You are here

Research & Innovation

FTA drives public transportation innovation research to promote economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and improve the quality of life in communities through public transportation systems and services.

Through testing and deployment, FTA's Research, Demonstration and Innovation program helps the transit industry adopt tried-and-proven technologies. Demonstrations of new technologies can reduce risk and help create both supply and demand. Learn more about FTA’s research program in our latest video, Harnessing Innovation for Public Transportation.


FTA leads research in safety, asset management/innovation, and mobility. FTA research projects:

  • assess new operational processes
  • improve traveler experiences
  • test systems that monitor rider and passenger safety
  • fund demonstration grants for low or no emissions buses that reduce emissions and energy use
  • expand public/private partnerships to enhance mobility

FTA research involves broad and collaborative engagement across many organizations to involve riders, transportation providers, public and private industry associations, universities, centers of excellence, nonprofit organizations, private organizations and federal partners.

What's New

Improving Safety

FTA conducts research to improve public transportation safety to reduce transit-related fatalities and injuries. FTA is creating a system to measure transit safety to gain a better understanding of the state of the industry. FTA will ensure public transportation efficiency, safety and reliability with projects focused on:

  • emerging transit safety issues
  • safety-enhancing practices, technologies, and programs
  • bus fleet safety issues associated with alternative fuels (e.g., hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and electric, etc.)
  • traveler, pedestrian, and bicycle safety practices and policies.

The Safety Research and Demonstration (SRD) Program provides technical and financial support for transit agencies to pursue innovative approaches to eliminate or mitigate safety hazards. The 2016 program offers $7 million in federal funding for projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to improve safety for public transportation workers and passengers. 

Enhancing Mobility

FTA’s mobility research is improving public transportation services through adaption to new mobility options that increase geographic coverage and service times, address "last mile" issues for travelers, and ensure accessibility. FTA’s Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox initiative is expanding public-private partnerships and enhancing traveler experience through technology enabledseamless, effective integration across transportation modes. In October 2016, FTA announced $8 million in Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox awards, part of a larger research effort at U.S. DOT that supports transit agencies and communities as they integrate new mobility tools like smart phone apps, bike- and car-sharing, and demand-responsive bus and van services.

FTA’s research efforts support FTA and DOT initiatives such as: Transit automation researchRides to Wellness, Accessibility Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI), and the Bicycle and Pedestrian initiative. These programs aim to:

  • Improve multi-modal connectivity
  • Address accessibility issues through application of innovative technologies and practices
  • Improve the quality of the traveler experience and the transit product
  • Identify new mobility-enhancing practices and technologies

Asset Innovation and Asset Management

FTA furthers safety and reliability through asset management, which combines innovation and technology to keep transit’s complex infrastructure in good working order. FTA continues its commitment to encourage sustainable alternative technology to reduce costs and emissions by conducting research on, developing, and deploying zero-emission transit vehicles, facilities and technologies; identifying innovative and sustainable use of transit vehicles and services through practices and technologies; and developing partnerships with other federal agencies involved in energy and environmental research.

Public Transit Innovative Workforce Development and Training

As transit ridership continues to grow, requiring new vehicles, new service, and more efficient, environmentally sensitive systems, FTA supports the next generation of public transit workers with national innovative workforce development programs and training through its National Transit Institute. The initiatives are intended to strengthen the workforce with the skills they need to build, maintain, and repair new technology.

FTA’s workforce development projects develop or expand partnerships with transit agencies, labor unions, nonprofits, and academic institutions, and in the future will support small transit-oriented businesses owned by women and minorities. In addition, several projects will serve as scalable models that can be applied to future projects throughout the United States.

Under MAP-21 and prior authorizations, FTA has invested nearly $20 million in workforce development programs. The FAST Act authorizes FTA to continue its innovative workforce development program, with a focus on the frontline transit workforce. The FAST Act also authorizes formula grant recipients to use a percentage of their funds to support workforce development programs.

National Transit Institute (NTI)

FTA funds the National Transit Institute, at Rutgers University, to develop, promote and deliver training and education programs for the public transit industry. Established in 1991, NTI promotes, develops and delivers programs and materials through cooperative partnerships with industry, government, institutions and associations. Courses in federal compliance are designed to help grantees understand processes and learn tools to remain compliant with federal regulations. For more information about NTI, contact us.

Submit Feedback >