Since 2021, the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) has convened an Innovative Transit Micromobility Integration working group, in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In these working group meetings, representatives from transit agencies and local governments discuss challenges and strategies they face in integrating micromobility programs into their transit systems, and share knowledge and resources to learn from each others’ experiences. This piece is part of SUMC’s technical assistance work for the FTA that is conducted under the Mobility Innovation Collaborative program, and incorporates knowledge gained from a guest presentation at one of these working group meetings.
Watch a presentation from Bernadette Dupont and Christopher Dowes from the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Despite the rapid adoption around the United States, there is still a knowledge gap for micromobility and how it can impact cities’ transportation networks. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is advancing research to learn more about these benefits and considerations associated with micromobility, with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a lead convenor through the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty (HEP). HEP focuses on policy research for transportation planning, environmental review, and real estate, and also convenes an internal working group dedicated to addressing micromobility policy. Most policy decisions happen at the state or local level, which establish safety and usage regulations for bikes and scooters, however federal policy does dictate how micromobility vehicles can be used on federal lands like national parks. FHWA recently released Micromobility Regulations and Permitting Equity Synthesis, a research report on varying approaches to micromobility regulations around the United States and how they can advance equitable transportation.
Though most micromobility policies come from states or municipalities, recent policy changes at the federal level from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), have propelled new research initiatives and funding opportunities for micromobility projects. Through the IIJA, the definition of nonmotorized road user was updated to include “an individual using a low-speed or low-horsepower motorized vehicle, including an electric bicycle, electric scooter, personal mobility assistance device, personal transporter, or all-terrain vehicle.” Including electric micromobility in this definition can have far-reaching impacts on safety, funding opportunities, and public support. The IIJA also created the Center of Excellence on New Mobility and Automated Vehicles, a research initiative through FHWA that examines the impacts of autonomous vehicles, land use, urban design, and new mobility, including bikeshare and scooter share. Finally, the IIJA opened up additional USDOT funding opportunities for micromobility projects.
Funding is a major barrier for micromobility, and bikeshare and scootershare have historically been ineligible for many forms of federal funding, often making it difficult for cities and transit agencies to start programs and fully incorporate them as publicly owned and operated transportation services. The IIJA expanded several discretionary and formula grant programs, allowing for increased eligibility of micromobility-related infrastructure projects, and made shared micromobility projects explicitly eligible for certain grants. In September 2022, FHWA released an update of the summary table showing the eligibility of bicycle- and pedestrian-related projects for USDOT grant programs. Further updates to this table are expected to be released in the near future.
Potential eligibility for pedestrian and bicycle projects under USDOT surface transportation funding programs. Source: FHWA
The below grant programs are examples of opportunities cities can pursue for their micromobility projects. In general, agencies cannot use these funds for shared micromobility operations, but can use them to support capital projects, like biking infrastructure or in some cases shared micromobiltiy docks and vehicles. Some of these are programs recently expanded by the IIJA, while others are new programs which the IIJA established.
Surface Transportation Block Grant Program
The Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program is a formula grant program which provides state DOTs and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) money to improve surface transportation, which includes bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The STBG program specifies the eligibility of bicycle projects in accordance with 23 U.S.C. § 217, which includes shared micromobility facilities. Furthermore, the STBG program supports flexible funding to best support transportation needs, meaning that even though it is a FHWA program, the state DOT or MPO can transfer certain projects to FTA to administer as though they were FTA projects.
Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside
The Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside is a 10% portion of the STBG which is dedicated to non-traditional transportation projects, and is the single largest funding source for pedestrian and bicycle projects with over $1.3 billion dollars in FY2022. The Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside provides funding for small-scale projects including improved pedestrian and bicycle access to public transit, planning and research initiatives, and recreational trails, as well as technical assistance for these projects. Through this program, metropolitan areas are responsible for selecting projects, and that state’s DOTs can apportion funds to the project based on the request. Any project eligible under the STBG would also be eligible for the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, and this funding can also be flexed to be administered by the FTA.
Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program
The Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program (ATIIP) is a new competitive grant opportunity authorized under the IIJA that will help develop connected active transportation systems. Through this program, applicants will be able to directly fund initiatives to support bicycling, walking, and other active transportation. The ATIIP is a relatively small program, with $45 million available nationwide, but unlike the other funding opportunities mentioned above, agencies and local governments can apply directly for ATIIP funding without going through state DOTs or MPOs. The notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for ATIIP has not yet been released, but it is expected to be published in the coming months.
Carbon Reduction Program
The Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) is a new FHWA program established under the IIJA, which provides funds for transportation projects designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. CRP allocates $6.4 billion through FY2026 distributed to state DOTs to apportion to cities, counties, and transit agencies for eligible projects. As the CRP aims to support initiatives that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, encourage mode shift, and manage congestion, many micromobility-related projects are eligible.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program (CMAQ) is a FHWA administered program for transportation projects that improve air quality and mitigate congestion. Since it was first established in 1991, CMAQ has been used several times to fund or partially fund bikeshare programs, including for Chicago’s Divvy Bikes and Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare. More recently, the IIJA updated federal policy to specifically include shared micromobility projects as eligible under the CMAQ program. Thus, CMAQ funds can support the purchase of bicycles, docking stations, e-scooters, or other capital expenses for bikeshare and scootershare programs, as long as the projects demonstrate a clear air quality benefit.
Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Program
Expanded under BIL, the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program (RAISE) (formerly TIGER and BUILD) is a discretionary program supporting infrastructure projects in communities of all sizes. RAISE grants are designed to allow funding for multimodal projects that may be more difficult to fund through other USDOT grant programs. Part of this flexibility includes providing funding directly to a wide range of applicants, including cities, counties, and tribal governments, rather than to state DOTs to further allocate. RAISE funding is awarded based on certain criteria, ensuring that projects will bring benefits to quality of life, community connectivity, environmental sustainability, and other benchmarks. Plans and projects to support micromobility can fit many of these selection criteria, and bicycle infrastructure projects are specifically mentioned in the RAISE notice of funding opportunity under Quality of Life improvements.
Widespread deployment of bikeshare and scooter share programs has the potential to reduce car trips, reduce carbon emissions, improve health outcomes for users and communities, and allow for better access to jobs, education, and essential services. FHWA provides valuable insight on these modes through research initiatives, working groups, and funding opportunities that cities can use for micromobility-related projects.
The IIJA is a key piece of legislation to access funding opportunities for bicycling, bikeshare, and scootershare projects. The IIJA created new funding opportunities and expanded existing grant programs allowing micromobility projects to be eligible for federal funding. The federal grant programs discussed above can support micromobility by funding projects to improve bicycle infrastructure, supporting integration with and access to transit, and in some cases, funding the acquisition of docking stations and vehicles themselves. Though there are eligibility considerations for each program, cities have a wide variety of FHWA and other USDOT programs to support more micromobility-friendly transportation networks.
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