By considering a broader range of factors, including environmental and economic benefits, the popular New Starts and Small Starts programs, which provided roughly half the funding for transit expansions in the U.S. last year, will likely support more projects in dense urban environments.
"Previously," writes Schmitt, "the FTA relied heavily on 'travel time savings' to judge the merits of a project. The new formula will focus instead on the number of passengers expected to be served. Economic benefits like the impact on development will also be considered."
"The new criteria also employ broader measures of the environmental benefits of transit. Instead of using the EPA’s air quality formula as the sole measure of a project’s environmental benefits, the new evaluation process will also incorporate the expected effects on public health (including traffic fatality rates) and energy use."
"Advocates say the new rules will streamline the approval process and open the door to federal funding for a wider variety of transit projects."