U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $15.5 Million to Improve Transit Options for American Indians, Alaska Natives on Tribal Lands

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Contact: Amy Bernstein

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 72 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes would receive a share of approximately $15.5 million through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Tribal Transit Program to enhance local public transit service on tribal lands. The Secretary made the announcement during his remarks to Tribal Leaders at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference.

“The Obama Administration understands that access to reliable, affordable transportation is a high priority for Indian Country,” said Secretary LaHood. “These funds will enable tribal governments first and foremost to continue providing transit services that thousands depend on every day, and in some cases to plan for future service as well.”

The funds were competitively awarded to tribes in 18 states for projects to continue or enhance transit services; launch new public transportation; or plan for future transit needs. Tribal residents often face significant transportation challenges, as many cannot afford to own a vehicle and yet must travel long distances across rural lands to reach basic services.

“Access to affordable public transit is a lifeline for millions of hard-working families,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We want to ensure that every American Indian or Alaskan native who needs a ride to earn a paycheck, attend school, see the doctor, visit sacred places, or buy groceries has that opportunity.”

Examples of some projects receiving funds include:

A complete list of projects funded can be found at: http://www.fta.dot.gov/12305_14934.html.

Under the new two-year surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), FTA’s Tribal Transit Program will roughly double in fund from amounts awarded in recent years, but change from an entirely discretionary program to a mostly formula-based one. Over each of the next two fiscal years (FY 2013 and FY 2014), projects will be funded based on a formula that allocates $25 million to eligible Indian tribes and sets aside $5 million to be allocated competitively. The amount of formula funds awarded is determined by several factors, including the miles a transit vehicle travels while in active service and the number of low-income individuals that reside on tribal lands. FTA is actively reaching out to tribal and rural stakeholders to discuss the impact of proposed program changes and funding priorities.

Between Fiscal Years 2006 and 2011, 172 tribal transit programs received a total of approximately $72.7 million to enhance, launch, or plan for transit service on tribal lands under the FTA Tribal Transit Program.