The National Academies

TCRP J-11/Task 26 [Completed]

Collaborations and Partnerships between Public Transportation and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)

  Project Data
Research Agency: Nelson/Nygaard
Principal Investigator: Terra Curtis
Effective Date: 9/28/2017
Completion Date: 12/20/2018


During the past decade, a variety of technology-enabled mobility options have emerged that have gained considerable visibility, popularity, and notoriety. Private firms, known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), connect people seeking trips to drivers who are often (but not always) using their personal (non-commercial) vehicle. These connections are made through computer and smart phone mobile applications (apps) that allow passengers to easily request and pay for their trips; to monitor vehicle location, arrival time, and trip progress; and to identify their driver. GPS technology allows drivers and passengers to locate one another and enables fares to be automatically determined for each trip. The term “ridesourcing” (i.e., outsourcing rides) has been coined to describe this mobility option.

Research thus far on TNCs suggests that technology-enabled mobility options can complement, supplement, or sometimes substitute for public transportation. For example,

  • Complement. Transit customers and others are currently most likely to use TNCs during late night hours and weekends when transit services are less available.
  • Supplement. TNCs can provide first mile/last mile services, enabling more people to use public transportation for more trips. Additionally, TNCs can provide service in areas and to markets that are costly for transit agencies because they generate low revenues or higher operational costs. (This includes lower density areas and persons with disabilities.)
  • Substitute. Some transit passengers may elect to use a TNC instead of public transportation, in particular if they have a special travel need or a time constraint.

Research is needed on existing and potential collaborations and partnerships between public transportation and TNCs to increase understanding and support effective decisionmaking in this emerging area.


The objective of this research is to prepare an up-to-date guide on collaborations and partnerships between public transportation and TNCs in all stages of development and realization. This includes initiatives that are underway, in development, under consideration, disbanded, or potential. The research should consider the opportunities and challenges, including the benefits and risks, of these collaborations and partnerships.

  • Mechanisms for accountability for TNCs, whose ability to be responsive to public transportation agencies may be affected by market forces.
  • Imaginative future scenarios, beyond current experience, that may merit further research.
  • Other relevant information, as discovered.


The research is completed and published as TCRP Report 204. The report culminates with a Partnership Playbook that is presented both as Chapter 6 and as a separate download available on the TRB website (www.trb.org) by searching for TCRP Research Report 204.”  

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