In 2021, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) approached the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) with a proposal to have MTI provide an evaluation of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC’s) operational discretionary funding allocation policies and methods for Bay Area transit operators. The research was done in two parts. Part 1 investigated MTC’s past and current allocation methods for discretionary operational transit funding programs; Part 2 involved the evaluation of outcomes if MTC employed alternative allocation methods. After the Part 1 review of MTC’s various transit funding programs, the federal pandemic relief funds and the Transportation Development Act/State Transit Assistance (TDA/STA) funding programs were selected and evaluated in Part 2 using a set of five alternative allocation metrics and compared to actual MTC allocations. Key findings include: (1) the population-based metric produced the largest increase for VTA’s pandemic relief funds, with VTA receiving 221 percent more than MTC actually allocated in 2020 and 2021, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) receiving 64 percent less; (2) the ridership-based metric yielded the smallest amount of VTA pandemic funding, but high ridership operators such as SFMTA would have a 41 percent increase; (3) the population-based metric produced the largest increase in STA funding to VTA but would come at the expense of other transit operators, with Sonoma County receiving 51 percent less; and (4) the ridership-based metric yielded the smallest amount of STA funds for VTA, with 50 percent less funding than actual, while high ridership operators such as SFMTA, would see a roughly 400 percent increase. Thoroughly investigating current and alternative funding allocation methods and policies is critical to understanding their effects on transit agencies and the communities they serve.

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Transit and Passenger Rail, Transportation Finance

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



transportation funding, pandemic relief funds


Transportation and Mobility Management | Urban Studies and Planning