Public Transit: Length of Development Process, Cost Estimates, and Ridership Forecasts for Capital-Investment Grant Projects

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides funds to transit project sponsors to build new or extensions to existing fixed-guideway transit systems through the Capital Investment Grant program. This program funds New, Small, and Very Small Starts projects—funds that are based partly on the project’s total estimated cost. For example, for New Starts, project capital costs exceed $250 million or the program contribution exceeds $75 million; for Small Starts, capital costs are less than $250 million and the program contribution is less than $75 million. The pre-construction development process for these projects includes various steps between the time when a project sponsor identifies the project to be funded and the formal award of FTA construction funds. During this process, the scope, capital cost, and ridership estimates can change. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act mandated that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) biennially review these types of projects. This report describes (1) the length of the development process across these projects and the factors affecting the length, (2) capital cost-estimate changes throughout this process, and the factors contributing to the changes, and (3) how project sponsors forecast ridership, including support that FTA provides. GAO analyzed pertinent laws, regulations, agency guidance, and FTA data for the 32 New, Small, and Very Small Starts projects initiated and funded from 2005 to 2013, prior to recent changes in program processes. GAO interviewed FTA staff and project sponsors. Department of Transportation (DOT) reviewed a draft of this report and provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 44p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01529307
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-14-472
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 3 2014 4:33PM