The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SG-20 [Active (Synthesis)]

Performance Metrics in Third Party Contracts for Bus Operations and Maintenance
[ TCRP J-07 (Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 5/7/2021 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Principal Investigator: Michael Walk
Effective Date: 11/16/2021
Completion Date: 6/12/2023
Fiscal Year: 2021

Tentative Scope



Transit agencies typically utilize three basic models to provide bus transit services to the public. The models are:

·       Full inhouse Operations and Maintenance (O&M) by the transit agency.

·       Fully contracted O&M by a third party.

·       Hybrid, where certain routes O&M are contracted out and the remainder are run inhouse.

An understanding of the service models is clearly relevant for the potential to maximize operational efficiencies and manage costs. For example, rural transit agencies have an interest to fully contract O&M to a third party for the lower fixed cost (Ng et al., 2012). However, there is higher-variability in the quality and costs. Further, it is more difficult to measure quality and efficiency.  Medium size and larger urban systems have different interests and challenges when considering the operations and maintenance of their bus transit services.

Synthesis Objective:

The synthesis will document current practices and metrics used to contract out bus operations and maintenance in North America. It will look at all situations where O&M  services are contracted out (i.e. the entire network is contracted out or divisions or sections of the network are contracted out). The synthesis will document the reasons for outsourcing and the metrics used by agencies for evaluating whether to self-operate or contract out bus operations and maintenance in North America.  In addition, the synthesis will ascertain how agencies are holding their third party providers accountable against contractual terms as well as methodologies that agencies use to monitor and oversee contractors.

Information To Be Gathered will include specific items as determined by the panel during the first panel meeting.

How the Information Will Be Gathered:

  • Survey of North American public transit agencies
  • Literature review of past research
  • Structured interviews with agencies
  • Example performance metrics and reports gathered from agencies
  • Third party contracts examples from agencies


Information Sources:

  • Ng, E.-H., Beruvides, M., Simonton, J., Chiu-Wei, C.-C., Peimbert-García, R., Winder, C., & Guadalupe, L. (2012). Public Transportation Vehicle Maintenance and Reginal Maintenance Center: An Analysis of Existing Literature. Engineering Management Journal; EMJ, 24.
  • Fatih Canitez, Pelin Alpkokin, John Andrew Black, Agency costs in public transport systems: Net-cost contracting between the transport authority and private operators - impact on passengers, Cities, Volume 86, 2019, Pages 154-166, ISSN 0264-2751,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2018.09.010.

TRB Staff
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: TBD
Teleconference with Consultant: TBD
Second Panel: TBD

Topic Panel 


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