The Travel Options Program (TOP): Moving Better, Together

New TOP Projects

We are pleased to announce the selected projects for the newest round of Travel Option Program (TOP) funding for the period of FY 2023 and FY 2024 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2024). The chart found through the link below shows each project's name, its sponsor(s), the budget in federal funds*, and a brief description of the project.

Note that there were three construction projects selected during this round of applications and approvals, but due to the timing of the process to properly prepare for construction, these projects will be funded during the next round of TOP.

*The budgets shown are the federal funds supporting each project; selected non-construction projects require a 20 percent match by the sponsor(s).

What is TOP?

Imagine a region of connected communities, where residents and workers don’t necessarily need cars and have the freedom to choose from multiple reliable, affordable, safe, and well-connected transportation options. How do we make that vision into a reality? 

In 2020, DVRPC developed a formal and coordinated Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program for the nine-county Greater Philadelphia region. A new program of projects and activities - guided by A New Route to Better Travel for All: The Regional TDM Plan will help DVRPC and its planning partners better address fasting-changing TDM goals and challenges, and the need to reduce congestion and improve air quality. To that end, DVRPC is pleased to announce a second round of the Travel Options Program (TOP).

TOP funds creative projects that will reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on the region’s roadways - a concept known as Transportation Demand Management (TDM). The program will fund planning and implementation projects that support the goals, outcomes, and strategies established in A New Route to Better Travel for All: The Regional TDM Plan. Your project must address a TDM issue and solution, with some type of measurable results.

Through a biennial, two-part competitive search process, DVRPC seeks creative ideas that will reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles -- people driving alone to work, school, or entertainment venues, or to run errands -- on the region’s roadways, and improve accessibility to, and equity across, all modes of transportation. Eligible applicants include nonprofits (such as Community Development Corporations and Business Improvement Districts), government organizations (such as county agencies, municipalities, and tribal governments), school districts or schools, transportation management associations, and transit agencies.

TOP will fund ideas that respond to the goals, outcomes, and strategies established in A New Route to Better Travel for All: The Regional TDM Plan. The plan identifies five goals that address improving air quality, equity, reliability, affordability, and freedom to choose travel options.

Eligible Activities 

TOP seeks Transportation Demand Management (TDM) activities that are Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) eligible in PA, and in NJ eligible for STBGP and/or Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds. Specifically, CMAQ funds in NJ will be reserved for projects that are outside of the Philadelphia, PA--NJ--DE--MD Urbanized Area; however, they can be used for projects within the Urbanized Area if deemed appropriate by the TOP Selection Committee. STBGP funds in NJ may only be awarded to projects with locations that are 100% located within the Philadelphia, PA--NJ--DE--MD Urbanized Area.

This program is funded with STBGP dollars in Pennsylvania and a mix of STBGP and CMAQ dollars in New Jersey; interested parties should reference guidance to ensure the funding source and project(s) fit with the program. This program requires a 20% local, non-federal match, and awarded projects must be completed within the contract period (two years). The passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in November 2021 amended the STBGP. Use this link to see guidance on changes made to the STBGP as a result of the bill and this link to learn more about STBGP eligible projects. Use this link to learn more about CMAQ eligible projects

Examples of STBGP-eligible projects: 
  • Examples of Capital, Planning, or Operational STBGP-eligible projects that support TDM:
  • Planning and constructing pop-up projects that illustrate how a street, intersection, or corridor can be altered using materials that are not permanent (paint, signage, bollards, etc.).
  • Constructing new bus or bicycle parking shelter(s) with a maintenance plan.
  • Planning and implementing a new bike share program.
  • Planning and concept design or constructing new bicycle and pedestrian trails, sidepaths, sidewalks, and making improvements that will connect high-volume areas and facilities.
  • Landscaping work that is directly related to the larger transportation project (and could be considered necessary to the completion of that project).
  • Planning for and executing construction of transit capital projects to provide a new or expanded service or that is eligible for assistance under chapter 53 of title 49, including vehicles and facilities used to provide intercity passenger bus service. For example,  designing and implementing a new or expanded shuttle or micro-mobility service that will connect people to jobs and/or other high volume facilities (vehicle, route, potential frequency, and ridership estimate should be included).
  • Planning and implementing improvements to advance public transit operations. For example, constructing bus-only or business and transit (BAT) lanes along a corridor. 
  • Assistance with developing a model or recommended TDM policy or trip-reduction ordinance for municipalities or other local areas.
  • Examples of Marketing, Educational and Awareness STBGP-eligible projects that support TDM:
  • Bicycle and transit travel promotion. 
  • Enhancing awareness about and encouraging increased use of transit and auto Park-and-Ride lots in the region.
  • Education and training for employers, commuters, municipalities, elected officials about multimodal commute options and other transportation demand strategies.
  • Organization of a new car share pod or vehicle (for locations where many commuters do or could take transit or pool).
  • School education program to promote walking and biking to school.
  • Resiliency project improvements that also support TDM goals.
Examples of CMAQ-eligible projects: 
  • Examples of Capital or Operational CMAQ-eligible projects that support TDM:
  • Safe streets projects that enable more efficient and safer use of corridors for bicyclists and pedestrians 
  • Bus or bicycle shelter and associated pedestrian and landscaping facilities 
  • Corporate shuttle program
  • Deploying advanced/emerging technologies to reduce SOV trips within an office park or other locations within close proximity
  • New bike share program
  • Bicycle and pedestrian improvements that are used by commuters
  • Examples of Marketing, Educational and Awareness CMAQ-eligible projects that support TDM:
  • Employer/ee commute competitions can be a fun way for participants to learn more about commute options, earn prizes, get healthy and reduce one's carbon footprint
  • Bicycle travel promotion 
  • Targeted social media campaigns
  • Enhancing awareness about and encouraging use of Park-and-Ride lots in the region
  • Education and training for employers, commuters, municipalities, elected officials about multimodal commute options and other transportation demand strategies 
  • Organization of a new car share pod or vehicle (for locations where many commuters take transit or pool)

Amount and Source of Funding

In the most recent round of funding, the minimum project budget was $75,000 and no single project could be more than $600,000. The successful projects will be funded with federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG, aka STU/P) dollars and may require a 20 percent non-federal match requirement; this match can be a cash match or in-kind services. 

Eligible Applicants

  • Transportation management associations (TMAs)
  • Nonprofits (such as Community Development Corporations, Business Improvement Districts)
  • Government organizations (such as county agencies, municipalities, tribal governments)
  • School districts or schools
  • Transit agencies

Please note: Applicants who have never managed federal funds in the past are strongly encouraged to contact DVRPC staff to ensure project eligibility.

When and How to Submit Your Idea

1. Expression of Interest (EOI) Submission:

  • Use this link to view the EOI form.
    • For the first stage of the grant process, EOIs are submitted by a uniform, electronic template with pre-populated questions that allow the project sponsor to describe the project and how it will measurably address the goals of the regional TDM plan.

Review what happened at the most recent TOP information session:

  • A mandatory information session for the FYs 2023 and 2024 application round took place in January, 2022.
  • Attending this session was required to be eligible for EOI and application submission. The session can be viewed here and the slides can be found here

2. Application Submission:

  • Based on EOI submissions, applicants must be invited to participate in this second phase of the grant process.
  • Formal applications were due on March 9, 2022.
  • The full application guidelines document can be found here.
Typical TOP Timeline:

The following timeline provides an overview of a typical application and selection process for TOP projects. TOP projects are solicited and grants awarded on a two-year cycle. See more background on TOP, the goals of the Regional TDM Plan and the status of current projects elsewhere on this page.

November - DecemberRegional TDM Advisory Committee is updated about any changes to TOP

Grant advertisement for Competitive TOP Expressions of Interest (EOI) is posted

Regional TDM Advisory Committee TOP meets to kick-off the new TOP funding round

Required TOP webinar is held for potential applicants

TOP EOI applications are due
January - FebruaryRegional TDM Advisory Committee and DVRPC TOP Team review and recommend EOI applications

DVRPC TOP Team has follow-up conversations with:
  • EOI applicants recommended by Regional TDM Advisory Committee and DVRPC TOP Team
  • all Transportation Management Associations (TMAs)
  • TDM Advisory Committee members (if requested)
  • counties, to discuss their priority EOI projects (if requested)

EOI project sponsors are invited to complete the full TOP application
MarchFull TOP applications are due

Full TOP applications are shared with TOP Selection Sub-Committee and state and federal agencies for scoring and eligibility assessment:
  • The TOP Selection Sub-Committee is made up of two Pennsylvania and two New Jersey representatives from the Regional TDM Advisory Committee
  • Each reviewer is assigned 2-3 projects to score
  • Scoring is based on a core criteria rubric informed by goals outlined in The Regional TDM Plan

Meetings with TOP Selection Sub-Committee and state and federal agencies are held to discuss full application scores and project eligibility

TDM Advisory Committee meets to discuss full applications

Additional meetings with TOP applicants and DVRPC TOP Team are held to finalize project scopes and budgets
April - MayDVRPC Regional Technical Committee (RTC) recommends approval of TOP slate of projects by the DVRPC Board

DVRPC Board approves recommended TOP slate of projects
July and laterAwarded projects commence work

Q&A from Expression of Interest (EOI) Webinar

The TOP staff thanks all who participated in the January 2022 EOI webinar. Please see below for a record of the Questions and Answers discussion.

DVRPC Panelists: Stacy B.; Amy B. Najah J.; Kayla B.; Karen C.

Is it possible that only one New Jersey project will be selected given the total project amount is $600,000 [cap for one project], but only $400,000 of funding is available to New Jersey projects?

It’s not our intention to award large amounts of funding to a few projects; we would like to support as many projects as possible. However, it will depend upon the types of qualified projects submitted and their asking amount.

Are all of the projects from the previous round of TOP funding completed?

No, they have through the end of the fiscal year (FY22) - June 30, 2022 - to complete the project and submit the final report. Updates on those projects will be posted this summer.

Can studies and pilots be funded by the TOP program?

A study can be funded if it leads to an implementable project. Pilots can be funded, but we want to see information on how the applicant sees it progressing after the pilot in terms of funding or government support.

Is a project that only purchases materials eligible?

Yes, it could be a mostly capital project where funds would be used for purchasing materials. The project goals would have to be clearly outlined and they would have to tie back to goals outlined in DVRPC’s Regional TDM Plan. In addition, it would be beneficial if the applicant could explain the larger project the purchases would serve and how it will be implemented and funded.

Do the purchasing processes need to conform to any rules or guidelines?

If an agency or organization is invited to submit its project to the next phase of this program, the Application Guidelines outline how to handle purchasing of materials (non-labor expenses) in the required budget section, to conform to federal requirements. The Application is available on this webpage for reference, as is the sample Budget Proposal form for the current round of submissions.

Do selected projects need to provide documentation of installation?

There will be a final report due for selected projects before June 30, 2024, in which sponsoring agencies will be asked to document the project’s process, implementation, and results.

Does installation need to happen on a specific timeline?

The project and final report must be completed before June 30, 2024. However, projects may be completed before that deadline.

Do applications need to come from the exact people who attended the EOI webinar or can they come from someone else in the organization?

Applications can come from someone else in the organization, as long as someone from the sponsoring agency attends the required EOI webinar. The attending project member should help to guide the process.

Is there a minimum project cost amount?

Yes, the minimum budget should be $75,000 and no single project should be more than $600,000.

Can funding from other grant programs be used for the 20% match?

Yes, as long as the other grant funds are not federal dollars. It would have to come from elsewhere, like state or local government funds or membership dues. Certain in-kind contributions can also be used towards the match.

Does an organization have to send in an EOI for each project or can an organization send in one for all of their projects?

It is required that organizations submit individual EOIs for each project. They are fairly straight-forward and simple to complete and shouldn’t be onerous for any one organization to complete.

Is the $100,000 for New Jersey projects within the Philadelphia Urbanized Area?

There are Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds reserved for New Jersey projects which fall outside of the Philadelphia Urbanized Area.

Will the meeting with county representatives take place after the invitation to apply but before the submission of the final application?

Yes, county representatives will rank the EOI applications and then we will notify top-ranking EOI applicants to invite them to submit a formal application. Should a project be selected to submit an Application, the agency or organization must then meet with a representative from the county planning commission that oversees the area where the proposed project will be located. (If a project crosses county or state lines, all involved counties must be consulted.)

Can you explain what type of projects are eligible in terms of project study and implementation - like a bike share program, for example?

A pilot program for new services in an unserved area may be eligible, and bike share is an eligible activity for STBG/STU funds. A project study by itself is not eligible; an idea for a study will only be considered if that study leads to implementation of a program or service within the two-year contract period.

Can you explain the program changes from the last round to this round?

The changes for the FYs 23 and 24 grants are as follows:

1) There is increased funding for this round. 

2) Projects will have more time for implementation this round. Contracts for selected applicants will be awarded before FY 2023 begins so that projects have two full fiscal years for implementation, as opposed to 13 months for the previous round.

3) We transitioned to using Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) funds, which are more flexible than the previously-used Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds, for projects that fall within the Philadelphia, PA--NJ--DE--MD Urbanized Area.

4) Private firms can no longer apply on their own for TOP funds. Private-sector companies may apply as partners or subcontractors with an eligible lead agency.

5) Contracts will now be between the recipient agency and DVRPC, and will no longer go through the related state DOT.

Can TOP funds be used for land acquisition?

No, TOP funds cannot be used for land acquisition unless there is a project that is intended to be implemented on that land and can be completed within the two-year contract period.

Is there a specific RFP process that must be followed for consultant expenses to be included in the grant?  Or is it only considered a match?

There is a budget page that will be supplied as part of the Application, for those projects selected to proceed to the next phase, which details how to deal with consultants. Because the funds use federal dollars, a bid may be required if consultant fees are expected to exceed a certain amount of money. Agencies that go out for bid will likely have their own bid process. Consultant fees cannot be used as a match.

Would Capital Projects be subject to the PennDOT review process? I am wondering whether the PennDOT review process fits within the new 2-year timeline for TOP?

We encountered this issue during the last round. However, the timeline for project implementation was only 13 months, as opposed to the full two years for this round. PennDOT will still need to be involved at some level if a road or corridor involved in the project is state-owned, but the timing is not set specifically. District 6 staff will be involved in reviewing any such ideas and can provide specific guidance at that time.

What if the project does not meet the anticipated results?

Because we have not received final results from the first round of TOP projects, we have not yet encountered that issue. However, if the intention in the application is to continue the project, and something unexpected impacts anticipated results, we will work with the agency in their documentation to explain why they didn’t meet results, and outline next steps.

What documentation is needed to show that grant applications for planning projects will lead to implementation?

There is a short narrative section of the EOI form that will ask you to describe which of your project goals will impact DVRPC’s Regional TDM Goals. If your project is invited to apply for the formal application, a more detailed outline of your project plan will be required.

Will projects from a single applicant still be considered?

Yes, as long as the applicant is eligible to apply and can confirm staff resources to handle the project (or explain how a partner or subcontractor will be used).

What is your policy for matchmaking?

We don’t make specific matches or require that agencies or organizations work together. However, if we find that two or more projects seem to compliment one another or are similar in nature, we may introduce the submitting agencies to one another. Our Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) have experience in both TDM work and in managing federal funds; their participation could be beneficial especially to those agencies that do not have this type of experience. If you are interested in partnering with other applicants, we can help you coordinate with other similar projects.

Resources

Expression Of Interest (EOI) Google Form

Application Guidelines

A New Route to Better Travel for All: The Regional TDM Plan

Application Budget Proposal FY23-24

Click here for budget proposal completion instructions.

Complete each section of the budget proposal tab.  The file will auto populate calculations and totals.

  1. Enter total project cost in cell B6.
  2. List all employees with payroll rates anticipated to work on the project in Section 1.
  3. Add your fringe and overhead rates in Sections 2 and 3.
  4. List all direct expenses (materials, supplies, equipment, travel expenses) in section 4.
  5. Enter the totals for any partner agency collaborating on the project in Section 5.  If the budget of the partner agency is over $10,000 you must complete a separate tab (consultant/partner proposal) included in the excel file for that partner agency.
  6. If a consultant is needed on the project enter the total in Section 5 as an estimate.  Note that some grantees may have to complete a competitive selection process/RFP before they can select and enter a contract with a consultant. Please identify if you plan to use a consultant in your application so we can take the required steps to prepare for this in our Accounting and Procurement Departments.  Following the competitive selection/RFP process the consultant/partner proposal tab will need to be completed if the consultant budget is over $10,000.
  7. The calculated total in cell D40 must equal the total project cost in cell B6.
  8. Submit the completed budget via email with your application. If you have questions specifically about completing the budget template, please contact William Laidlaw, DVRPC’s Accounting Manager, via email: wlaidlaw@dvrpc.org.
Initial TOP Awarded Projects FYs 2021 and 2022
  • Pennsylvania Projects
  • Philadelphia Safe and Sustainable Return to Work- The Clean Air Council, the City of Philadelphia's OTIS, and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) were awarded $128,000 for a project that aims to reduce carbon emissions and congestion in Philadelphia by directly increasing bicycling and carpooling mode share.
  • Automated Vehicle Shuttle in South Philadelphia- PIDC was awarded $347,000 for a project that aims to accommodate non-SOV trips within the Navy Yard to reduce conflicts with vehicle traffic, by creating an automated vehicle shuttle service loop that will take passengers throughout the Navy Yard.
  • New Jersey Projects
  • PATCO Station Complete Streets Demonstration Pilot- The Cross County Connection TMA, PATCO, Camden County, and the Borough of Collingswood were awarded $50,000 for a project that will help educate local residents driving to and living near the Collingswood PATCO station about multimodal alternatives to the station and around the community.
  • Light Rail to Trails: Connecting the River Line & the Circuit- The Tri-State Transportation Campaign and New Jersey Transit were awarded $50,000 for a project that aims to encourage mode shifting among current RiverLINE users with first-and-last mile connections, mostly utilizing easy access to the nearby Circuit trail system.

Any questions or concerns can be directed to Stacy Bartels (sbartels@dvrpc.org) or Amy Bernknopf (abernknopf@dvrpc.org). Our project team is here to answer your questions!

Stacy BartelsManager, Office of TDM Strategy and Marketing
Air Quality Partnership
Economic Development District

190 N Independence Mall West, 8th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1520
215.592.1800