virus and improve efficiency.

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