Detailed Information on the
Federal Transit Administration New Starts Assessment

Program Code 10001125
Program Title Federal Transit Administration New Starts
Department Name Department of Transportation
Agency/Bureau Name Federal Transit Administration
Program Type(s) Competitive Grant Program
Assessment Year 2003
Assessment Rating Moderately Effective
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 88%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/Accountability 67%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $1,566
FY2008 $1,569
FY2009 $1,621

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Use new performance targets to measure performance and better demonstrate the impact of funding on performance.

Completed Each year's budget submission reflects how funding impacts performance. FTA's budget justifications for 2008 and 2009 contained performance targets that demonstrate the impact of funding on performance.

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Long-term/Annual Efficiency

Measure: Percent of projects under Full Funding Grant Agreements that have current total cost estimates that do not exceed baseline cost by more than 5%

Explanation:This measure is focused on cost containment to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget. New Starts projects are multiyear projects that take from three to ten years to complete. Annual targets help FTA guage progress toward the desired performance level over the long-term target and to hold executive-level program leadership accountable for corrective action when performance is below targets. Performance levels assist also FTA in gauging the integrity of project sponsor's cost estimates, and thus influence eventual Federal contribution levels (costs) to individual projects. FTA analysis finds that sponsors of new transit projects tend to underestimate project costs to gain more favorable cost-effectiveness ratings, an important component of FTA's overall project evaluation and rating framework, and to generate favorable public sentiment in the project development phase.

Year Target Actual
2001 Baseline 85%
2002 85% 85%
2003 100% 100%
2004 100% 92%
2005 100% 100%
2006 100% 92%
2007 100% 100%
2008 100%
2009 100%
Long-term/Annual Outcome

Measure: Average percent change in transit passenger-miles traveled per transit market (r) = revised target

Explanation:This measure is the average number of passenger boardings for all urbanized areas (UZAs) containing one or more of the 150 largest transit agencies (by boardings). The originial measure was changed in 2003 to guage the average percent change per market instead of the total average change to reflect FTA's goal of increasing ridership in every transit market. Beginning in 2007, the percent change in transit boardings is no longer being adjusted for changes in employment levels. A goal of 1.0% was set for 2005-2006. Based on performance levels in 2005, the goal was adjusted upwards to 1.5% for 2007-2008, and to 1.9%, for 2009-2012. FTA will revisit the out year targets after further analysis of data indicating the trends showing higher than projected increases in ridership

Year Target Actual
2001 44.8 46.3
2002 3.5% 2.9%
2003 2.0% 0.7%
2004 2.0% 0.7%
2005 1.0% (r) 1.9%
2006 1.0% 2.1%
2007 1.5% (r) 2.0
2008 1.5% (r)
2009 1.9%
Long-term Outcome

Measure: A new performance measure is being investigated using the increase amount of data now available on the performance of New Starts projects. The new performance measure will be identified by the end of September, 2008.


Year Target Actual
2008 TBD
2009 TBD
2010 TBD
2011 TBD

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The Major Capital Investment Program (New Starts) is a competitive, discretionary grants program that allocates funds for public transit systems including light rail, commuter rail, subway and heavy rail, and rapid bus projects in an objective manner based on established criteria.

Evidence: The New Starts program is a requirement under Title 49, United States Code, Section 5309. Well established rating and ranking criteria is included in Major Capital Investment Projects; Final Rule published December 7, 2000. Section 5309(e) states: "the Secretary may approve a grant or loan for a capital project for a new fixed guideway system or extension of an existing fixed guideway system if the project is justified based on a review of its mobility improvements, environmental benefits, cost effectiveness, and operating efficiencies; and supported by an acceptable degree of local financial commitment."

YES 20%

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: The New Starts Program provides funding to allow cities to construct transit projects. These projects are proposed to address transportation problems, improve access and mobility, promote economic development, alleviate congestion, improve air quality, and provide transportation alternatives. The 2002 Conditions and Performance Report estimates that an average of $5.7 billion in 2000 dollars will be needed for transit asset expansion in order to maintain conditions and performance. These capital intensive projects require funding beyond the Federal formula resources. The discretionary nature of the New Starts program allows funding to be allocated only to the most meritorious projects and only when funds are necessary to construct them.

Evidence: There are 28 projects under construction and 60 in planning and project development. The demand for the Federal share of New Starts funds is increasing as cities nationwide determine that transit can address their mobility and congestion problems. Transit also helps address air quality issues and can be part of a State's plan to get back in attainment with EPA air standards. According to a study in St Louis, a Metro Link light rail train removes 125 cars from the roads representing and a commuter rail train removes 200 cars from the roadways.

YES 20%

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: The NSP is a program that complements the efforts and responsibilities at the State and local level. NSP is the only federal program to provide guaranteed capital funds for new transit projects. The construction of new transit systems is a capital intensive investment that cannot be adequately supported by State and local funds only. If these federal funds were eliminated, States and local governments would be unlikely to be able to raise adequate resources to construct new construction project.

Evidence: States raise capital investment funds for transit through the issuance of bonds. Certificates of participation (COPs) are tax-exempt bonds issued by State entities that are generally secured with revenues that are expected to be earned from the equipment that the COP funds are used to purchase. Guaranteed funding levels and the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) mechanism in NSP have allowed public transportation agencies to borrow from the capital markets by issuing bonds. Under TEA-21 (1998-2003), the capital markets reflected clear willingness to underwrite bonds secured solely with an FFGA. Between 1999 and 2002, FFGAs have leveraged over $1.5 billion in capital markets funding at very favorable ratings (A+ to A-). Without the federal involvement through NSP, it is unlikely that these investment grade rates could have been attained.

YES 20%

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: The New Starts program has evolved over three decades in the effort to reflect and improve. There is no strong evidence that a different approach would be more efficient or effective.

Evidence: The New Starts program has been building since the mid-1970's. The first Policy Statement was in 1976 that introduced a process- oriented approach. In each subsequent publication of policy changes (the latest being the Final Rule on New Starts in December 2000), requirements for project justification and adherence to and refinement of rating and ranking criteria have been incorporated. These criteria require more sophisticated planning techniques and measures of success of New Starts projects in the following areas: capital costs, operating costs, system utilization (including ridership levels, service levels, user characteristics, trip purpose, etc.) General Accounting Office (GAO) and Inspector General (OIG) reports and studies have supported the program design. The Final Rule, Major Capital Investment Projects was published December 7, 2000 includes a summary of the history form the early 1970's first policy statement through the 1980's Major Urban Mass Transportation Capital Investments to incorporation the direction of the authorizations of the transit assistance program in STURRA - 1987, ISTEA - 1992 and TEA-21 - 1999.

YES 20%

Is the program effectively targeted, so program resources reach intended beneficiaries and/or otherwise address the program's purpose directly?

Explanation: The New Starts Program was designed to help cities and local jurisdictions design and construct transit projects. FTA relies on a multiple measure approach regarding the evaluation of projects before the federal funding commitment is ever considered. FTA provides the technical assistance and oversight of the New Starts Program; requiring New Starts grantees to engage in one of the most rigorous financial planning, project development, and engineering processes in government.

Evidence: The New Starts Program evaluation and rating process results in Congress supporting 91% of FTA's recommendations for proposed New Starts projects annually. The remaining funds are earmarked by Congress to address special interests. There is no evidence that there is another method that would provide a better outcome. However, FTA has identified 4 goals for refining the New Starts Program. The 4 goals are: Leverage the Federal dollar more effectively; sharpen the focus on project outcome; manage risk more explicitly; emphasize getting ahead of congestion.

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 100%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: FTA has three specific long term program measures: 1) Cost Containment of constructing New Starts projects. 2) Mobility Improvements, as measured by forecast user benefits (travel time savings) of New Starts projects under FFGAs. 3) Increasing Ridership, as measured by the demonstrated and sustained increase in corridor transit ridership after the implementation of New Starts projects. Because ridership data is gathered FTA-wide, FTA currently uses a linkage between a completed NSP project and ridership data in the region to assess the success of NSP in supporting the FTA-wide goal of increasing ridership.

Evidence: 1) FTA Executive Core Accountabilities; 2) Annual New Starts Report publishes the forecasted mobility benefits for each system 3) Before and After Study Requirement established in FTA's Final Rule on Major Capital Investments, published December 2000. The Before and After Studies will collect meaningful performance data, including ridership, service levels, etc. Further, program measures are aligned to FTA's overall long-term goals of increased ridership and mobility benefits, which are included in its Performance Plan.

YES 12%

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: FTA's long term targets are generally ambitious because they either exceed the Department of Transportation's targets or historical experience. For instance, both FTA's cost containment measure and target are more ambitious than DOT-wide long term target for cost containment. FTA's long-term target for its cost containment measure -- 100% of all NSP projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements that meet cost estimates within 5% of its original agreement. DOT's cost containment measure is percent of major federally-funded projects ($1 billion or above) that meet cost estimates established in project agreements, or miss them by less than 10%. DOT's target is 95%. FTA's ridership goal in the DOT Strategic Plan and the FTA Executive Core Accountabilities is 2% increase in annual ridership for the largest 150 transit markets, normalized for changes in the economy, (notably employment levels). Since 1991, the ridership growth for the largest 150 transit markets has averaged 0.41%. While there is a cyclical nature of these trends, long term goal of maintaining a 2% increase in ridership is quite ambitious.

Evidence: DOT FY 2004 Performance Plan, National Transit Database, FTA's Executive Core Accountabilities for senior and SES managers.

YES 12%

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term measures?

Explanation: FTA's annual performance measures and targets are inextricably linked to its long term goals for the NSP program. Further, these annual targets enable project and senior managers to assess whether long term goals can be met. 1) Cost containment: Progress reports on project adherence to cost estimates are provided quarterly to the Administrator and Executive Management Team 2) Mobility Improvements: Projected (normalized) increase in user benefits (travel time savings) among the FFGA projects will be analyzed in comparison to the FFGA projects in the previous year, 3) Demonstrated increase in corridor transit ridership after implementation of each New Starts project, based on the results of required Before and After Studies.

Evidence: Progress reports on the cost containment of New Starts FFGAs are submitted quarterly for review to the Administrator, Deputy and the Executive Management Team. Information on user benefits, and other measures of mobility are evaluated for each candidate project annually, and used in FTA's decision to award an FFGA. The results of the required Before and After Studies will improve the current ridership data by gathering actual ridership after project completion as compared to projected ridership during the planning stages of the project. Such information will enable FTA to better assess the direct impact of NSP projects.

YES 12%

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets and timeframes for its annual measures?

Explanation: FTA's annual targets for its measures are ambitious for the same reason its long-term goals are ambitious -- the targets either exceed DOT-wide targets for cost-containment or they exceed historical annual experience nationwide. (See explanation in Question 2.2 for specific reasons why these annual targets are ambitious). FTA is also working to develop better measures such as Cost effectiveness -- the incremental cost of the project divided by hours of travel-time savings (transportation system user benefits). Cost is defined as the estimated annualized capital cost (not including financing costs) plus annual operating and maintenance costs. Transportation system user benefit is defined as all annual travel-related benefits in terms of hours saved by all users of the transit system (both existing riders and new riders).

Evidence: FTA's Executive Core Accountabilities, DOT FY 2003 and FY 2004 Performance Plans.

YES 12%

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, etc.) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: All partners commit to and work toward the long term goals of the program. Since the NSP is a competitive grant program, there is a minimum level of "buy-in" that must be ensured before there is a federal commitment of funds thru a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA). 1) Cost Containment: The FFGA instrument establishes a ceiling for Federal participation in a New Starts project, meaning that any cost-overruns must be met with local resources. 2) Mobility Improvements: FTA rates most favorably those projects which demonstrate the largest mobility improvements, in terms of user benefits (travel time savings), per their annualized costs. 3) Increasing Ridership is the most basic measure of a project's success in meeting the transportation needs in a given corridor. Increasing ridership further results in larger farebox revenues to offset the cost of providing the service. Finally, in order for FTA to sign the full funding grant agreement, the grantee must also agree to pay for an independent study that compares ridership and transit user benefits before and after the project.

Evidence: The Annual Report on New Starts includes: New Starts Criteria Reporting Instructions. Project sponsors report and are projects are measured by their contribution to: 1) Mobility - Hours of Transportation System User Benefits Low-Income Households Served and Employment Near Stations; 2) Environment - Change in Pollutant Emissions Change in Energy Consumption; and 3) Cost-effectiveness - Incremental Cost per Hour of Transportation System User Benefit. Monthly project management oversight reports require FTA and its consultants to be in very close contact with these projects so that grantees long term goals are communicated.

YES 12%

Are independent and quality evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: Both the General Accounting Office and the DOT Office of the Inspector General conduct reviews and assessments of the New Starts program. On an annual basis, GAO reports to Congress on the effectiveness of the ratings process as well as overall program implementation. As a result of these annual analyses, FTA has implemented improvements to the ratings process. In addition, the Inspector General has conducted periodic reviews of New Starts program management documentation. These reviews have applauded the strength of FTA's New Starts program oversight program, as noted in the Inspector General's testimony before the House Committee on Appropriations on March 13, 2003.

Evidence: By April 30 each year, the General Accounting Office is required, by statute, to review the New Starts processes and procedures for evaluating and rating projects and recommending projects; and the implementation of such processes and procedures. Also, at FTA's recommendation, the DOT Inspector General conducts spot reviews of the documentation developed by the New Start project management oversight contractors.

YES 12%

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: FTA's Congressional Budget Justification for FY 2004 was not aligned by performance. However, FTA's FY 2004 Budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reflected a demonstrated effort to link budget and performance and both OMB. However, DOT has submitted a FTA budget that is integrated with performance for FY 2005. FTA, in its FY 2004 proposal has also begun to streamline its account structure to better align with performance by making NSP its own account.

Evidence: FTA's FY 2004 Budget submission to OMB; FTA's FY 2005 Congressional Justification.

NO 0%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: FTA continually strives to improve its evaluation of candidate New Starts projects so that we better understand project merits and fund only the most promising of fixed guideway investments. Working with the transit industry, which was generally dissatisfied with FTA's old cost effectiveness measure of "cost per new rider," FTA developed the more inclusive measure of "cost per hour of user (mobility) benefits" which captures travel time benefits to ALL transit riders, not just new riders. FTA's Final Rule on Major Capital Investment Projects (December 2000) reflects additional improvements to FTA's evaluation process, based on input from the transit community. FTA's New Starts and Construction Roundtable series and technical workshops provide additional opportunities to discuss evaluation procedures and technical methods for project planning. This has resulted in a number of important guidance documents aimed at improving the planning and development of major transit capital investment projects.

Evidence: Final Rule on Major Capital Investment Projects (December 2000). New Starts Criteria Reporting Instructions (June 2002); FY 2004 Annual Report on New Starts. Planning guidance documents. FTA also holds regular meetings with senior executives to address any deficiencies in the NSP projects. As a result of earlier strategic planning meetings, the FTA Core Accountabilities were established to increase the level of accountability for FTA's senior management. Two of the four Core Accountabilities, namely project planning and oversight and ridership, have direct applicability to the New Starts program.

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 88%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: FTA regularly collects quality data that is used to assess program and program manager performance. FTA collects information on project merits (mobility, cost effectiveness, air quality (AQ) benefits, land use) and financial plans (New Starts criteria) in order to evaluate candidate projects and make resource allocation decisions. FTA also collects data from the National Transit Database to serve as baseline for FTA. Beginning February 2002, FTA will collect performance data and analysis from sponsors of all FFGA projects which compare travel conditions and costs before and after implementation of the project, as well as predicted vs actual impacts. FTA will then use this information to measure program performance and develop a research program for improving technical planning methods. During project development, FTA's Project Management Oversight (PMO) contractors perform site visits and submit monthly reports on grantees' progress. Financial Management Oversight (FMO) contractors also collect and analyze information on project and grantee finances.

Evidence: Annual New Starts project submissions, requests for project sponsors to enter to preliminary stages of planning or final design, and results of FTA evaluations, published in the Annual Report on New Starts; National Transit Database; Final Rule on Major Capital Investment Projects (December 2002); PMO guidance; PMO contractors perform site visits and submit monthly reports on grantees progress; New Starts Criteria Reporting Instructions; financial planning guidance; "Before and After Study" requirement from grantees and FTA guidance. FTA also plans to collect performance data and analysis from sponsors of all FFGA projects which compare travel conditions and costs before and after implementation of the project, as well as predicted vs actual impacts. FTA will then use this information to measure program performance and develop a research program for improving technical planning methods.

YES 10%

Are Federal managers and program partners (grantees, subgrantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, etc.) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: The program and FTA overall has set up an infrastructure that holds both Federal and non-federal partners accountable. Candidate grantees are held accountable for the development of good projects vis a vis FTA's evaluation process, which identifies and rates favorably only the best projects. Grantees are held accountable to costs and schedule according to the full funding grant agreement instrument. FTA manages an oversight program to ensure grantee accountability in implementing the project. FTA executive core accountabilities include cost estimation and oversight.

Evidence: FTA Circular 5200, Full Funding Grant Agreement Guidance; Monthly independent project management oversight reports, FTA's Executive Core Accountabilities.

YES 10%

Are all funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner and spent for the intended purpose?

Explanation: New Starts funds are obligated in a timely manner due to the structure of our Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs). The FFGA Attachment 6 includes yearly funding requirements to allow for orderly and timely completion of the project, and FTA requests the Attachment 6 amount in each year's budget request to Congress. Also, the funds appropriated are spent for their intended purpose because our network of Program Management Oversight (PMOs) and Financial Management Oversight (FMOs) contractors closely monitors grantees to ensure this.

Evidence: Based on FTA's analysis of the obligation rate of New Starts projects over the last 10-years, an average of 93% of New Starts funds are obligated within the first year following the appropriations year. Project management oversight contractors (PMOs) and financial management oversight contractors (FMOs) work with regional offices and headquarters staff through audits to ensure that grantees are spending the New Starts funds appropriated to them for their intended purpose. Reports are filed quarterly that contain this assessment. Monitoring of the Tren Urbano, Puerto Rico, project construction is an example where FTA withheld funding based on a questionable use of resources. In 2000, PMOs and FMOs noted serious problems with the reporting of actual expenditures on this project, and how actual expenditures compared to the intended use of resources. FTA promptly withheld funds and provided technical assistance to the grantee. The grantee has since filed acceptable financial plans, and the funds have been released.

YES 10%

Does the program have procedures (e.g., competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, approporaite incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: FTA integrates cost effectiveness and efficiency throughout the execution of the New Starts program. First, cost effectiveness of candidate projects is a major evaluation factor; the better the cost effectiveness, generally the higher the rating. FTA also considers other project benefits (mobility, air quality, land use, etc.). FTA manages over $45 million in oversight (FMO and PMO) program resources to ensure efficient program management and execution . FTA is currently awarding new PMO contracts with innovative performance based elements. FTA has implemented an advanced "Fast Track" database to help manage new starts program data. Second, because cost containment is a core executive accountability, there is an internal incentive to constantly improve.

Evidence: New Starts criteria reporting instructions; results of project evaluations (New Starts Report); PMO and FMO guidance and reports; performance-based contracts for project management oversight and financial management oversight; FTA's internal executive core accountabilities.

YES 10%

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: New Starts program requires coordination with State and local entities as well as other federal programs due to the way the program is structured by law. FTA's evaluation process favorably considers State and local match of New Starts funds that exceed the minimum match as required by law, thus providing an incentive to project sponsors to leverage other Federal, local, and state funding. The average New Starts share of project costs (for projects with full funding grant agreements or proposed full funding grant agreements in FY 2004) is 48%. Project sponsors routinely include other federal and transit formula resources, which further requires collaboration.

Evidence: Annual Report on New Starts. The initial phases of New Starts projects are funded with other transit resources, usually the sec. 5307 Formula Grants funds. Based on current statistics, 16% of funding for New Starts projects is from Formula Grants.

YES 10%

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: There are no material internal control weaknesses reported by auditors directly related to the New Starts program. In fact, both the General Accounting Office (GAO) and DOT Inspector General have been favorable in their assessment of FTA's project management and financial management oversight program. Further, FTA, which was on GAO's high risk list in the early 1990's, was removed on the list by early 2000. GAO attributed this primarily to the improvements FTA made in its grant oversight. OIG has called FTA's project and financial management of its grants "a sound approach".

Evidence: GAO report GAO-01-253 "Major Management Challenges and Program Risks", DOT Inspector General testimony (March 13, 2003)

YES 10%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: FTA is continually updating guidance on the reporting and evaluation of New Starts criteria, including the introduction of improved measures for cost effectiveness and mobility. The GAO has reviewed FTA's New Starts evaluation process every year during TEA-21, and consistently finds it to be an objective and meaningful process. The Inspector General has reviewed FTA's oversight program and has found it much improved. FTA also issues guidance and methods to develop better projects. Finally, FTA is getting more, and more experienced staff to provide technical assistance to project sponsors and to evaluate proposed projects.

Evidence: Various guidances, as previously described GAO Reports RCED-99-113; RCED-00-149; GAO -01-987; GAO-02-603, GAO-01-253;

YES 10%

Are grants awarded based on a clear competitive process that includes a qualified assessment of merit?

Explanation: All projects are evaluated for merit based on a rigorous evaluation process, and only recommended projects are proposed for funding. As noted, this process is high profile and is reviewed by GAO on an annual basis.

Evidence: FTA New Starts criteria reporting instructions; Annual New Starts Report.

YES 10%

Does the program have oversight practices that provide sufficient knowledge of grantee activities?

Explanation: FTA has a project management oversight program to monitor the project development of ALL candidate New Starts sponsors. These PMO contractors perform site visits and submit monthly reports on progress. Both the PMO and Financial management contractors perform detailed reviews at critical milestones. At even earlier stages of development, FTA staff reviews plans and products of the planning process to ensure adherence to good planning practice, and FTA employs specialized contractors to review technical work such as travel forecasts.

Evidence: PMO and FMO guidance; PMO quarterly and monthly reports; FMO financial capacity reviews.

YES 10%

Does the program collect grantee performance data on an annual basis and make it available to the public in a transparent and meaningful manner?

Explanation: All FTA evaluations of candidate projects are published annually. FTA collects, compiles and disseminate the performance information in the Annual New Starts Report. FTA now requires each FFGA sponsor to conduct a Before and After Study to measure the impacts of New Starts investment on ridership, service level, and other information. This information will be collected and disseminated once each system has been built. Additional system-wide performance information is collected (e.g., the National Transit Database) on an annual basis and made available publicly and used by industry and universities for national transit analysis. New Starts project progress reports are provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the OIG, and GAO on a quarterly basis.

Evidence: The Annual Report on New Starts collects performance information annually as required by the New Starts Criteria Reporting Instructions. Project sponsors report and are projects are measured by their contribution to: 1) Mobility - Hours of Transportation System User Benefits Low-Income Households Served and Employment Near Stations; 2) Environment - Change in Pollutant Emissions Change in Energy Consumption; and 3) Cost-effectiveness - Incremental Cost per Hour of Transportation System User Benefit.

YES 10%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 100%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term outcome performance goals?

Explanation: FTA has made significant improvements in the last two years in developing ambitious long term goals and the infrastructure to collect and to ensure that the data is meaningful and reliable. Although these improvements are relatively new and still under development, FTA has provided evidence to show that they are well underway to succeed. Specifically, 1) Cost Containment - since fall of 2002, FTA's executive core accountability has included annual cost containment target of 100% of all New Starts projects with a full funding grant agreement within 5% of total cost as delineated in the contract agreement. Since the development of this target, FTA has met the goal. Before 2002, FTA used the DOT-wide target of a more refined definition of ridership that controls for economic variables. However, FTA has provided historical data (1993-2001) on regional ridership trends of urban areas where a New Starts project was opened during that timeframe. Data shows increases in ridership (as defined by passenger miles traveled) increased an average of 10.3% a year after the project or segment was completed. The increased ridership trends continue years after the completion of the New Starts project for all ten of the urban areas. To validate the true impact of NSP on ridership, FTA now (beginning in 2001) requires each FFGA sponsor to conduct a Before and After Study to measure the impacts of the New Starts investment on, among other things, ridership.

Evidence: FTA's core accountabilities raises management focus on cost controls. The Executive Management Team's performance depends on bringing New Starts projects in on time and on budget. This approach: 1) creates a more disciplined approach to project costing from inception through construction, 2) improves the New Starts overall ratings, 3) emphasizes risk assessment practices, 4) incorporates innovative procurement practices, and 5) supports best practices and peer review. For mobility improvements, see New Starts final rule and annual report on New Starts for information about the new user benefits measure. The final rule also establishes the Before and After data collection and Study requirement; see also draft Before and After Study guidance. Internal FTA reports and National Transit Database.


Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: The New Starts program is integral in accomplishing FTA's performance goals. New Starts projects contribute to FTA reaching its performance goal of increasing transit ridership to improve urban and rural mobility by keeping the average yearly increase in ridership at least 2%, averaged across all transit markets, and adjusted for employment levels. For example, as noted in Question 4.1, regional ridership has increased an average of 10.3 % a year after a New Starts project has been completed in that locality. The increase ridership tapers off in the future years, but does not fall below the levels before the project was completed.

Evidence: FTA's core accountabilities raises management focus on cost controls. The Executive Management Team's performance depends on bringing New Starts projects in on time and on budget. This approach: 1) creates a more disciplined approach to project costing from inception through construction, 2) improves the New Starts overall ratings, 3) emphasizes risk assessment practices, 4) incorporates innovative procurement practices, and 5) supports best practices and peer review. Internal FTA reports and National Transit Database.


Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program performance goals each year?

Explanation: FTA's long term efficiency measure of cost containment is relatively new. FTA's record on successfully completing FFGA's within 10% of budget (DOT-wide goal) has been good over the past five years. 85% of New Starts projects have been completed within 10% of the budget.

Evidence: FTA Executive Core Accountability, DOT Performance Plan, FTA Quarterly Performance reports. Project Management Oversight Monthly reports.


Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., that have similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: The New Starts Program is unique because it provides major capital investment in transit projects; thus, it addresses a broad set of transit needs from a national perspective. New Start projects are located in every geographic area of the country and in cities of all sizes. These projects include commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, and bus rapid transit.


NA 0%

Do independent and quality evaluations of this program indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: The General Accounting Office reviews the New Starts program on a annual basis. The DOT OIG reviews the program periodically. Since 2000, the OIG has released an average of six reports annually. These reports are typically related to specific New Starts projects and/or project management. Further these reports have praised FTA's use of Program Management Oversight Consultants and Financial Management Oversight Consultants, calling this approach "essentially a sound approach that can provide early warnings of cost, schedule, and quality problems."

Evidence: www.oig.dot.gov; www.gao.gov OIG report RT-2000-063 "Transportation Investment Projects Management and Oversight" states that "FFGAs have effectively limited the Federal government's financial risks and promoted accountability." While recent GAO reports have been critical of the New Starts program, they have also recognized that FTA has addressed these issues, such as proposing to include bus rapid transit as an eligible project within New Starts.

YES 25%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 67%

Last updated: 09062008.2003SPR