The number of projects seeking Federal Transit Administration “New Starts” funds has fallen by more than 50% since 2001, the Government Accountability Office says. Katherine Siggerud, GAO’s director for physical infrastructure, told a House subcommittee on May 10 that there were 19 projects in the New Starts pipeline for fiscal 2008, compared with 48 in 2001. FTA officials cite their agency’s “increased scrutiny” of new starts “to help ensure that only the strongest projects enter the pipeline” as a reason for the trend, Siggerud said. But GAO also reports that transit agencies describe the New Starts process as “too complex, costly and time-consuming.”

Bus rapid transit now accounts for the largest number of New Starts projects, Siggerud said. Light-rail and commuter-rail projects have declined since 2004.