[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 131 (Friday, July 9, 1999)]
[Pages 37193-37194]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-17422]



Federal Transit Administration
[Docket No. FTA-99-5929]

A Study of the Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Program and 
the Transit Needs of Small Urbanized Areas

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Request for comments; notice of meeting.


SUMMARY: Section 3033 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st 
Century requires the Federal Transit Administration to study whether 
the formula 49 U.S.C. 5336 for apportioning funds to urbanized areas 
accurately reflects the transit needs of certain small urbanized areas 
that have unusually intensive transit service for their size. This 
document announces the commencement of this study, and solicits 
comments and suggestions on its design and aims. The results of this 
study will be sent to Congress along with FTA's suggestions on whether 
the formula should be changed to reflect the transit need of small 
urbanized areas.

DATES: Written comments on this notice should be submitted by September 
7, 1999. Two outreach sessions to discuss the study design will also be 
held on July 7, 1999, and July 14, 1999. See addresses for meeting 

(1) July 7, 1999, 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon (local time), at the Radisson 
Hotel, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento, CA. This meeting will be held in 
conjunction with the APTA/AASHTO/CTAA State Affairs Conference.
(2) July 14, 1999, 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon (local time), at the U.S. 
Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC, in 
Room 6332-36.

    Written comments and suggestions regarding the proposed study must 
refer to the docket number appearing above and must be submitted to the 
United States Department of Transportation, Central Dockets Office, PL-
401, 400 Seventh Street SW, Washington, DC 20590. All comments received 
will be available for inspection at the above address from 10 a.m. to 5 
p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Those desiring 
the agency to acknowledge receipt of their comments should include a 
stamped, self-addressed postcard. Written material submitted at the 
workshops will also be placed in the docket.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Darren Timothy, Office of Policy 
Development, FTA, (202) 366-0177. Email: [email protected].

I. Electronic Access
II. Background
III. Research Questions

I. Electronic Access

    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 
and suitable communications software from the Government Printing 
Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet 
users may reach the Federal Register's home page at http://
www.nara.gov/fedreg or the Government Printing Office's database at 

II. Background

    The Urbanized Area Formula Grants Program, section 5307 of Title 49 
of the United States Code allocates funds to urbanized areas for 
capital, operating, and planning costs associated with mass transit; 
however, the actual apportionment formula is found in 49 U.S.C. 5336. 
The formula allocates section 5307 funds through a series of 
hierarchical tiers. The first division establishes two separate tiers 
of urbanized areas: (1) 9.32% is allocated to small urbanized areas 
(population 50,000 to 199,999); (2) 90.68% is allocated to large 
urbanized areas (population 200,000 and above).
    For small urbanized areas, the formula apportionments are based 
solely on two factors: (1) Population; and (2) Population times 
population density.
    For larger urbanized areas, however, the formula again breaks down 
into two tiers:
    (1) The Fixed Guideway Tier (33.29%). The formula for this tier 
includes three factors: (A) Fixed guideway route miles; (B) Fixed 
guideway revenue-vehicle; and (C) Fixed guideway passenger-miles 
weighted by passenger-miles per dollar of operating cost (the fixed 
guideway incentive tier)
    (2) The Bus Tier (66.71%). 90.8% of this tier is allocated based on 
three factors: (A) Population; (B) Population times population density: 
and (C) Bus revenue-vehicle miles.
    This portion of the bus tier is further divided between urbanized 
areas with more than and less than 1 million in population. The 
remaining 9.2% of the bus tier is allocated based on bus passenger-
miles weighted by bus passenger-miles per dollar of operating cost (the 
bus incentive tier).
    There are two other important distinctions between small and large 
cities in the formula program. The first lies in the method of funds 
allocation to the urbanized areas. Large urbanized areas receive their 
formula apportionments directly from the federal government, through a 
designated recipient agency within the urbanized area. Small urbanized 
areas that are not in a transportation management area do not receive 
federal formula funds directly, however. Instead, the governor of their 
respective state acts as the designated recipient, and receives an 
apportionment based on formula allocations for all the small urbanized 
areas within the state. The second distinction between large and small 
urbanized areas is that formula funds for small urbanized areas may be 
used for operating costs, while this option is no longer available to 
larger urbanized areas.
    While most small urbanized areas have transit system 
characteristics which are substantially different from those of large 
urbanized areas, this does not hold universally. Certain small, 
transit-intensive cities provide a level of service that is 
substantially greater than their size and density characteristics might 
indicate. Given the tier structure of the section 5307 formula, 
however, this service level is not reflected in the

[[Page 37194]]

governors' apportionments for small cities.
    In light of this fact, section 3033 of the Transportation Equity 
Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178) calls for the 
Secretary of Transportation to ``conduct a study to determine whether 
the formula for apportioning funds to urbanized areas * * * accurately 
reflects the transit needs of the urbanized areas and, if not, whether 
any changes should be made either to the formula or through some other 
mechanism to reflect the fact that some urbanized areas with a 
population between 50,000 and 200,000 have transit systems that carry 
more passengers per mile or per hour than the average of those transit 
systems in urbanized areas with a population over 200,000.'' This 
report is to be submitted to the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban 
Affairs Committee by December 31, 1999, and is to contain both the 
results of this study and any suggested changes to the formula program.

III. Research Questions

    The FTA is interested in receiving any comments or suggestions for 
conducting the study that interested parties might have. In particular, 
we would like to solicit comment on the following questions:

A. Formula Apportionment Factors

    The section 5336 formulas use population and population weighted by 
population density as factors for both large and small urbanized areas. 
As described above, the formulas also use transit service factors 
(route-miles and revenue-vehicle miles) and operating factors (the 
incentive tier) for urbanized areas over 200,000 in population. Our 
questions on this topic include--
    (1) Are population and population density adequate factors for use 
in apportioning funds to small urbanized areas? Are there specific 
reasons why other factors shouldn't be applied to these small cities?
    (2) Should service factors also be applied to small urbanized areas 
in apportioning formula funds? In particular, should bus revenue-
vehicle miles be applied to small urbanized areas as well? Should bus 
passenger miles and operating costs used in the incentive tier be 
applied to small urbanized areas?
    It should be noted that small transit systems face different 
reporting requirements under the National Transit Database program than 
do their counterparts in larger systems and cities. For example, 
transit systems with fewer than 10 buses are not required to report 
annual bus revenue-vehicle miles. Passenger-mile data is also collected 
and reported less frequently for small cities: urbanized areas under 
200,000 in population are only required to sample passenger-miles every 
5 years, as opposed to every 3 years for areas between 200,000 and 
500,000 in population and annually for most cities over 500,000.

B. Other Transit Funding Sources

    Section 3033 of TEA-21 directs us to look at both formula changes 
and ``other mechanisms'' to reflect the needs of small, transit-
intensive cities. For example, other sources of intergovernmental aid 
are aid available to local transit operators in small urbanized areas 
in addition to the section 5307 program. Our questions are--
    (1) Would examining these other aid sources available to small 
urbanized areas be a useful and informative exercise?
    (2) What other mechanisms besides changing the formula might be 
practical and useful in order to assist small transit-intensive cities?

    Issued on: July 2, 1999.
Gordon J. Linton,
[FR Doc. 99-17422 Filed 7-8-99; 8:45 am]