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In July 2012, Congress enacted a surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), providing federal transportation funding for the fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

Major policy changes include:

  • Major increase in federally backed Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, which could help regions speed up transit plans. Projects are now evaluated only on creditworthiness and a first-come, first-served basis [1]
  • Consolidation of 90 highway and transit programs into roughly 30 programs. Earmarks for specific projects were eliminated, as well as many discretionary programs; nearly all the money is apportioned under the new overarching programs.
  • Modifications of definitions, such as Bus Rapid Transit (Section 5302), which now allows it to be become eligible for funding that was previously only allowed for fixed guideway systems.
  • New performance measures, with an emphasis on performance measurement implementation, rather than performance-based funding; MAP-21 imposes no financial penalty for states and MPOs that fail to make progress toward performance goals, and funding decisions for any given project are not explicitly tied to performance criteria. The USDOT will establish measures for goals that include interstate highway performance, pavement conditions, fatalities and injuries, and transit safety. Under current law, there is no requirement for transit agencies to evaluate or report on the state of their infrastructure. Under MAP-21, transit agencies are required to develop asset management plans, which include capital asset inventories, condition assessments, decision support tools, and investment prioritization. [2]

Additionally, the bill cut some discretionary funding programs. Historically, formulas funneling money to states and transit agencies have distributed 80 percent of federal highway and transit money, but MAP-21 boosts that percentage to over 92%, leaving less than eight percent of funds to be spent under the direction of USDOT [3] This change will make funding more predictable, but will limit the amount available for transit agencies.

Transit Programs

Overall, MAP-21 slightly increased formula funds for transit agencies and slightly reduced funds for new construction. The bill provides $10.578 billion for transit in FY2013 and $10.695 billion in FY2014. Transit programs include formula funding and competitive funding.

Formula Funding

  • Urbanized Area Formula Grants (Section 5307): Can be used for new capital projects and to cover operating costs.
  • Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Persons with Disabilities (Section 5310): Grants for capital and operating expenses that support transportation to meet the special needs of older adults and persons with disabilities.
  • State of Good Repair Grants (Section 5337): New program focusing on maintenance projects for existing fixed-guideway rail and bus systems, including vehicles, track, structures, communications, etc. Projects are limited to replacement and rehabilitation, or capital projects required to maintain public transportation systems in a state of good repair
  • Bus and Bus Facilities (Section 5339): New grant program that replaces the old competitive bus funding program. Grants will be for purchase, rehabilitation, and repair of buses and bus facilities. Each year, $65.5 million will be allocated with each State receiving $1.25 million and each territory (including DC and Puerto Rico) receiving $500,000. The remaining funding will be distributed by formula based on population, vehicle revenue miles and passenger miles. This program requires a 20 percent local match [4]

Competitive Funding

  • New Starts: Traditional New Starts program funding has been for projects with fixed guideawys, but MAP-21 now allows bus rapid transit (BRT) projects to qualify for funding as long as the buses have their own travel lane for the majority of the route (compared to the entirety of the route, as in previous requirements). Additionally, grants can be used to expand rail or BRT capacity, by increasing existing passenger capacity by at least ten percent. These "core capacity" projects are capital improvements that address issues such as overcrowding by adding station entrances, double-tracking, or lengthening platforms.

TOD Pilot Program

This is a new discretionary funding program for transit-oriented development. The bill establishes a national policy “encouraging mixed use, transit-oriented development”; while having little immediate effect, it can help promote TOD. [5] Only communities with new projects are eligible to apply. Eligible projects include comprehensive planning in corridors with new rail, bus rapid transit, or core capacity projects. The comprehensive plans should seek to enhance ridership, facilitate multimodal connectivity and accessibility, increase access to transit hubs for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, enable mixed-use development, etc.


  1. Urban Land Institute. "The Promises ad Perils of MAP-21". 2012.
  2. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. "MAP-21, Performance Measures, and Performance-Based Funding". 2012.
  3. Urban Land Institute. "USDOT Talks MAP-21 with ULI". 2012.
  4. Federal Transit Administration. [ "A Summary of Public Transportation Provisions"].
  5. Transportation for America. [ "Summary of MAP-21 Provisions". 2012.

Additional Reading

Federal Transit Administration. "Summary of MAP-21 Public Transportation Programs". 2012. Summary provides a quick overview of new and consolidated transportation programs.

Transportation for America. "Summary of MAP-21 Provisions". 2012. Summary of the provisions and programs within the bill.

Transportation for America. "Making the Most of MAP-21" A guide to MAP-21 for communities to use.

Federal Transit Administration. "Federal transit law as amended by MAP-21". 2012. This is Chapter 53 of title 49 of United States Code, as amended by MAP-21. It details the changes in definitions.