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Livable Communities Initiative


This brochure describes the Federal Transit Administration's Livable Communities Initiative including its background, objectives, eligible recipients and activities, sources of funding, statutory basis, and criteria for selection.


The technology advances of the 20th century have brought instant communication and increased ability to traverse short and long distances. These advances, together with the increase in automobile ownership and the construction of extensive roadway networks, have created urban sprawl, adverse environmental effects and the isolation of many individuals from their communities. As this century closes, transportation options have become increasingly limited for many in our communities who are unable to drive, prefer not to drive or lack an automobile. Together, urban sprawl that forces increasingly longer trips and traffic congestion are diminishing the quality of life and reducing the effectiveness of the automobile as a transportation mode. These negative factors have created renewed interest in compact communities with user-friendly transit linked to related development.

The three primary functions of transit are to provide an alternative means of personal mobility, increase capacity when needed and contribute to the quality of life in communities. In the context of these functions, the Federal Transit Administration initiated the Livable Communities Initiative to strengthen the link between transit and communities. Transit facilities and services that promote more livable communities are ones which are customer-friendly, community-oriented and well designed resulting from a planning and design process with active community involvement.


The objectives of the Initiative are to improve mobility and the quality of services available to residents of neighborhoods by:


Characteristics of Livable Communities include:

  1. full community participation in the decision-making process by residents, neighborhood organizations and the business community including small and minority businesses
  2. well planned and designed neighborhoods where housing, schools and parks are within easy walking distance of user-friendly transit and link residents to job opportunities and social services
  3. transit, pedestrian and bicycle access that is compatible with land use, zoning and urban design to reduce dependence on the automobile
  4. mixed-use neighborhoods that complement residential areas with commercial, recreational, educational, health and other social services
  5. transit services and facilities which provide safety, security and accessibility for all passengers, including disabled persons and elderly members of the community
  6. sound environmental practices including careful parking and traffic management techniques to reduce auto trips, conserve space, encourage green areas, avoid gridlock and improve air quality.


Eligible recipients are transit operators, metropolitan planning organizations, city and county governments, states, planning agencies and other public bodies with the authority to plan or construct transit projects. Non-profit, community and civic organizations are encouraged to participate in project planning and development as partners with eligible recipients. Eligible project planning activities include:

  1. the preparation of implementation plans and designs incorporating Livable Communities elements,
  2. the assessment of environmental, social, economic, land use and urban design impacts of projects,
  3. feasibility studies, 4) technical assistance,
  4. participation by community organizations, and the business community, including small and minority owned businesses, and persons with disabilities,
  5. the evaluation of best practices, and
  6. the development of innovative urban design, land use and zoning practices.

Metropolitan and other planning organizations that receive FTA planning funds are expected to incorporate Livable Communities elements into their regular planning work programs. Eligible capital activities or capital project enhancements of demonstration projects include:

  1. property acquisition, restoration or demolition of existing structures, site preparation, utilities, building foundations, walkways, and open space that are physically and functionally related to mass transportation facilities,
  2. the purchase of buses, enhancements to transit stations, park-and-ride lots and transfer facilities incorporating community services such as day care, health care and public safety,
  3. safety elements such as lighting, surveillance and community police and security services,
  4. site design improvements including sidewalks, aerial walkways and bus access and kiss-and-ride facilities,
  5. operational enhancements such as transit marketing and pass programs, customer information services, and advanced vehicle locating, dispatch and information systems.


The statutory basis for the Initiative is found at 49 U.S.C. Section 5309(a)(5) and (7) (formerly Sections 3(a)(1)(D) and (F) of the Federal Transit Act). These provisions authorize projects that:

  1. enhance the effectiveness of mass transportation projects to which they are physically or functionally related, and
  2. provide non-vehicular, capital improvements in fixed-guideway corridors.

The flexible funding provisions of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) strengthens the funding opportunities for transit investments that meet the needs of communities. The FTA Livable Communities Initiative is thus firmly grounded in law. The essential purpose of the Federal transit laws is not simply to fund the capital and operating costs of transit systems; more generally, the purpose is to improve the quality of life in urban and rural communities through the use of transit systems, recognizing them as the lifeblood of livable communities.

The sources of Federal funds for projects reflecting the Livable Communities Initiative principles are: the transit capital Discretionary Grant or Loan Program, the transit formula assistance Block Grants, the Planning and Research Program, the Planning and Design of Mass Transportation Facilities to Meet Special Needs of Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities, the rural transit assistance Formula Grant Program for Areas Other Than Urbanized Areas, the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. In addition, limited funding will be available for technical assistance and demonstration project implementation, planning, capital projects, model planning, urban design and community involvement techniques.



Threshold Factors.

Threshold factors will include evidence that the project:

  1. resulted from a community planning process and contains community endorsement,
  2. increases access to jobs, educational opportunities, or social services,
  3. incorporates community services or other transit and pedestrian-oriented mixed use developments, and
  4. provides opportunities for small or disadvantaged business participation in the planning, design, and implementation phases of the project.

Rating Factors.

In addition to the threshold factors, there are a number of specific measures worthy of consideration in developing projects. They are as follows:

  1. evidence of community involvement in the planning, design and implementation of the project,
  2. evidence that the transit project is a product of coordinated transit and community planning,
  3. degree to which transit ridership is increased and single occupant automobile trips are reduced,
  4. degree to which the project responds to community needs through the inclusion of community services and customer conveniences,
  5. level of funding pledged by local and State agencies and other Federal programs,
  6. degree to which the enhancements improve the physical environment of the community, including safety and security,
  7. degree to which the project stimulates commercial and housing development around the subject transit facility,
  8. degree to which the project generates jobs for unemployed community residents,
  9. evidence of local ordinances reflecting supportive land use policies and business development initiatives,
  10. market feasibility of the relevant project elements, and
  11. reasonableness of the financial plan to cover the local share of the capital costs and long term operations and maintenance costs of the relevant project elements.


The project development elements to be considered when developing a Livable Communities project are:



The Cleveland Passenger Accessway is a vital element of the redevelopment of downtown Cleveland. The 1,050 foot accessway links the Tower City Center rapid transit station with the Gateway Sports Complex which contains a 42,000 seat stadium and a 21,000 seat arena. The passenger accessway includes a number of customer conveniences.

  1. Pedestrian walkway overlooks scenic Cuyahoga River, is climate controlled and contains closed circuit television cameras.
  2. The heavy utilization of the Passenger Accessway has resulted in minimal traffic congestion on event days.
  3. Due to the high volume of rapid transit ridership resulting from the use of this facility, RTA has added a large amount of additional service to accommodate event crowds.
  4. Over 60% of Gateway Stadium attendees utilized the accessway for events, over 25% of the event crowds utilized the public transit system and a majority of the transit trips use the RTA's rapid transit system.
  5. The community participated in planning and designing the facilities.
  6. The facility is totally grade-separated so that users do not have to cross downtown arterials to gain access to the facility.
  7. The project qualified for a Categorical Exclusion from Environmental Assessment.
  8. Market and financial feasibility studies were conducted by RTA and its consultants to estimate passenger utilization, flow-rates and to determine the size of the accessway.
  9. Project financing occurred in the form of an 80% grant from CMAQ funds under ISTEA flexible funding. Private sector financed 100% of conceptual design, 50% of preliminary engineering and provided in-kind contributions valued at nearly $2.0 million toward the accessway.


The Ground Transportation Center at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a multi-use facility located in the downtown CBD. The Center was designed to centralize local and intercity bus transportation modes, as well as to provide convenient access for taxis and special services for the elderly and disabled.

  1. The Center incorporates a split bus terminal with separate facilities for city buses and intercity buses.
  2. Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 bus passengers use the Center daily.
  3. Incorporated and integrated the designs of the bus terminals with other joint-development components.
  4. Emphasizes strong relationships between the bus transit and pedestrian activities.
  5. Pedestrian circulation design includes both internal and external walkways with multiple access points to transit terminals, office towers, and other buildings in the area.
  6. Project conceptualization and planning involved developers, downtown businesses and city officials.
  7. Numerous public hearings were held due to the project's proximity to a 100-year Flood Plain.
  8. Iowa's Department of Natural Resources participated in the approval process.
  9. An Environmental Assessment was conducted and found no significant impact.
  10. Market and financial feasibility studies were conducted.
  11. The Federal share of the total project cost was 80 % and included land acquisition.


The Orlando Park and Play Garage is a 515 parking space facility that incorporates a child care center, restaurant and branch offices of the City's Parking System.

  1. The City provides free shuttle bus service to downtown employment centers.
  2. The shuttle buses serve approximately 1,000 people daily from two parking garages which have a combined total of 1,127 parking spaces.
  3. The project site was designated for community service development. Public hearings considered options and recommended a multi-use facility.
  4. The City incorporated a child care center component into the project.
  5. The child care center design was integrated with the design of the parking garage.
  6. Covered walkways connect the child care center, the Performing Arts Center and the parking garages.
  7. For the purposes of environmental requirements, a categorical exclusion was issued.
  8. The child care center was financed with funds from the city's parking revenues.
  9. The City leased the child care center to a private operator. Fees are returned to the City's parking fund.
  10. FTA funded 80 % of the parking garage costs and the costs of the land for the child care center.


The Whittier Street Neighborhood Health Center opened the Health Station at Roxbury Crossing at a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) station. It is the first known health center to be located at a public transit terminal. The Health Station, located in the Roxbury section of Boston, provides very accessible health care, health promotion and health education services to an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.

  1. Roxbury Crossing Station has approximately 3,000 passenger boardings daily and also serves as a bus stop for 10 bus lines.
  2. The Health Station is located at street level adjacent to the entrance of the MBTA station.
  3. An extensive community participation program was carried out in the planning and designs of all Orange Line stations.
  4. The community recommended projects incorporating minimum parking, retail businesses, and community based services.
  5. The Health Station leases 4,670 sq. feet of space from MBTA through a master leaser contracted by MBTA. The master leaser put in electrical services as part of the lease agreement.
  6. As a notable spin-off, the master leaser is negotiating a lease at another Orange Line station for a "challenged adult" center.
  7. The Health Station offers a range of health care services including maternal and child health care services.
  8. FTA participated in the funding of the station.









Potential applicants are encouraged to initially contact the FTA Regional Offices. The Regional Offices will work with potential applicants in developing project proposals and will seek Headquarters technical assistance and procedural guidance as needed. Information on the FTA Regional Offices is listed below:

Federal Transit Administration     (617) 494-2055
Region I 
Transportation Systems Center
55 Broadway, Suite 920
Cambridge, MA 02142-1093
Federal Transit Administration     (212) 264-8162
Region II 
26 Federal Plaza, Suite 2940
New York, NY 10278-0194
Federal Transit Administration     (215) 656-6900
Region III
1760 Market Street, Suite 500  
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4124
Federal Transit Administration     (404) 347-3948
Region IV
1720 Peachtree Road, NW, Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30309-2439
Federal Transit Administration     (312) 353-2789
Region V 
55 E. Monroe Street, Suite 1415
Chicago, IL 60603-5704
Federal Transit Administration     (817) 860-9663
Region VI
524 East Lamar Boulevard, Suite 175
Arlington, TX 76011-3900
Region/Address Telephone No.
Federal Transit Administration     (816) 523-0204
Region VII
6301 Rockhill Road, Suite 303
Kansas, City, MO 64131-1117
Federal Transit Administration     (303) 844-3242
Region VIII
216 Sixteenth Street, Suite 650  
Denver, CO 80202-5120
Federal Transit Administration     (415) 744-3133
Region IX
201 Mission Street, Suite 2210
San Francisco, CA 94105-1800
Federal Transit Administration     (206) 220-7954
Region X
Jackson Federal Building
915 Second Avenue, Suite 3142
Seattle, WA 98174-1002

"We are leading America with high-quality public transportation that ensures personal mobility and livable communities."

Gordon J. Linton


Federal Transit Administration

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