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Federal Transit Administration Design and Art in Transit Projects

Printer Friendly C 9400.1A


This circular revises FTA Circular 9400.1, reaffirms that costs for design and art are eligible costs for FTA-funded transit projects, provides guidance for the incorporation of quality design and art into transit projects funded by FTA, and, within recommended parameters, leaves the allocation of funds for art to the discretion of the local transit entity.


This circular cancels FTA Circular 9400.1, "Design and Art in Public Transportation Projects," dated 1-19-1981.



This circular applies to Federal assistance under 49 U.S.C. 5309, 5303, 5307, and 5311 (formerly Sections 3, 8, 9, and 18 of the Federal Transit Act, as amended) and note that under the flexible funding provisions of Title 23 U.S.C. funds may be transferred to selected FTA programs.


The visual quality of the nation's mass transit systems has a profound impact on transit patrons and the community at large. Mass transit systems should be positive symbols for cities, attracting local riders, tourists, and the attention of decision makers for national and international events. Good design and art can improve the appearance and safety of a facility, give vibrancy to its public spaces, and make patrons feel welcome. Good design and art will also contribute to the goal that transit facilities help to create livable communities.

In updating this Circular, FTA articulates its commitment to fund quality design and art in mass transit projects and allows local agencies discretion in developing allocation of funds for these efforts within recommended parameters. FTA will fund the costs of design, fabrication, and installation of art that is part of a transit facility.

To create facilities that are integral components of communities, information about the character, makeup, and history of the neighborhood should be developed and local residents and business could be involved in generating ideas for the project. Artists should be encouraged to interact with the community and may even choose to work directly with residents and businesses on a project.

Areas of Application

While many transit projects can benefit from quality design and the inclusion of art, some areas offer greater potential for such aesthetic treatment.

Examples of projects that offer special promise are:

  1. Major Construction Projects New fixed guideway ("New Starts") projects, bus terminals, intermodal facilities, park-and-ride lots, and other associated facilities that provide bicycle and pedestrian access to the transit facilities have a significant impact on their environs and provide an opportunity to include artists on teams that plan, design, and engineer all aspects of the project. Artist should be part of the initial stages of project development.
  2. Modernization Projects Fixed guideways, bus terminals, and intermodal facilities periodically undergo modernization and renovation. Such projects offer opportunities to restore valuable historic elements and to include contemporary art that responds to the historic context. Rehabilitation of these facilities and integration of art that respects the original architecture may serve to reinforce the history of mass transit in the modern urban setting. These facilities can also serve as showcases for regional and other exhibits, thereby increasing their identity as important public facilities.
  3. Vehicle and Related Facility Improvements Rail cars, buses, and paratransit vehicles can be made more attractive through distinctive interior and exterior design and graphics employed in a cost-effective manner by design professionals artists. Many communities have a need for bus shelters to protect riders for inclement weather. These shelters and surrounding areas can be designed by architects, landscape architects, or artists, or a team approach can be taken. In addition, the shelters could provide display cases for posters or announcements of local events.
  4. Construction Mitigation Temporary art may be commissioned during construction to mitigate the negative economic impacts on businesses and to be used as part of a public outreach program for the community.

Eligibility of Costs for Art in FTA-funded Projects

Although facility design and construction activities are eligible FTA project expenses covered under ongoing planning and capital grant programs, art has not always been an eligible capital cost as a component for these activities. The incorporation of art into all areas of transit projects that are visible to the public is considered to be an eligible capital cost as a part of planning, design, and construction activities. The definition of art can be interpreted broadly for these purposes, from free-standing sculpture to wall pieces to functional elements such as seating, lighting, or railings to artists being part of an interdisciplinary team in which the artists contribute to the overall design and specific art pieces may or may not be created.


In order to promote local determination of appropriate transit-related art undertakings, FTA has established broad, flexible guidelines for including these items in agency-funded projects. In general, such artistic undertakings should conform to the following criteria:

  1. Studies and other local activities to develop programs for including art in the planning and design of transportation facilities and to obtain public participation must be included in the appropriate annual planning work programs (the Unified Planning Work Program for planning-only projects and the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Programs for capital projects) that are assisted with FTA funds.
  2. Funds spent on the art component of projects should be appropriate to the overall costs of the transit project and adequate to have an impact. These costs should be all-inclusive and generally should be at minimum one half of 1% of construction costs, but should not exceed 5% of construction costs, depending on the scale of the project. Artists may be paid a fixed fee or an hourly wage with a cap, similar to other design professional services (see FTA Third Party Contracting Guidelines, 4220.1B)
  3. Costs should be included in the relevant budget line items; that is, in planning, design, and construction line items.
  4. Artistic undertakings that promote specific private or corporate business interests are ineligible for FTA funding.
  5. The local transit agency should provide adequate administrative and technical support to professionally develop and implement the art program as well as make a long-term commitment to the maintenance of art, as is customary with other physical assets. b. Procuring Artists FTA Third Party Contracting Guidelines stipulate procedures for selecting architects for transit projects but do not specifically address the selection of artists. The appropriate artists selection process should vary among projects, depending upon the nature and scope of the project, characteristics of the site, resources of the community, and state and local statutes.

Whatever process is used to select artists, FTA recommends that it be structured to assure the following:

  1. A justifiable process, demonstrating appropriate use of public funds, that gives serious consideration to a variety of artists available and capable of working on the project.
  2. Artists, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, or age, are eligible for consideration.
  3. Selection of artists and/or artwork recommended to the grantee is determined by a panel of art and design professionals, which may include but is not limited to art administrators, artists, curators, and architects.
  4. The community surrounding the future facility participates in the selection process. This could include all levels of participation, including supplying information, attending panel meetings, and being voting members of the panel. The extent and type of participation should be determined by the commissioning agency and be appropriate to both the project and the community.

Criteria for Transit Projects in Which Artists Are Involved

It is suggested that the following criteria be used when artists are involved in planning and design of transit projects and/or when individual works of art are commissioned:

  1. Quality of art or design,
  2. Impact on mass-transit customers,
  3. Connection to site and/or adjacent community; art that relates, in form or substance to the cultures, people, natural or built surroundings, or history of the area in which the project is located,
  4. Appropriateness for site, including safety and scale,
  5. Durability of materials,
  6. Resistance to vandalism, and
  7. minimum maintenance.
Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact