The National Academies


Fare Policies, Structures, and Technologies -- 2024 Updates

Posted Date: 1/12/2024

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 24 months
(includes 3 weeks for TCRP review and approval of the interim report and 6 weeks for TCRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 9/15/2024 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
   Phone: N/A
   Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 3/12/2024
Fiscal Year: 2023


TCRP Report 10: Fare Policies, Structures, and Technologies (1995) explored developments and issues of fare policies, structures, and technologies. The report presented the experiences of transit agencies in selecting and using various approaches, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of emerging payment technologies.  Subsequently, TCRP Report 94: Fare Policies, Structures, and Technologies: Update (2003) provided a revision and update to TCRP Report 10. Since 2003, TCRP has managed research and published reports covering fare payment policies and questions, including TCRP Synthesis 101: Implementation and Outcomes of Fare-Free Transit Systems (2016); TCRP Synthesis 144: Multimodal Fare Payment Integration (2020); and TCRP Synthesis 160: Fare Capping: Balancing Revenue and Equity Impacts (2022). However, although the transit fare payment landscape has drastically changed, no major study has evaluated the state of fare policies, structures, and technologies.

Agencies need guidance and best practices on new ways of thinking about fares and fare products, including innovative concepts unlocked by the latest fare payment technologies. Since TCRP Report 94, technological innovations in open payments, mobile technology, near-field communication (NFC), Bluetooth, and cashless transactions offer opportunities to improve the ease of transit fare payment. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many transit agencies to temporarily eliminate fare collection due to operator health and safety concerns, providing those agencies an opportunity to reevaluate fare collection. The recent national discourse about social justice and equity has agencies looking for best practices for equitable fare enforcement.


The research objective is to update TCRP Report 94 and provide a comprehensive review of fares: policies, structures, products, payment technologies, integrations, and equity. This will include summaries of and references to other TCRP publications on fare structures and technologies since TCRP Report 94.


The TCRP is seeking proposals on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to present a research plan that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.

This subject is vast and covers an array of topics. The anticipated product of the research is practical information for transit professionals and policymakers in fare-related planning and decision making. The contractor shall identify innovative ways to present the information (case studies, creation of evaluation frameworks, procurement samples, online resources, fact sheets, etc.) and consider the following:

  • Introduction and research approach
    • Introduction
    • Overview of transit fare landscape, impacts, and considerations for transit systems
  • Framework for fare policy decisions
    • Issues influencing fare policy decisions
    • Fare setting objectives: revenue, equity, demand management
    • Transit fares in a post-pandemic world
    • Ridership and revenue considerations
      • Metrics to measure success
      • Ridership and revenue impacts of fare structure and program updates
    • Considerations for small transit systems
  • Fare equity – overview
    • Equity and environmental justice issues
      • Title VI analysis best practices
      • Equity analyses beyond Title VI
    • Unbanked and underbanked customers
    • Low-income and other social fare programs
    • Specialized discount fare programs
    • Customer experience and accessibility 
  • Fare policy and structure
    • Introduction
    • Fare structures (flat, distance-based, time-of-day, etc.)
    • Fares by type of service (regular, commuter, express, limited-stop)
    • Fare-free structures 
  • Fare products and programs
    • Introduction
    • Pass products
    • Fare capping
    • Fare subsidy programs (university programs, employer benefits programs - “EcoPass”, community/neighborhood programs and bundling, access-to-jobs programs) 
  • Fare payment and collection
    • Introduction
    • Cash (on-board, loading onto cards, etc.)
    • Card-based payments: magnetic farecards, smart cards
    • Mobile pay
    • Account-based payment systems
    • Open payments
    • Integrated payment (as a component of mobility as a service)
      • Bike/scooter, micromobility, transportation network companies, first/last mile
    • Emerging – be-in/be-out, post-payment, biometric
    • Fare payment/collection marketplace overview (current vendors, pricing) 
  • Planning, operational, and administrative impacts
    • Public engagement best practices
    • Procurement challenges
    • Onboard vs offboard fare payment/loading
    • Proof-of-payment / fare validation (real time vs asynchronous)
    • Futureproofing fare payments
    • Back-end systems issues and considerations
    • Fare education
    • Transit operator safety/security issues
    • Fare enforcement 
  • Summary of findings

The research shall include a scan of all topics listed and a deep dive into the issues of new technologies, new perspectives (equity) and fare policies, and collection options enabled by new technologies. Proposers are encouraged to review Special Note K and develop an approach that effectively disseminates this work into practice for agencies of all sizes.

The research plan shall be divided into tasks that present, in detail, the work proposed in each task. The research plan shall describe appropriate deliverables that include, but are not limited to, the following (which also represent key project milestones):

  • An interim report (i.e., a technical memoranda or report) and panel teleconference, which occurs after the expenditure of no more than 40 percent of the project budget,
  • Draft report,
  • Final report, and
  • Technical memorandum, titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see special Note K).

The research plan may include additional deliverables as well as additional panel meetings via teleconference. The research plan shall have a schedule for the project that includes 3 weeks for panel review of the interim report, 3 weeks for panel review of the draft final report, and 3 weeks for contractor revision of the draft final report. 


A. Proposals should demonstrate knowledge relevant to this project and experience dealing with fare policies, structures, and technologies. Fare equity considerations shall permeate the entire research project. 

B. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were revised in May 2023. Please take note of the new and revised text which is highlighted in yellow.

C. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected. For other requirements, refer to chapter V of the instructions.

D. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs have been modified to include a revised policy and instructions for disclosing Investigator Conflict of Interest. For more information, refer to chapter IV of the instructions. A detailed definition and examples can be found in the CRP Conflict of Interest Policy for Contractors. The proposer recommended by the project panel will be required to submit an Investigator Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Form as a prerequisite for contract negotiations. 

E. Proposals will be rejected if any of the proposed research team members work for organizations represented on the project panel. The panel roster for this project can be found at this link. Proposers may not contact panel members directly; this roster is provided solely for the purpose of avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

F. Proprietary Products - If any proprietary products are to be used or tested in the project, please refer to Item 6 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals.

G. Proposals are evaluated by the TCRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively knowledgeable in the problem area. The project panel will recommend their first choice proposal considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities. A recommendation by the project panel is not a guarantee of a contract. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS - the contracting authority for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) will conduct an internal due diligence review and risk assessment of the panel’s recommended proposal before contract negotiations continue.

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal.

H. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academy of Sciences. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academy of Sciences. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

I. The text of the final deliverable is expected to be publication ready when it is submitted. It is strongly recommended that the research team include the expertise of a technical editor as early in the project timeline as possible. See Appendix F of the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Program for technical editing standards expected in final deliverables.

J. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals. Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

K. The required technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” should (a) provide recommendations on how to best put the research findings/products into practice; (b) identify possible institutions that might take leadership in applying the research findings/products; (c) identify issues affecting potential implementation of the findings/products and recommend possible actions to address these issues; and (d) recommend methods of identifying and measuring the impacts associated with implementation of the findings/products. Implementation of these recommendations is not part of the research project and, if warranted, details of these actions will be developed and implemented in future efforts.

L. If the team proposes a Principal Investigator who is not an employee of the Prime Contractor, or if the Prime Contractor is proposed to conduct less than 50% of the total effort (by time or budget), then section five of the proposal should include: (1) a justification of why this approach is appropriate, and (2) a description of how the Prime Contractor will ensure adequate communication and coordination with their Subcontractors throughout the project.

M. All budget information should be suitable for printing on 8½″ x 11″ paper. If a budget page cannot fit on a single 8½″ x 11″ page, it should be split over multiple pages. Proposers must use the Excel templates provided in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs


Proposals must be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/U1QjhzR1E1ga4hycctfZ 
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 3/12/2024.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a fillable PDF version of the Liability Statement. A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at https://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals". Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section IV for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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