5
Transit Contracting Experiences and Advice from General Managers

The discussion in this chapter focuses largely on the qualitative and perceptual responses to the transit system survey. Part 2 of the survey asked the general managers or top executives of transit systems to explain why their agencies contract for transit services, to relate the outcomes of their contracting programs, and to offer advice on how to make contracting work better. General managers of agencies that currently do not contract were asked to explain why they do not and to indicate whether their agencies have contracted in the past. Of the 502 transit agencies surveyed, the general managers of 237, or 47 percent, completed and returned this part of the survey (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of the overall pattern of response to the survey).

The committee chose to survey transit system managers for two reasons. First, general managers can offer specific information on the practice and effects of contracting, since many have experience with contracting on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, the choice of contracting is often a policy-level decision influenced by political, legal, and institutional environments, and more than any other group, general managers are distinguishable participants in this decision-making process. Thus these individuals are often responsible for both making and implementing these decisions.

Ideally, the survey respondents would have included more individuals involved in and knowledgeable about transit service



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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience 5 Transit Contracting Experiences and Advice from General Managers The discussion in this chapter focuses largely on the qualitative and perceptual responses to the transit system survey. Part 2 of the survey asked the general managers or top executives of transit systems to explain why their agencies contract for transit services, to relate the outcomes of their contracting programs, and to offer advice on how to make contracting work better. General managers of agencies that currently do not contract were asked to explain why they do not and to indicate whether their agencies have contracted in the past. Of the 502 transit agencies surveyed, the general managers of 237, or 47 percent, completed and returned this part of the survey (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of the overall pattern of response to the survey). The committee chose to survey transit system managers for two reasons. First, general managers can offer specific information on the practice and effects of contracting, since many have experience with contracting on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, the choice of contracting is often a policy-level decision influenced by political, legal, and institutional environments, and more than any other group, general managers are distinguishable participants in this decision-making process. Thus these individuals are often responsible for both making and implementing these decisions. Ideally, the survey respondents would have included more individuals involved in and knowledgeable about transit service

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience contracting decisions and their effects, such as transit board members, union officials, and private contractors. As a practical matter, however, the development and administration of such an extensive and multifaceted survey was not possible. Therefore, to supplement the responses of the general managers, several follow-on telephone interviews were conducted with transit general managers, contractors, union leaders, transit board members, and public officials from five transit systems (see Box 5–1). The information and insights gleaned from these interviews proved to be helpful in analyzing the general managers’ responses. The collective results of the survey of general managers should thus be regarded as reflecting one important perspective on contracting decisions and outcomes—that is, the current perceptions of transit general managers. At the same time, however, given the variation in circumstances from one transit system to another, the large number of survey responses provides a mix of viewpoints and appraisals. The responses offer much insight into why some systems contract and others do not, how contracting has engendered both positive and negative reactions, and what steps have been taken to make contracting work better. Finally, it is important to note that some of the questions in the general manager survey did not distinguish between fixed-route and demand-responsive services. When the survey results can be disaggregated by these service types, however, they are presented this way. Furthermore, some of the questions asked the general managers to make judgments about closely related aspects of service, such as effects of contracting on operating costs and cost-efficiency, or on employee turnover and workforce retention. As a practical matter there can be little, if any, difference between such response categories; however, as many variants as possible were offered because of the potential for multiple interpretations. By and large, the responses did not vary among related response categories. Reasons for Using and Not Using Contracting The survey respondents included general managers of 144 transit systems that currently contract for demand-responsive or bus services, or both, as well as general managers of 93 systems that do not contract for services at all. Those in the former group were asked to assess the importance of several possible reasons for their agency’s decision to contract, while those in the latter group were asked to rate possible reasons for their agency’s choosing not to contract.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience BOX 5–1 Follow-on Interviws Nineteen telephone interviews were conducted with transit managers, labor representatives, private contractors, and public officials from Aiken County, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Port Authority of Allegheny County); San Diego, California (Metropolitan Transit Development Board); Arlington (Pace), Illinois; and Clearwater-St. Petersburg (Pinellas County), Florida. These five communities were selected because they vary in size and geography and because the transit agencies that serve them differ in size and structure. Each person was asked questions similar to those in the survey, but designed to elicit more detail. Specifically, each was asked to discuss the following (when relevant): The history of contracting at the agency; Positive and negative impacts of contracting—cost savings, flexibility, labor issues, political ramifications, service quality, and quality of the contractor; Ways to make contracting work better, including use of performance standards, incentives and penalties, and relations with the contractor; and Willingness to contract again, and reasons why or why not. Given that the respondents varied widely in their knowledge of contracting and in their perspectives, the board members, public officials, and general managers interviewed were asked questions about the political aspects of contracting. Likewise, agency contract managers, union officials, and private contractors were asked about the details of the contracting program and its history. Reasons for Contracting General managers of systems that currently contract were asked to judge each of ten possible reasons for contracting according to its influence on the decision to contract. They were asked to rate each as either a primary, important, minor, or irrelevant factor in their agency’s decision to contract for fixed-route bus and demand-responsive services. Three of the reasons relate to service cost (improve cost-efficiency, reduce costs, create a more competitive environment) and four to aspects of service quantity and quality (start new services, expand existing services, provide a higher quality of service, and allow for more flexible service changes). The remaining three reasons relate to policy direction—transit board guidance, state mandates or laws, and federal emphasis on contracting. By and large, the respondents gave similar answers for bus and demand-responsive services. Starting new services, reducing costs, and increasing cost-

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience efficiency were the reasons for contracting rated most highly by both the 75 general managers responding for their bus services and the 117 responding for their demand-responsive services (see Figure 5–1 and Table 5–1).1 Indeed, these three factors were the only ones rated as primary or important reasons for contracting by more than half the respondents, for both bus and demand-responsive services. Many of the general managers also cited the desire to create a more competitive environment, expand services, and increase flexibility to change service as either primary or important reasons for contracting: each was cited by nearly 40 percent of the respondents for both contracted bus and demand-responsive services (see Figure 5–1 and Table 5–1). About a fourth of the general managers identified the desire for higher-quality service as a primary or important reason for contracting, although most often as the latter. By comparison, relatively few general managers (about 7 to 18 percent) rated the influence of federal policies and state laws as important reasons to contract for either bus or demand-responsive service. Reasons for Not Contracting General managers of systems that do not contract at all were asked to rate 10 possible reasons for not contracting, including not regarding the practice as cost-effective, perceiving no reason to change current practice, and wishing to maintain control over operations. They were also asked to rate the lack of qualified firms, board direction, the influence of union contracts, insufficient number of bidders, bids that were too high, state labor laws, and the long-standing labor protection provisions in Section 13c of the Federal Transit Act (for a brief description of Section 13c, see Box 2–1 in Chapter 2). Several of the responses are notable. In particular, 51 of the 87 responding general managers, or nearly 60 percent, characterized the desire to maintain control over operations as either a primary or important reason for not contracting (see Figure 5–2 and Table 5–2). Interestingly in light of the reasons given by general managers for contracting, more than half of the 87 general managers cited not regarding the practice as cost-effective as a primary or important reason. Almost half of the general managers also identified as a primary or important factor not having a reason to change their current practice. In the follow-on interviews, some of the general managers cited satisfaction with existing in-house services as a reason for not contracting. In one case, described in Box 5–2,

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience FIGURE 5–1 Average rating of reasons for contracting by general managers of transit systems that currently contract, from Part 2 survey results. (NOTE: 4=Major/primary reasons; 3=Important factor; 1=Not a factor.)

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience TABLE 5–1 General Managers’ Rating of Reasons To Contract for Fixed-Route Bus and Demand-Responsive Services Reason “Primary Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Important Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Minor Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Not a Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers FIXED-ROUTE BUS SERVICES (75 Responding) Start new services 33 44.0 14 18.7 5 6.7 23 30.7 Reduce costs 30 40.0 20 26.7 7 9.3 18 24.0 Improve cost-efficiency 26 34.7 21 28.0 8 10.7 20 26.7 Create competitive environment 13 17.3 16 21.3 10 13.3 36 48.0 Expand services 12 16.0 19 25.3 5 6.7 39 52.0 Allow more flexibility 10 13.3 16 21.3 14 18.7 35 46.7 Board direction 11 14.7 16 21.3 7 9.3 41 54.7 Provide higher-quality service 10 13.3 10 13.3 15 20.0 40 53.3 State mandate or law 3 4.0 5 6.7 4 5.3 63 84.0 Federal emphasis 2 2.7 3 4.0 13 17.3 57 76.0

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience Reason “Primary Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Important Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Minor Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Not a Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers DEMAND-RESPONSIVE SERVICES (117 Responding) Start new services 50 42.7 25 21.4 7 6.0 35 29.9 Reduce costs 47 40.2 25 21.4 11 9.4 34 29.1 Improve cost-efficiency 49 41.9 22 18.8 14 12.0 32 27.4 Create competitive environment 21 17.9 26 22.2 16 13.7 54 46.2 Expand services 22 18.8 26 22.2 11 9.4 58 49.6 Allow more flexibility 13 11.1 34 29.1 17 14.5 53 45.3 Board direction 14 12.0 21 17.9 21 17.9 61 52.1 Provide higher-quality service 8 6.8 26 22.2 23 19.7 60 51.3 State mandate or law 14 12.0 7 6.0 6 5.1 90 76.9 Federal emphasis 6 5.1 7 6.0 17 14.5 87 74.4 NOTE: Respondents included general managers of transit systems that currently contract.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience FIGURE 5–2 Average rating of reasons for not contracting by general managers of transit systems that currently do not contract for any services, from Part 2 survey results. (NOTE: 4=Major/primary reasons; 3=Important factor; 2=Minor factor; 1=Not a factor.)

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience TABLE 5–2 General Managers’ Rating of Reasons Not To Contract for Transit Service Reason “Primary Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Important Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Minor Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers “Not a Reason” Percentage of Responding General Managers Maintain control 33 37.9 18 20.7 9 10.3 27 31.0 Not cost-effective 22 25.3 25 28.7 6 6.9 34 39.1 No reason to change 18 20.7 23 26.4 9 10.3 37 42.5 Lack of qualified firms 11 12.6 9 10.3 9 10.3 58 66.7 Board direction 10 11.5 10 11.5 5 5.7 62 71.3 Union contract 7 8.0 9 10.3 4 4.6 67 77.0 Section 13c prevents 8 9.2 5 5.7 4 4.6 70 80.5 Too few bidders 7 8.0 6 6.9 0 0.0 74 85.1 Proposed bids too high 6 6.9 3 3.4 1 1.1 77 88.5 State labor laws 0 0.0 2 2.3 1 1.1 84 96.6 NOTE: Respondents included 87 general managers of transit systems that currently do not contract for any service.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience BOX 5–2 A Collaborative Approach to Transit Service Provision A collaborative approach between agency and union was mentioned by two agencies as a reason not to contract. One of the agencies, the Pittsburgh area’s Port Authority of Allegheny (PAT), deserves attention because of its unique history of contracting. In the early 1990s, an attempt by the agency to contract for new suburban services was legally challenged. The union prevailed on some matters in court, causing both parties to submit the issue to arbitration. The arbitration ruling stated that the agency could operate low-density-area services, but only on new routes. It also stated the union had to operate the service, but at a lower wage rate, and that vehicle maintenance could be contracted out. In 1996, PAT leased five vehicles for a new airport service. The lower-paid drivers could work on this route. Although these workers were members of the local transit union, other union members objected to their hiring. A two-tier wage structure was developing in the workforce—small transit vehicle (STV) drivers locked in at 65 percent of the top operators’ wages and those operating large vehicles following the wage progression specified in the labor contract. This two-tier system was causing labor difficulties; hence in the next round of labor contract negotiations, the union and PAT decided to take another approach. They agreed that instead of contracting out, all new drivers would start at 65 percent of the top operators’ wage rate, and the hiring wage progression was restructured. PAT would be able to retain a number of drivers at the 65 percent level according to the number of vehicle-hours operated by STVs. At the same time, some existing routes would be converted to STV, and all PAT routes would be available to any interested operator. The union agreed to this arrangement because it would eliminate the two-tier system; instead, the lowest pay scale functions as a new step in the wage progression to the top rate. The STV runs were also known to be popular with some veteran drivers. Meanwhile, the agency obtained cost savings and the ability to add more services. It also lessened pressure on its maintenance facilities, which were operating at or near capacity. According to union officials, 300 union employees have been added in the last 2 years. As of early 2001, about 8 percent of 1,600 driver positions are at the 65 percent wage rate, and nearly all move up to the next step within 1 year. The agency estimates that even in an economic slowdown, projected attrition rates would result in a maximum stay of 18 months at the 65 percent level. Nevertheless, the union would like to establish a time limit on this first step and revisit the issue of contracting maintenance on STVs.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience a collaborative approach to service delivery between transit agency management and the local labor union led to reduced interest in private contracting. Influence of Laws and Policy Neither the general managers that currently contract nor those that do not identified federal and state laws and policies, including Section 13c, as having an important effect on the decision to contract. Contracting Experiences The survey focused mainly on contracting experiences, both positive and negative, as reported by general managers of transit systems that are now contracting. In addition, however, general managers of transit agencies that no longer contract were asked to report their experiences with contracting and their reasons for stopping. The responses of both of these groups are examined next. Experiences of General Managers Who Currently Contract Benefits and Problems General managers of agencies that currently contract were asked to rate 15 possible benefits and problems resulting from contracting for transit service—from cost-efficiency and on-time performance to accidents and employee turnover. They were asked to rate each as a large or minor benefit, a large or minor problem, or neither/depends. Many of the 136 respondents did not react strongly; they rated most benefits and problems as minor or indicated uncertainty or indifference. Nevertheless, some areas emerge clearly as perceived benefits or problems. Figure 5–3 shows the average rating for each of the 15 benefits or problems (using a scale from 5, representing large benefits, to 1, representing large problems, with 3 representing neither/depends). Savings in operating costs, increased cost-efficiency, and the ability to expand service were rated by most respondents as benefits of contracting. By comparison, workforce retention, employee turnover, and customer service were cited most often as problems. Safety (vehicle accidents), employee morale, contract disputes, and ridership received the highest number of neutral responses. Table 5–3 shows the general managers’ ratings of each of the 15 benefits or problems. Several items generated a wide distribution of responses: some

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience Reports from General Managers Who No Longer Contract About one-third, or 30, of the 93 general managers from agencies that do not currently contract reported that they have done so in the past. Knowing more about the positive and negative aspects of contracting perceived by the general managers of these agencies would have been helpful in complementing the reports by general managers of contracting agencies. Although the survey did not ask these 30 general managers such detailed questions about the effects of contracting, they were asked to explain why they stopped using the practice. The 30 respondents cited the desire for local control, improved service quality, contractor issues, and in-house cost savings as important reasons for no longer contracting (see Table 5–7). Although these respondents constitute a small group, the negative effects they cited are similar to some of the problems identified by agencies that currently contract. Overall Assessments of Contracting After reporting specific positive and negative aspects of contracting, the general managers who are now contracting were asked to offer their assessment of whether the results of contracting have met their expectations. In addition, general managers, including those that do not currently contract, were asked to answer the question, “If you had to do it all over again, and the choice were solely yours, would you contract for services now?” TABLE 5–7 Reasons for Stopping Contracting, as Reported by General Managers of Systems That No Longer Contract for Transit Service Reason Respondents Percentage of Total Respondents Desire for local control 7 23.3 Desire to improve service quality 7 23.3 In-house cost savings 6 20.0 Contractor issues 6 20.0 Contractor opted out 6 20.0 Escalating costs 4 13.3 Few qualified contractors 3 10.0 Internal changes 2 6.7 Other 3 10.0 NOTE: Respondents included 30 general managers of transit systems that no longer contract.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience Extent to Which Expectations Have Been Met The general managers of agencies that currently contract were asked, “How have the results of contracting met your expectations?” Respondents could choose from three options: “did not meet expectations,” “partially met expectations,” and “fully met expectations.” As a follow-on, those who reported anything less than “fully met expectations” were asked to explain why this was the case. More than 55 percent of the general managers of contracting agencies reported that contracting has fully met their expectations, while nearly 40 percent reported that contracting has only partially met their expectations (see Figure 5–6). Only six general managers reported that contracting has not met their expectations. However, since this question was posed only to general managers of contracting agencies, this result is not necessarily surprising, as agencies that continue to contract are presumably doing so because they are at least partially satisfied with the results. The general managers gave a number of reasons why contracting results have met their initial expectations only partially. The most commonly cited reasons were contractor issues and poor service quality, each reported by nearly half of the respondents with partially met expectations (see Table 5–8). Not surprisingly, most of the general managers that reported having their expectations fully met were also the most likely to report large benefits from contracting. Likewise, those with partially met or unmet expectations were the most likely to report problems. As shown in Figure 5–7, the biggest gaps in ratings between general managers with fully met expectations and those with partially met expectations occurred in service quality, customer service, and time demands on staff. More than half of the general managers with partially met expectations identified service quality as problematic (see Table 5–9). Many also cited lack of control over contracted services as a problem area. Likewise, the problem cited most often by those general managers reporting fully met expectations was limited control over services. The general managers with fully met expectations were most likely to mention the ability to provide more service as a positive effect of contracting (see Table 5–10). Both general managers with fully met and with partially met or unmet expectations ranked cost savings as a benefit of contracting. Thus it would appear that concerns about service quality are a more significant source of disappointment with contracting than dissatisfaction with cost savings, at least among those agencies that currently contract. FIGURE 5–6 Extent to which contracting has met expectations, as reported by general managers from systems that now contract, in response to survey Part 2. TABLE 5–8 Reasons Contracting Outcomes Fell Below Expectations Reason Respondents Percentage of Total Respondents Contractor Issues 23 46.9 Service quality/customer service 23 46.9 Benefits not fully realized 13 26.5 Not enough control 6 12.2 Personnel issues 4 8.2 Too few bidders 3 6.1 NOTE: Respondents included 49 general managers of transit systems that currently contract.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience FIGURE 5–6 Extent to which contracting has met expectations, as reported by general managers from systems that now contract, in response to survey Part 2. TABLE 5–8 Reasons Contracting Outcomes Fell Below Expectations Reason Respondents Percentage of Total Respondents Contractor Issues 23 46.9 Service quality/customer service 23 46.9 Benefits not fully realized 13 26.5 Not enough control 6 12.2 Personnel issues 4 8.2 Too few bidders 3 6.1 NOTE: Respondents included 49 general managers of transit systems that currently contract.

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience FIGURE 5–7 Rating of benefits and problems by general managers that currently contract and have fully and partially met expectations from contracting, from Part 2 survey results. (NOTE: 5=Large benefits; 4=Some benefits; 3=Neither/depends; 2=Some problems; 1=Large problems.)

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience TABLE 5–9 Negative Effects of Contracting as Reported by General Managers with Fully Met or with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations from Contracting Effect Respondents with Fully Met Expectations Percentage of Total Respondents with Fully Met Expectations Respondents with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations Percentage of Total Respondents with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations Limited control 30 50.8 27 50.9 Service quality/customer service quality 16 27.1 30 56.6 Contractor issues 7 11.9 14 26.4 Communication 13 22.0 7 13.2 Turnover/low wages 7 11.9 13 24.5 Need to monitor 7 11.9 10 18.9 Personnel issues 7 11.9 7 13.2 Public/political issues 5 8.5 8 15.1 Diminishing returns 4 6.8 6 11.3 Union issues 6 10.2 1 1.9 Total responding 59   53   NOTE: Respondents included 112 general managers of systems that currently contract. In retrospect, it would have been helpful to have queried those general managers of systems that have stopped contracting about the extent to which their expectations were met. Comparison of their responses with those of the currently contracting general managers might have been illuminating. Responses on Whether General Managers Would Contract Now, Given the Choice Responses to the final question of the survey—“If you had to do it all over again, and the choice were solely yours, would you contract for transit services now?”—suggest that by and large, general managers are satisfied with their current methods of service delivery. More than 70 percent of the general managers of agencies that do not currently contract reported that they would not contract now (see Figure 5–8). Meanwhile, nearly 80 percent of the general managers of

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience TABLE 5–10 Positive Effects of Contracting as Reported by General Managers with Fully Met or with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations from Contracting Effect Respondents with Fully Met Expectations Percentage of Total Respondents with Fully Met Expectations Respondents with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations Percentage of Total Respondents with Partially Met or Unmet Expectations Reduced operating costs 42 54.5 34 65.4 Reduced administration 20 26.0 15 28.8 Flexibility 18 23.4 11 21.2 Expertise of contractor 14 18.2 12 23.1 More service 19 24.7 4 7.7 Avoidance of capital costs 8 10.4 6 11.5 Contractor handles all 11 14.3 3 5.8 Competitive environment 6 7.8 4 7.7 Reduced hiring/staff 3 3.9 6 11.5 Public image/political 6 7.8 4 7.7 Only way to start ADA service 5 6.5 3 5.8 Total responding 77 100.0 52 100.0 NOTE: Respondents included 129 general managers of systems that currently contract. agencies that currently contract reported that they would do so now in light of their experiences. These responses may reflect a degree of inertia on the part of general managers or a state of equilibrium in which those systems with circumstances most suited to contracting are currently engaged in the practice, while those with less favorable circumstances are providing their services directly. At the same time, however, the results reveal a certain dynamic in the decision to contract. They suggest that general managers of about one in seven agencies are not pleased with the results of contracting and would stop if able to do so, and that con-

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience FIGURE 5–8 Percentage of general managers responding the Part 2 survey question, “If you had do it all over again, and the choice were solely yours, would you contract for services now?”

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience versely, about one in five general managers of agencies that do not currently contract would choose to do so if given the opportunity. Advice from General Managers Who Contract The general managers of transit agencies that are currently contracting were asked to offer advice to agencies that are considering contracting for the first time. Although the answers to this open-ended question were wide-ranging, it was possible to code them into nearly 20 relevant categories, as shown in Table 5–11. In general, the advice relates to (1) the importance of taking care in deciding whether to contract, (2) the best ways to obtain contractor services, (3) means of properly structuring the contract, and (4) the need for attentive monitoring and TABLE 5–11 Advice Offered by Contracting General Managers to General Managers Considering Contracting for the First Time Advice No. of General Managers Offering Advice Percentage of Total General Managers Offering Advice Outline specific duties/responsibilities 54 46.2 Specify performance requirements 47 40.2 Monitor contractor performance 38 32.5 Scrutinize contractors beforehand 24 20.5 Talk to other agencies 23 19.7 Teamwork/communication with contractor 20 17.1 Competitive procedure based on more than cost 19 16.2 Combine rewards and penalties 18 15.4 Have a clear mechanism for making changes 14 12.0 Identify elements to contract re agency goals 14 12.0 Specify wage rates/cost escalation 13 11.1 Penalty clauses/liquidated damages 12 10.3 Begin with internal cost analysis 12 10.3 Provide vehicles/facility/maintenance/eligibility 10 8.5 Be flexible 10 8.5 Broad involvement in proposal process 10 8.5 Contractor provides vehicle/fuel/routing 5 4.3 Other 18 15.4 Total responding 117 100.0

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience oversight of the contract work. In the follow-on interviews, the general managers offered similar insights. Decision To Contract The general managers urged agencies that are considering contracting for the first time to undertake an objective and dispassionate examination of contracting’s advantages and disadvantages. They advised that management first identify the transit services that are best suited to contracting in light of the agency’s long-term goals and the probable outcomes of contracting those services. They urged a rational planning process that involves considering not only the budgetary impacts of contracting, but also the effects on service quality, workforce motivation and morale, and flexibility to respond to new and changing service demands. Several general managers noted the importance of consulting with other transit agencies that have significant contracting experience to obtain a better sense of likely effects in these areas. Contracting Approach Once the decision to contract has been made, the general managers urged agencies to consult other, experienced agencies about ways to identify, avoid, and mitigate problems with contractors. By talking with others beforehand, an agency can obtain information about the reputation of firms bidding on contracts. Implicit in this recommendation is the recognition that the contracting industry is diverse, and that individual contractors can differ widely in their qualifications and capabilities. The advice offered in the follow-on interviews was comparable. Several of the managers indicated that stability in the contractor’s management team should be an especially important consideration, since changes in assigned personnel can affect whether the overall contracting experience is positive or negative. Most general managers reported that they treated bid price as just one of many factors weighed during the selection process. They advised basing contractor selection on a competitive procedure using a broader set of factors than price alone (where allowed by law). Several of the general managers responding to the survey and participating in the follow-on interviews reported using a two-phase approach for selecting a contractor. The first phase entails evaluation of bidder qualifications and capabilities, such as by asking contractors for technical and business information on startup plans; assumptions about wage rates;

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience plans for hiring, training, and retaining workers; and the qualifications of their management team. Only during the second phase are bid prices evaluated, preferably with the help of an internal cost analysis to identify realistic bids. Contract Structure Nearly half the general managers urged specificity in defining contractor duties and responsibilities in the contract documents. They reported that defining as many expectations as possible at the outset and stipulating them in the agreement is essential for avoiding disputes. They also noted that the contract should establish a clear mechanism for making changes to the contract. More than 40 percent of the general managers advised the inclusion of well-defined performance standards in the contract. Many urged rewards when standards of performance are exceeded, but combined with penalties for poor performance. Some recommended the inclusion of specific contract provisions to reduce the potential for performance problems, such as the stipulation of minimum wage rates to attract and retain quality drivers. One of the general managers reported that his agency does not specify wage rates, but stipulates the use of current areawide rates in bid proposals and justification for lower assumed wage levels. Overseeing and Working with the Contractor Monitoring of contract performance ranked third among all the areas of advice offered by the general managers. They noted the importance of clearly communicating the agency’s intention to monitor the work and to hold the contractor responsible for meeting agreed-upon standards. Attentive monitoring of performance was also identified as important in nearly all the follow-on interviews with general managers. In addition, recognizing that circumstances and needs can change, the general managers reported that beyond establishing a formal mechanism for making changes in contract agreements, it is important to maintain clear channels of communication with the contractor. Here again, the follow-on interviews suggested the importance of cultivating the relationship with the contractor by both communicating expectations and holding the contractor to those expectations in a fair and consistent manner. One general manager interviewed found that informal weekly meetings with contractor staff helped identify and address incipient problems and build a stronger team relationship. Examples of efforts

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Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience BOX 5–3 Balancing Oversight and Collaboration Balancing vigilant monitoring and oversight with teamwork can appear to be a daunting task for agencies contracting for the first time. Yet examples drawn from the follow-on interviews reveal the importance of striking this balance. In one case, increasing ridership on a contracted route began to affect the contractor’s on-time performance. In response, the agency adjusted the schedule to allow for additional running time; however, another vehicle and more drivers would be required. Because the contractor was paid on a mileage basis, the change would lead to additional unreimbursed costs. However, in working with the contractor to find a solution to this problem, the agency determined that by adding more trips to the schedule, the contractor would be able to cover most of the additional equipment and labor costs. Both the contractor and agency were satisfied with the result. In another case, the lack of collaboration was detrimental to both agency and contractor. When a contractor was purchased by a larger company that asked to renegotiate the contract, the agency denied the request. A decline in service quality soon became apparent. In retrospect, both agency and contractor reported that a better solution would have been for the agency to accept early contract termination. Although the contractor would have sacrificed the performance bond, the relationship became increasingly adversarial and untenable. to balance contractor oversight and teamwork, drawn from the follow-on interviews, are provided in Box 5–3. Note 1.   For those questions in which the general managers were asked to make judgments by checking a box, each box was assigned a number on an ordinal scale. To depict the responses graphically, the average ratings are presented in charts (such as Figure 5–1) that show the scale used. The averages are calculated by summing the ordinals assigned for each response and dividing the sum by the number of respondents. Because such averages mask variation, the charts are accompanied by tables (such as Table 5–1) that present the actual numbers.