5 Things to know about the Federal Transit Administrations' Asset Management Rule
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) estimates funding America’s backlog of transit infrastructure replacements and rehabilitations would cost $86 billion. To close this gap, FTA published the Final Rule for Transit Asset Management in July 2016. This rule, authorized by the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, establishes a strategic and systematic approach for the transit industry to effectively manage public transportation capital assets throughout their entire life cycle. We have pored over the rule and its requirements with our experts and boiled it down to the five things you need to know:
The rule defines “state of good repair.” State of good repair, which the rule refers to as SGR, is defined as “the condition in which a capital asset is able to operate at a full level of performance.” In other words, the asset must be able to perform its designed function and pose no major safety risks. By keeping capital assets in a state of good repair, the rule argues, transit agencies will improve safety, enhance system reliability, decrease maintenance costs and improve the quality of system performance.
All public transportation providers must develop and implement a transit asset management (TAM) plan. All plans must include: an inventory of capital assets; a condition assessment of those assets; decision support tools to estimate capital investments needed over time; and, a prioritized list of investments to improve the state of good repair of capital assets.
Agencies should first run through this checklist to determine if they are considered tier I or II according to the rule. Knowing this designation will help agencies understand what is required of them in the plan. Next, each transit provider needs to designate an “accountable executive” for their TAM plan.
Tier I providers must develop their own TAM plan, while Tier II providers may participate in a single group plan or opt out and develop their own plan. Tier II group plans must be compiled by a sponsor. Check out FTA’s Checklist 2a: Am I required to be a TAM group plan sponsor? and Checklist 2b: Am I going to be a participant in a TAM group plan? for more details.
Initial plans must be completed by October 2018 and updated in their entirety every 4 years. They should cover at least 4 years and coincide with relevant statewide transportation improvement programs.
The rule establishes state of good repair performance measures. Agencies must analyze and set performance targets annually for four categories of assets: equipment (construction, maintenance, non-revenue service vehicles); rolling stock (buses, railcars, ferries, other passenger vehicles); infrastructure (systems, structures, utilities); and, facilities (support, passenger, parking). Targets must be supported by recent condition data as well as reasonable financial projections.
Annual reporting to the National Transit Database is required. Each year, the agency or entity responsible for developing a TAM plan must submit projected targets for the next fiscal year, condition assessments and performance results, and a narrative report on transit system changes and progress to the National Transit Database.
FTA is available to provide technical assistance. FTA will update certifications and assurances to reflect TAM plan requirements. FTA will also review plans and progress during triennial and state management reviews, as well as during metropolitan planning organization certification reviews.
Whether you are operating a sprawling big-city network or a smaller rural system, the best practices established by FTA’s rule are intended to help you extend the reach of your limited capital funds. By fulfilling the rule’s requirements, you will better understand how focusing on asset management can ensure safe, dependable service for your riders—something that is more and more important as transit ridership grows across the country. For more information about the TAM rule and additional resources, visit FTA’s website.Ehsan Minaie, PhD, PE, is an engineering practice leader with experience working with federal, state and international clients. His experience focuses on transportation asset management, risk and resilience of infrastructures and the application of technology for assessment of existing structures at both practical and research levels.
Transportation asset management is about making informed, data-driven decisions.