Financing Capital Investment: A Primer for the Transit Practitioner

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - finance


Bonds Capital investments Debt Federal aid, Financing, Loans, Pay-as-you-go funding, Public transit


The primary objective of this primer is to help transit managers identify and evaluate financing options for public transportation capital projects. While the emphasis of the primer is on approaches that take advantage of access to the public capital markets, the report also addresses the tradeoffs of pay-as-you-go approaches versus approaches that borrow against future resources. The primer includes descriptive sections that explain the basic financing approaches and structures available to transit systems and that help system managers and public officials decide when it is most appropriate to apply alternative financing techniques. This primer is organized to provide a wide-ranging audience with easy access to the information most needed. Following the introductory Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is a brief chapter on the financing opportunities created by federal legislation and programs, with emphasis on the current federal transportation program. Chapter 3 offers an introduction to the world of municipal debt finance and offers those readers with less of a grounding in public finance with a framework for making the choice between pay-as-you-go funding and financing alternatives. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 introduce the three components of finance--capital sources, financing mechanisms, and repayment streams. Together, these chapters provide an inventory of available funding and finance methods and offer real-life examples for many of the approaches. Chapter 7 addresses how, once the options are understood, a transit system and its managers go about formulating a comprehensive capital financing plan and carrying it out for individual projects or programs of projects. Chapter 8 offers insights and observations based on the research that contributed to development of the primer, including a collection of interviews with transit system managers, state and local officials, and members of the public finance community. Following the last chapter are five technical annexes (or appendixes), which provide supporting material or additional detail for readers who are interested in learning more about a particular subject.


Permission to link to the report given by TRB.