Incorporating Art and Design into Federally Assisted Projects

Program Eligibility

While many FTA programs provide assistance for transit projects that can benefit from quality design and the inclusion of art, some areas offer greater potential for such aesthetic treatment.  Design and construction services that might involve considerations of art include site planning, landscape design, architectural design, interior design, and engineering systems design.

Photo: A light rail vehicle approaches the Washington / Central Avenue station in Phoenix, AZ.
Under FTA programs, eligible capital expenses include the acquisition, construction, and improvement of public transit facilities and equipment, passenger shelters, park and ride lots, passenger amenities, ferry terminals, construction and rehabilitation of transit facilities, as well as historic and intermodal facilities.

Examples of programs that offer particular opportunities for funding art in transit are:

  • Planning Programs (49 U.S.C. 5303, 5304, 5305). Funds from FTA’s Metropolitan and Statewide Planning programs are eligible for the incorporation of design and art planning into the planning of capital projects.

  • Urbanized Areas Formula Program (49 U.S.C. 5307). Public transportation plays an integral role in the urban fabric of our nation. Considerations for design and art can provide an opportunity for urban communities to take pride in a transit investment that greatly impacts their community. As urbanized areas receive the largest portion of FTA funding and offer unique historical and cultural resources, the Urbanized Area Formula Program is a resource for communities to receive Federal support for design and art in public transportation.

    Recipients of Urbanized Area Formula Funds operating in a urbanized area with a population area over 200,000 is required to certify that it expended not less than 1 percent of its Federal assistance authorized under 49 U.S.C. 5307 each fiscal year on transit enhancements. Information on minimum requirements for transit enhancements and how to submit Transit Enhancement Reports can be found in the current versions of FTA Circular 5010, “Grant Management Requirements” and FTA Circular 9030, “Urbanized Area Formula Program:  Grant Application Instructions.”

  • Major Capital Investment Grants (New Starts, Small Starts and Very Small Starts, 49 U.S.C. 5309). New fixed guideway projects and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems have a significant impact on communities and provide an opportunity to include artists on teams that plan, design, and engineer all aspects of the project. As with other FTA programs listed, funds from FTA’s New Starts, Small Starts, and Very Small Starts programs may be used for art and design elements.

  • Fixed Guideway Modernization (49 U.S.C. 5309). Existing fixed guideways and facilities related to fixed guideways 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 and design that respects the original architecture may serve to reinforce the history of public transportation in the modern urban setting.

  • Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program (49 U.S.C. 5320).  The Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program funds projects located on National Parks and other Federal lands. The incorporation of art and design into FTA funded projects under Transit in the Parks has the potential to impact several goals of the program, including conserving natural, historical and cultural resources and improving the visitor’s experience.

  • Bus and Bus Related Facilities (49 U.S.C. 5309).  Examples of capital projects eligible under the Bus Program include the acquisition of vehicles, facilities, passenger shelters and the rehabilitation of vehicles. Public art may be included as part of eligible projects.

  • Nonurbanized Area Formula Program (49 U.S.C. 5311). Communities in rural and small urbanized areas may want to consider incorporating design and art that is unique to their communities into capital projects being funded under this program. America’s smaller communities each posses a unique characteristic that can be publicly showcased via art and design in public transportation passenger facilities.

  • Tribal Transit Program (49 U.S.C. 5311(c)). Based upon an annual national competitive selection process conducted by FTA, FTA awards Tribal Transit grants directly to eligible Indian tribes. Tribes may wish to consider incorporating significant cultural and community design concepts and art into facilities receiving funds from FTA under this program.

  • Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program (49 U.S.C. 5320).  The Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program funds projects located on National Parks and other Federal lands. The incorporation of art and design into FTA funded projects under Transit in the Parks has the potential to impact several goals of the program, including conserving natural, historical and cultural resources and improving the visitor’s experience.

Neon lights add a touch of color to an otherwise ordinary escalator, enhancing the experience of transit riders.Transit Enhancements

Public art that enhances public transportation service or use and is physically or functionally related to a transit facility is an eligible activity for FTA funds as a transit enhancement.  While public art is an eligible expense in itself, recipients should note that art is available to improve the appearance of other eligible transit enhancement projects listed under Section 5302(a)(15).

Recipients of Urbanized Area Formula Funds operating in a urbanized area with a population area over 200,000 is required to certify that it expended not less than 1 percent of its Federal assistance authorized under 49 U.S.C. 5307 each fiscal year on transit enhancements.

Public art is one of several eligible activities that can be utilized to meet this requirement set under Section 5307(d)(1)(K).

Photo: A Stephen Antonokos creation provides unique lighting to an escalator at the Exchange Place PATH station in Jersey City, NJ.

How to Report Art and Design Activities to FTA

To report on art and design activities related to an FTA grant, FTA recipients should referred to the current version of FTA Circular 5010, “Grant Management Requirements,” for a discussion on specific project administration requirements.  Additionally, recipients will need to consult the program-specific circular pertaining to application and reporting requirements for each program from which they will utilize funds for the purposes of art and design.  For a full listing of FTA program circulars, visit the FTA Circulars page.

The local transit agency or public entity undertaking a transit project should provide adequate administrative and technical support to develop and implement the art program encompassing various media as well as make a long-term commitment to the maintenance of art, as is customary with other physical assets.

Information on minimum requirements for transit enhancements and how to submit Transit Enhancement Reports can be found in the current versions of FTA Circular 5010, “Grant Management Requirements” and FTA Circular 9030, “Urbanized Area Formula Program: Grant Application Instructions.”

Port Ayers transfer center in Corpus Christi, TX. Local residents decorated the thousands of tiles that adorn this facility.

Port Ayers transfer center in Corpus Christi, TX. Local residents decorated the thousands of tiles that adorn this facility.