Seattle

Innovative Transit Contracting

Background

Across the United States, public transportation systems are under strain due, in part, to a range of governance, financial, and institutional problems. In response, transit providers are increasingly looking for ways to better serve their riders while working within tight budgets. One such strategy is contracting with private transportation companies to operate buses and trains, and also maintain the infrastructure. Most American transit agencies—unlike their counterparts in Europe and Asia—directly operate fixed-route transit services with their own employees, using equipment procured and owned by the agency. In the United States, contracting out (or “competitive tendering”) public transportation services is both complex and controversial.

Purpose

This project will determine if, how, and under what circumstances contracting can be implemented effectively to yield improved service for riders and better assets for agencies. Previous studies on contracting have focused on the potential for cost saving, which is real but varies substantially according to the efficiency of public operations beforehand, the labor market context, and the quality of the contract itself. The analysis and case studies presented in this project review the other benefits, drawbacks, and implementation strategies.

Funding

This project is supported by grants from TransitCenter and the National Railroad Constriction and Maintenance Association

For more information on this project, contact publicaffairs[at]enotrans.org.