The fixed guideway transit New Starts program is one of the largest discretionary grant programs offered by the United States government. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has recently streamlined the application process to allow local agencies to more quickly assemble the information necessary to support FTA’s evaluation of each proposed project and its eligibility for funding. One of the most important new initiatives is a simplified forecasting approach that streamlines the development of ridership forecasts that are a key element of project evaluation.
To meet this need, FTA engaged RSG to develop the Simplified Trips on Project Software (STOPS). This forecasting system utilizes information from the Census Transportation Planning Package to understand the regional demand for travel and represents transit levels of service using local schedule data maintained according to the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). STOPS allows planners to code project changes to the GTFS files and then run the software to determine future ridership for the project as a whole and for each station. Model outputs include all of the FTA mobility-related evaluation measures including project trips (total and trips made by transit dependents), and reductions in automobile vehicle miles of travel. STOPS is designed to calibrate itself to local conditions, and its standardized procedures will enable a streamlined review by FTA for purposes of evaluating New and Small Start project justification.