Getting to Know Your State’s DOT

By September 9, 2019

For anyone considering starting a NEMT or paratransit service, understanding the complex role of public and private funding sources is extremely important. Even if you haven’t yet decided what funding source is most appropriate for your needs, an informed choice can be made once all transit funding options are understood. 

Public funding opportunities generally fall within 3 categories: Federal, State, or Local. Within the realm of federal and state funding, departments of transportation are key players in the field. On the Federal level, the Department of Transportation (USDOT) is a cabinet-level position that oversees the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA provides significant amounts of funding to local transit programs across the country in the form of grants. It is also tasked with making sure that the receivers of the grants are compliant with federal mandates.  

What is Local Department of Transportation (DOT)?

Each state in the US has its own Department of Transportation. These local DOTs vary considerably in size and complexity, depending on the transportation needs of the state. DOTs oversee not only highways, bridges, and other roads, they are also responsible for mass transit and aviation. 

Most money from Local DOTs comes from Federal and State gas taxes, vehicle registration, and various federal programs. The funding that local DOTs receive primarily goes towards building, maintaining, and improving various types of transportation infrastructure, but they also give out grants for transit programs within their states.

What Kind of Grants Does a DOT Provide?

Both the FTA and local DOT provide specialized grants for transit improvement in local districts. Unlike FTA grants, state DOT grants are extremely variable by region, so it’s especially important to get to know the state DOT of wherever you’ll be operating your vehicles. Common examples of DOT grants include safety improvements; improving accessibility standards; rural transit; and improving bike and pedestrian access in cities. 

Is Microtransit Fundable By DOT Grants? 

In theory, yes. Your eligibility for Federal (or other public) money will greatly improve based on a number of factors, the biggest being if your operation is ADA-compliant or not. This is because many transit funding opportunities are constrained by Federal standards regarding access for all Americans. While non-ADA vehicles could still theoretically win grants in areas like urban transit, ADA-compliant transit has a large funding advantage. Agencies operating such vehicles can receive grants or funding from a variety of areas: improving rural transit; improving agency-wide accessibility; providing transit to Medicare customers, etc. 

Public Funding Through DOT: The Takeaway 

Looking at your state DOT for appropriate RFPs should certainly be one stop as you research public funding opportunities. On most state DOT sites, the grants/funding section is on the front page, but you may have to do some digging.

Remember, too, that the national USDOT has funding that can be applied to local areas through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), so be sure to check that site as well. Finally, funding can be accessed in a secondary way by exploring if your regional or local transit agency (which may receive funds from the FTA) has any opportunities that apply to NEMT or Paratransit providers. 

Regardless of which funding path ends up being the right one for your organization, ensuring that your grant-writing skills are ready to go is a crucial part of a successful application. Learn more about grants here, and brush up on RFPs and RFIs here

Chances are, to write a successful grant and comply with the standards of most transit agencies, you also need to be running up-to-date dispatch software. Besides giving you easy access to the data you’ll need for your application, good software also includes features that transit agencies love like smart route planning and live vehicle locations. If you’re curious to learn more about improving your business’s competitive stance by switching to the latest software, read more here.