Public transit continues to play an important role in the state and local transportation scene. Wisconsin’s 81 public transit systems in both urban and rural areas rank among the nation’s best in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, connecting thousands of state residents to jobs, schools and other destinations.
Approximately 48% of Wisconsin transit riders are headed to work, 23% to school, 18% to retail, tourism or recreational destinations, and 10% to health care destinations. A study conducted in 2003 and updated in 2006 found that public transit saves Wisconsin riders and taxpayers an estimated $730.2 million annually – $597 million in savings to transit riders, which is then reinvested in the state’s economy, and savings of $74.3 million in public assistance spending and $58.9 million in home health care costs. In addition, a cost benefit analysis showed that investing in transit would produce a return of over $3 for each dollar invested. Additional information about the benefits of public transit is available on this website.
The following state and federal funding programs can assist local governments and transit systems with operating and/or capital expenses to support public transit services such as buses, vans and shared-ride taxi systems.
Individuals are not eligible to apply directly to WisDOT for the transit assistance grants below. However, the Wisconsin Annual Transit Report provides contact information for transit resources in their area that are subsidized by federal and state programs.
Bus and Bus Facilities Program
A federally-funded formula and discretionary capital grant program providing capital funding to public transit systems to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities.
Federal Formula Grant Program for Rural Areas
Supports capital and operating expenses for public transit services that are scheduled for and operated in non-urbanized areas (population under 50,000)
Federal Formula Grant Program for Urbanized Areas
A federally-funded grant program that assists transit systems in urban areas (population over 50,000) with operating expenditures
Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP)
Allocates federal funds to further the development of skills and abilities for persons involved in providing transit services to rural and small urban areas.
State Urban Mass Transit Operating Assistance
Assists transit systems with operating costs. Eligible applicants include municipalities with populations greater than 2,500 including counties, municipalities and towns – along with transit or transportation commissions or authorities. Eligible public transit services include bus, shared-ride taxicab, rail or other conveyance either publicly or privately owned.
Statewide Transit Planning Grant Program
Provides federal funds to eligible organizations to finance studies and plans related to the provision of public or specialized transit service.
Wisconsin Employment Transportation Assistance Program (WETAP)
An effort to connect low-income workers with jobs through enhanced local transportation services, WETAP integrates local, state and federal funding into a single program and award process administered jointly by WisDOT and the state Department of Workforce Development.
The goal of WisDOT’s Specialized Transit programs are to provide additional aid to overcome barriers that seniors (aged 65 years or older) and Americans with disabilities face in seeking full participation in society and fundamental community services. The program seeks to expand mobility options to people with disabilities beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Individuals who are transportation-disadvantaged face different challenges in accessing services whether they live in urban, rural, or suburban areas. Additionally, the geographic dispersion of transportation-disadvantaged populations creates challenges for human service programs hoping to deliver transportation for their clients.
The following programs can assist local governments and private non-profits with operating and/or capital expenses to support the transportation needs of seniors (aged 65 years or older) and individuals with a physical or mental disability,
County Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance
Provides counties with financial assistance to provide transportation services to seniors and individuals with disabilities. Eligible applicants are county public bodies only.
Tribal Transportation for Elders
Provides tribes with financial assistance to deliver transportation services to tribal elders. Eligible applicants are federally recognized tribes only.
Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program
Utilizes federal and state funds to provide capital and operating assistance to serve seniors and individuals with disabilities. Eligible applicants include private, non-profit organizations and local public groups. Eligible projects include the purchase of accessible Human Service Vehicles, operating budgets, Mobility Management and non-vehicle capital.
Mobility management is an innovative approach for managing and delivering coordinated transportation services to customers, including older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals with lower incomes.
Provides more rides to more consumers through cooperation, communication, and sharing resources. Transportation coordination is a process where human service agencies, transportation providers, consumer groups, and public officials work together to develop and improve services for transportation disadvantaged individuals by ensuring that transportation resources funded by different programs are coordinated.