The National Academies


Innovative Toolkit for Quantifying Rural Transit Benefits

Posted Date: 6/21/2024

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 24 months
(includes 1 month for TCRP review and approval of the interim report and 3 months for TCRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 11/1/2024 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Jamaal Schoby
   Phone: 202-334-2321
   Email: jschoby@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 8/9/2024
Fiscal Year: 2024


In rural areas, public transportation costs often exceed revenues, and the financial outcome exclusive of societal economic benefits is difficult to quantify. A core challenge is a rural transit provider’s service spans large geographic spaces with spatially fragmented, transit disadvantaged populations and land uses. This challenge causes high operating costs for rural public transit providers that operate with limited resources and information access. While existing studies analyze the benefits of rural transit, a suitable comprehensive methodology is inadequate to quantify the full range of the socioeconomic benefits based on data availability. For this reason, public agencies that supply transit service in rural areas need to make a better case for public funding to establish and sustain services for users.

Better public transit access can help promote equity and opportunities for transit disadvantaged populations who have been systematically divested for economic, physical, and social reasons. Rural transit agencies and policymakers need to better understand equity issues and incorporate them into the economic analyses when gauging the societal benefits that transit provides to rural communities. For example, the societal benefits may include reduced foregone trips, access to health care, mobility for persons with disabilities, social connectedness, and improved labor and workforce access. The economies of scale that are evident for urban transit may not apply to rural communities. Instead, the economic impacts manifest when quality transit services provide access to health care, work, education, shopping, and other necessary life connections. 



The objective of this project is to develop a toolkit that identifies and quantifies the socioeconomic benefits of rural public transit. The results of this project should be able to be replicated by rural public transit professionals, including transit managers, planners, and other transit professionals, to evaluate the economic benefits of rural public transit.


The toolkit should include:

  • Current and emerging practices in quantifying and assigning monetary values to the benefits and impacts associated with rural transit.
  • New and improved methods for assessing the broad benefits and impacts of rural public transit with consideration of mobility, equity, and other socioeconomic considerations important to rural areas.
  • Case studies of benefit analyses that build upon longitudinal information.
  • Typology of beneficiaries, including but not limited to racial and ethnic minority populations, youth and elderly populations, persons with disabilities, and low-income households.
  • Typology of benefits and associated monetary values differentiated by beneficiary type.
  • Benefits to the community, such as economic viability and population retention.
  • Applications to different transit modes (as defined by TCRP Synthesis 76) related to mobility management.


Proposers are asked to develop and present a detailed research approach for accomplishing the project objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks, and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task. Proposers are expected to present a research plan that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals shall: (1) present the proposer’s current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach for meeting the research objective, (2) identify data and data sources that may be used to undertake this research, and (3) propose a format(s) for the final research product(s).

The research plan will describe appropriate deliverables that include, but are not limited to, the following (which also represent key project milestones):

  • Amplified research plan that responds to comments provided by the project panel at the contractor selection meeting. At a minimum, the research plan should describe the contractor’s approach to:
    • Identifying at least three rural transit agencies to conduct a focus group review of the benefit methodology developed by the consultant.
    • Conducting one or more trial applications of the toolkit with a rural transit agency.
    • Conducting a scan to identify funding sources used for rural transit.
  • Monthly and quarterly progress reports detailing activities by task, upcoming task activities, and issue(s).
  • Interim report that includes the analyses and results of completed tasks, an update of the remaining tasks, and a detailed outline of the final research product(s).
  • Panel meeting after submission of the interim report. The panel meeting will take place in Washington, DC, after the expenditure of about 40 to 50 percent of the project budget.
  • Final deliverables to include a draft report, final report, and a toolkit that provides a template for rural transit providers.
  • Technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note K).
  • Webinar that presents the research findings and conclusions.

Note: The research plan may include additional deliverables and panel meetings via Microsoft Teams.


A. Proposals should demonstrate knowledge of related domestic and international literature and completed and on-going research relevant to this research project.

B. Proposers should consider non-transit sources for benefits and values, for example, work done in the human services sector.

C. 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.

D. 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 ˝” 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. 

E. 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.

F. 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 Online Directory (mytrb.org). Proposers may not contact panel members directly; this roster is provided solely for the purpose of avoiding potential conflicts of interest.

G. 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.

H. 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.

I. 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.

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. 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 Boards Cooperative Research Program for technical editing standards expected in final deliverables.

M. 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.

N. All budget information should be suitable for printing on 8˝″ x 11″ paper. If a budget page cannot fit on a single 8˝″ 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 Boards Cooperative Research Programs.

O. The National Academies have an ethical and legal obligation to provide proper attribution whenever material from other sources is included in its reports, online postings, and other publications and products. TRB will review all Cooperative Research Programs draft final deliverables using the software iThenticate for potential plagiarism. If plagiarized text appears in the draft final deliverable, the research team will be required to make revisions and the opportunity to submit future proposals may be affected.

Proposals must be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/Kz9zIKrAttWFSOlXiYr6 
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 8/9/2024.

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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