FTA’s National Transit Database: Data Used for Allocating Transit Grants Were Generally Supported
In fiscal year 2014, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) distributed $4.3 billion to urbanized areas, States, and territories through its largest grant program, the Urbanized Area Formula Program. All recipients and beneficiaries of these formula grants are required to report operating expense and transit service characteristics (such as annual miles traveled or number of passengers) to FTA through its National Transit Database (NTD). FTA uses NTD data as a basis for distributing over $3 billion in formula grant funds annually.
We initiated this audit to assess FTA’s oversight of the NTD to determine whether recipients of Urbanized Area Formula grants submit complete, accurate, and timely data to the NTD. Specifically, we assessed whether (1) the documentation provided by transit agencies supported information used to allocate Urbanized Area Formula funding and (2) FTA had oversight controls and guidance for transit agencies’ NTD reporting. We found that all 15 transit agencies in our sample provided support for data on operating expenses. For data on transit service characteristics, 4 of the 15 agencies had minor weaknesses in documentation. While FTA has implemented a range of controls to oversee transit agencies’ NTD reporting, it does not have a systematic process to ensure consistent follow up on recurring NTD data problems identified in its annual reviews. In addition, FTA no longer examines the collection and reporting of NTD data in its triennial reviews of transit agencies. As a result, FTA is not using its triennial review process as a tool to mitigate NTD data issues, such as the ones we identified during this review. FTA concurred with all three recommendations we made to enhance the Agency’s oversight controls and guidance for NTD reporting.