Funding to support mobility management, transportation coordination, and community-based transportation services in Massachusetts can come from a variety of sources. A number of federal and state grants and programs specifically target transportation, and some social and human service funding sources include transportation as an eligible expense. In Massachusetts, a number of local foundations and other non-traditional sources also offer financial support for local mobility initiatives.
This page provides summary information on (these should link to appropriate sections below):
- Federal Funding from the Federal Transit Administration
- Federal Funding from Other Agencies
- State Funding or State Administered Programs
- Other Sources of Financial Support
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is the primary source of federal funding for public transit and community transportation programs. In July 2012, President Obama signed new transportation funding legislation called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). This new legislation authorizes federal funding for transportation for 27 months, through September 2014.
MAP-21 includes some changes to programs that are important to community transportation.
- Formerly, Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) funding was available for programs helping welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment. Under MAP-21, this type of project remains eligible for funding but does not have its own dedicated funding stream.
- Formerly, New Freedom funding was available for transportation serving the needs of people with disabilities. Under MAP-21, this type of project remains eligible for funding but does not have its own dedicated funding stream.
MAP-21 maintains a third program that funds community transportation:
- Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities (“5310”) This federal program (49 U.S.C. 5310), known as “5310,” provides formula funding to assist private nonprofit groups and certain public agencies in meeting the transportation needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities when existing mass transportation service is unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate. Read more.
- The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative is an FTA initiative on veterans transportation
How to Apply
- The MassDOT Rail and Transit Division administers many federal FTA programs at the state level. Learn how to sign up for training on the application process.
- FTA posts all competitive grant and cooperative agreement opportunities on Grants.gov.
In addition to the Federal Transit Administration, a number of federal agencies offer some funding for the provision or purchase of transportation. These include Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Labor, among others.
How to Apply
- Grants.gov is the official government site for information on federal grants and funding. Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the site offers a database of more than 1,000 grant programs, searchable by agency, category, eligibility or CFDA number.
Publications about Federal Funding
GAO report on federal funding for transportation-disadvantaged populations
Government Accountability Office, 2012
This report identifies federal funds that can be used to help meet the mobility needs of transportation-disadvantaged groups such as seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals. The report also reviews federal efforts to coordinate these funding streams and investigates state-level coordination in five states.
Building Mobility Partnerships for People with Disabilities: Opportunities for Federal Funding
Easter Seals Project Action, Jan 2007
This document serves as a compendium of federal sources of funding for transportation of individuals with disabilities. It provides a general description of each program, as well as information on how the program funds may be used and contact information.
Federal Investment Guide
Although somewhat dated, this guide contains useful descriptions of 61 federal programs that could be a source of funds to help states and communities address transportation needs.
Community Transit Grant Program
Massachusetts distributes federal and state funds for community transportation through MassDOT’s Community Transit Grant Program. This includes the Mobility Assistance Program, a state funding source for improved transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities. Transit authorities, state agencies, municipalities, non-profits, and for-profits can apply to MassDOT for capital or operating assistance. To learn more about the program and how to apply for funds, check out MassDOT’s community transit grant program webpage.
Community Innovation Challenge
The Community Innovation Challenge awards grants to local, county, or regional government or schools in Massachusetts for regionalization initiatives or other governmental reforms. Past awards have included a regional transportation initiative undertaken by Acton and neighboring towns.
State Contract Opportunities
Many other state programs will allow some of the funds awarded to community agencies to be used for consumer transportation expenses. The best way to search for upcoming procurements of community based services is to check COMMBUYS (the Commonwealth's new electronic procurement system) which provides free, around-the-clock access to all bid documents valued over $50,000 issued by Massachusetts executive departments.
How to Apply
- Information and application form to apply for funds from the MassDOT Community Transit Grant Program
- Information and application instructions to apply for the Community Innovation Challenge grant
- Look for contract opportunities on COMMBUYS
Community Foundations are nonprofit, tax-exempt, publicly-supported grantmaking organizations that often maintain diverse grant programs. These foundations often play a leadership role in their communities and serve as a resource for grant information and technical assistance for local nonprofits. The Grantsmanship Center has a list of Massachusetts-based community foundations.
The Boston Foundation is the largest and most well known of the state’s community foundations. Its two main strategic goals are that Greater Boston residents be successful and thriving and that Greater Boston communities be vibrant.
Barr Foundation, the state’s largest foundation, is located in Boston and awards grants that address its priorities, especially those related to climate change. As a result, the Barr Foundation also focuses on improving the links between where people live, work, learn and play, and to making all forms of transportation – driving, biking, walking, public transit – safer and more affordable and accessible.
Smith Family Foundation launched a small capital grants initiative to fund one-time capital expenses that directly enhance smaller non-profits’ ability to serve their clients. The grants range in size from $5,000 to $50,000, and may be used for such purposes as facility improvements, vehicles, equipment purchases and other non-expendable assets.
Kickstarter is a platform to raise funds from individual donors in support of a defined project. Funding can support design or technology projects, but not a service that would require ongoing operating expenses. For example, a nonprofit used Kickstarter to raise funds for development of a mobile app trip planner. Before you proceed, make sure your project is aligned with the Kickstarter guidelines.
Other Funding Resources
Associated Grant Makers is the regional association of grant makers – including both foundations and corporate giving programs – that are serving in or making grants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Foundation Center is a comprehensive source of information on private philanthropy in the United States. Their searchable database of foundations requires a subscription fee to access, but some free online resources are also available.
This information is provided by Human Service Transportation Office.