Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT)


Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT)

Program Background

Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit is a statewide grants program that provides financial assistance to support public transportation services throughout Virginia.

Individually Administered Grant Programs

Operating Assistance

DRPT provides funding for operating expenses for eligible public transportation services. DRPT uses a performance-based methodology to determine the specific allocation of operating assistance funds to each operating transit agency. The program funds no more than 30 percent of all operating expenses borne by public transportation operators.

Capital Assistance

DRPT uses a prioritization process to allocate and assign resources to capital projects and investments. Under this process, DRPT scores and prioritizes projects in the following categories.

  • State of Good Repair: Capital projects or programs to replace or rehabilitate an existing asset, excluding major capital construction projects with a total cost over $3 million (State Match: up to 68 percent)
  • Minor Enhancement: Capital projects or programs that add capacity or include the purchase of new assets with a total project cost less than $3 million. This category also includes vehicle expansion projects of no more than five vehicles or 5 percent of the existing fleet size, whichever is greater, and all projects for engineering and design (State Match: up to 68 percent).
  • Major Expansion: Capital projects or programs to add, expand, or improve transit services or facilities, with a total cost exceeding $3 million. This category also includes vehicle expansion projects with an increase of greater than five vehicles or 5 percent of fleet size, whichever is greater, and all projects that include the replacement of an entire existing facility (State Match: up to 50 percent).

Applicants that are eligible for federal public transportation grant programs may combine federal and state capital assistance grant funds to decrease the local match needed for each project. However, a minimum 4 percent local match is necessary for all projects.

Demonstration Project Assistance

DRPT administers the demonstration project assistance program, which is a competitive grant program that supports local efforts to improve transit reliability, access to housing and employment centers, and public transportation mobility options.

Demonstration projects also serve as examples and opportunities for learning and replication for other transportation agencies.

The projects that are eligible include:

  • New Service: the deployment of new traditional public transportation services in an area not currently served by public transportation or in a currently served area that will provide additional connections.
  • Technology and innovation: the deployment of projects designed to test the “proof of concept” for new technologies used in the provision of public transportation services, including deployment or testing of autonomous vehicle technology, micro-transit demand response system, and new Intelligent Transportation Systems solutions that would augment the provision of service and/or data collections.

Technical Assistance

DRPT’s technical assistance grant program support studies, plans, research, data collection, and evaluation projects to help improve public transportation services. This includes providing technical analysis and guidance on operations, service delivery, customer service, expansions of service, and program delivery.

Public Transportation Workforce Development Program

DRPT supports the hiring of apprentices who are interested in pursuing careers in public transportation.

The program intends to increase awareness of public transportation as a career choice for aspiring managers, maintenance and operations staff, marketing employees, and other specializations within public transportation and commuter assistance agencies.

Agencies are encouraged to gear apprenticeships toward any facet of the public transportation industry and may focus programs on the operations side of the public transit agency to demonstrate potential career tracks for future mechanics, operators, dispatchers, and operations supervisors.

The grant program enables qualified individuals to gain experience in all facets of public transportation operations through hands-on work. Eligible expenses include wages, fringe benefits, training (may include CDL or other appropriate certifications), and travel. Post-collegiate apprenticeships and pre-graduate training are both eligible for program funding.

Applicants are responsible for conducting an open recruitment process and selecting a qualified individual that fulfills the purpose and intent of the program. This program is not intended for staff augmentation, and such applications will not be considered for funding.

Application Resources and Timeline

For detailed information on the application timeline, goals, eligibility requirements, eligible expenses, and application process for all DRPT administered grants programs, view the resources below:

Application Timeline

  • December 1, 2023
    DRPT began accepting applications for Fiscal Year 2025

Application Resources

DRPT's WebGrants

DRPT’s WebGrants site is the portal that allows DRPT’s partners to apply for funding, submit reimbursement requests, manage grants, and report performance requirements.