Project UCARE: Uniform Cost Accounting and Reporting Elements for Transportation Demand Management Programs

(Center Identification Number: 77922)

The primary objective of Project UCARE (Uniform Cost Accounting and Reporting Elements) is to develop and test a candidate reporting system which will accumulate commuter assistance program industry financial and operating results by uniform categories. The system is to be designed so that it can be eventually implemented on an industry-wide basis. To ensure the feasibility of future implementation, the candidate reporting system will be tested for practicality and usefulness at selected operating sites.

Project Account 77922

Principal Investigators:

Phil Winters, TDM Program Director
Phone: 813-974-9811      
E-mail: winters@cutr.usf.edu

Ed Hillsman, Senior Research Associate
Phone:813-974-2977          
E-mail: hillsman@cutr.usf.edu

Sara Hendricks, Senior Research Associate
Phone:813-974-9801      
E-mail: hendricks@cutr.usf.edu

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Fax: 813-974-5168

External Project Contact:     

Michael M. Wright
Project Manager – Florida Department of Transportation
(850) 414-4529        
Email: michael.wright1@dot.state.fl.us

Start and End Dates

Start Date:  February 2010               Expected End Date: May 2011

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement

The primary objective of Project UCARE (Uniform Cost Accounting and Reporting Elements) is to develop and test a candidate reporting system which will accumulate commuter assistance program industry financial and operating results by uniform categories. The system is to be designed so that it can be eventually implemented on an industry-wide basis. To ensure the feasibility of future implementation, the candidate reporting system will be tested for practicality and usefulness at selected operating sites. Ultimately, the information collected through an industry-wide reporting system will be designed to address the needs of:

– Individual commuter assistance programs for benchmarking and comparing their performance with other commuter assistance programs with similar characteristics.

– Transportation-related industry associations for monitoring industry performance and needs.

– Federal, state, and local government agencies for commuter assistance program industry analysis and for financial assistance program administration.

With growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion and the prospects of cap and trade looming in the future, both the private and public sectors have recognized the importance of timely and accurate data in assessing the continued progress of all strategies to manage travel demand. While the National Transit Database (NTD) of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) captures extensive information about public transit systems, there remains a substantial gap at the local, state and federal levels about other modes (e.g., private vanpools not reported under NTD, carpools) and other programs that could reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles of travel (e.g., telework, compressed work week programs).

Data is being collected at the local and regional levels on many of these elements (e.g., State of Commute reports). However, the data has limitations in terms of uniformity of data definitions, consistency of reporting and accuracy which limits its applicability to benchmarking progress and identifying best practices. As federal, state, and local governments increase funding in TDM programs and services, the TRB Committee on TDM identified a need for a uniform system of accounts and records to help measure performance and foster continual improvement.

Like the NTD system which evolved from the transit industry-initiated Project FARE (Uniform Financial Accounting and Reporting Elements), Project UCARE (Uniform Cost Accounting and Reporting Elements for TDM) would seek to develop and maintain a voluntary data reporting system for local, regional, and state agencies. This data would be the primary source of comparative TDM information for program managers, researchers, and government officials as well as funding agencies.

This project would develop a uniform industry data reporting system by reaching out and involving key state departments of transportation with active roles in supporting and funding TDM (e.g., Florida, Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Georgia) and trade groups such as Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT). Project UCARE would develop and pilot test a new system of accounts and records to meet the needs of the industry and government agencies to monitor operating performance of demand management programs at the local/regional level. Data items could include revenues, government grants, capital and operating costs, organizational structure, number of employees, service provided (e.g., public vanpools, private vanpools, teleworkers, compressed work week participation, etc.), and operating performance (e.g., passenger trips provided in a non-single occupant vehicle (SOV), vehicle trip rate per 100 commuters, etc.).

II.  Project Objectives and Tasks

The objective of the reporting system being designed in the Project UCARE is to provide the basis for collection and analysis of a data library describing the periodic financial and operating results of the nation’s TDM industry. This information will allow commuter assistance programs (CAP) to deliver ever-improving value to customers, resulting in changes in travel behavior to reduce congestion, decrease emissions and improve mobility; and improve overall CAP operational performance (e.g., lower cost per customer served). Project UCARE also will help funding agencies like the Florida Department of Transportation to address CAP financial performance via two major paths (1) increasing emphasis on improving CAP productivity and lowering overall operating costs per customer served; and (2) supporting the CAP strategy development, providing valuable input in local and state transportation planning processes and decisions, and fostering innovation.

Please note that work not included in this scope of service will not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Florida Department of Transportation. The following are the anticipated tasks necessary to achieve the above objective.

The proposed scope of service for this project consists of the following tasks. Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Task 1. Kick-Off Meeting, Peer Panel and Project Management

A net conference kick-off meeting will be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of execution by the University. At a minimum, the project manager and the principal investigator will attend. The Research Center staff will be advised of the meeting and given the option to attend, in person or via netconference. Other parties may be invited, as appropriate. The subject of the meeting will be to review and discuss the project’s tasks, schedule, milestones, deliverables, reporting requirements, and deployment plan. Task 1 will also include project management, including preparation of quarterly progress reports and internal review. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report.

A peer panel consisting of members of user groups (e.g., Florida DOT, other state DOTs, MPOs), TDM industry representatives (e.g., Association for Commuter Transportation, TDM Institute, etc.) and commuter assistance programs will be formed to advise the project team at key points of the project. The panel will meet only by netconference.

Deliverable: Peer panel formed

Task 2. Identify the Information Requirements of the Potential Users of the System

The primary objective of the Task 2 work steps is to identify the anticipated information requirements of potential users such as TDM agencies and state departments of transportation. Our basic approach will be to reach out to a broad cross section of individuals in the industry who are expected to have meaningful input in the definition of information requirements. CUTR will leverage its industry contacts and TRANSP-TDM listserv’s 1,550+ members to identify material to be analyzed by a member of the project team. A summary of the pertinent material will be developed. CUTR will also review the NTD requirements as some agencies are reporting some activities to NTD.

Task 2 will also develop the preliminary design criteria. This step was scheduled early to establish a benchmark for other work steps to follow in Task 2. This early effort is designated “preliminary” to indicate that changes will be made to the design criteria as the project proceeds and more knowledge is gained which will affect criteria definition. Thus, the preliminary design criteria presented below represent a general statement of the objective and characteristics of the candidate reporting system, and they may change as the project proceeds.

The assumption made at this point about the preliminary design criteria is that to establish reliability and consistency of data, standard definitions of reporting categories would need to be uniformly applied by all TDM programs generating input to the database. Ideally, the reporting categories should be defined at the lowest feasible level of “units” to permit summarizing the data to higher level information categories in different ways according to the varying needs of different users. Another assumption is the desire of TDM agencies to limit the system to data that was generally available, yet not exclude data that could be obtained at reasonable cost and that would enhance the manageability of TDM programs. This task will identify the units and draft definitions for review and comment by the peer panel. This process is expected to be iterative.

The criteria likely will need to address quality control and access to information. In addition, because reporting to the system will be voluntary, criteria will need to address issues of incomplete submissions (an agency reports but not completely) and incomplete coverage (an agency is known to be active but does not report).

Deliverable: Summary of design criteria for inclusion in Technical Memorandum #1 and submitted after the completion of Tasks 2 and 3.

Task 3. Survey the Capability of Selected TDM Programs to Supply the Information Required

This task will begin with the development of a contact database of existing local and regional commuter assistance programs and transportation management associations in the U.S., using sources such as state departments of transportation, Association for Commuter Transportation, and the listserv to identify such programs.

An email/web-based survey will be developed and sent to all identified programs. The survey’s primary purpose is to provide broad coverage in measuring the industry’s present reporting capability.

The information requirements identified in Task 2 must be balanced with the reporting capability identified in Task 4 to develop a practical reporting system which can be implemented in the foreseeable future.

Questions are likely to include, but not be limited to, identifying the following areas:
• Financial Data
o Chart of accounts system used
o Value of assets
o Annual capital investment
o Total revenues, including sources
o Farebox revenues (e.g., vanpool fares)
o Total operating expenses
o Total capital expenses
o Total labor expenses
o Total fringe benefits expenses
o Overhead costs
o Reports
• Non-financial Data
o Organizational structure
o Services provided
o Definitions used of key terms (placement, customer)
o Number of customers
o Number of requests for assistance
o Average trip length
o Average trip duration
o Vehicles (e.g., vans for vanpooling)
o Vehicle miles reduced
o Vehicle trips reduced
o Number total employees
o Area coverage/Market size
o Reports generated (including definitions and methods)

Clearly identifying the definitions will be an important step and ultimately gaining acceptance of a industry standard is essential for the system to work. For example, one agency may refer to customers as the number of individuals using the services whereas another agency may refer to the number of customer as a function of the frequency of use of services (e.g., the same individual requesting assistance four times equals four customers). Yet another may refer to employers rather than employees as customers.

Deliverable: Summary of survey results, also for inclusion in Technical Memorandum #1 and submitted after the completion of Tasks 2 and 3.

Task 4. Develop a Candidate System of Reporting Elements for Which Implementation is Currently Feasible

With an eye to limiting the system to existing primary or secondary data or data that could be collected at reasonable cost, CUTR will develop a candidate system of reporting elements.

The ideal system should be easily communicable, and hence a better candidate for implementation, based on a two-dimensional structure identifying functions and objects classes. Functions are the activities performed within a TDM agency in order to provide TDM services. Object classes are the items obtained upon the expenditure of funds and necessary for the performance of functions.

A database structure will be established to collect, manage and report the data. The preliminary expectation is that the database will be web accessible though some level of detail may not be available to all.

Deliverable: Preliminary database design

Task 5. Pilot Test the Implementation of the Candidate System With Selected TDM Agencies

Two pilot field studies will be conducted after the responses to the emailed links to the questionnaire have been processed and analyzed. The field studies will seek to address issues that may be raised through the analysis of the responses to the survey.

CUTR will assist the collection of data from at least two commuter assistance programs with the intent of identifying implementation challenges. For example, data could be collected from a large TDM program (e.g., Bay Area Commuter Services or South Florida Commuter Services) and a medium TDM program or TMA (e.g., Commuter Services of Southwest Florida).

Deliverable: Data from at least two commuter assistance programs successfully entered into the database.

Task 6. Draft Final Report

The draft final report will be submitted 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order.

Deliverable: Draft Final Report, including information from Technical Memorandum #1 and summary of the database design and pilot test implementation.

Task 7. Final Report

Upon FDOT approval, the final report will be finalized and a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the project’s purpose, methodology, and results will be prepared and transmitted in electronic format to the Research Center.

Deliverable: Final Report

IV. Deliverables

Deliverables for this project will include the following:

Quarterly Progress Reports CUTR will submit quarterly progress reports to the Research Center. The first report will cover the activity that occurred in the 90 days following the issuance of the Task Work Order. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report.
Reports will be submitted within 30 days of the end of the reporting period. CUTR will submit reports even if little or no progress has occurred (in which case, the report would explain delays and/or lack of progress). Progress reports will be sent in MS Word to Sandra Bell, Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us .
 

Progress reports will contain the following information:

1. Contract Number, Task Work Order Number, and Title

2. Work performed during the period being reported

3. Work to be performed in the following period

4. Anticipated modifications (i.e., to funding, schedule, or scope). This section is for reporting/informational purposes, not for officially requesting an amendment.

Note: To request an amendment to a contract, CUTR will provide the project manager with the appropriate information (i.e., what is being requested with justification) in the required format. If the project manager concurs with the request, he/she shall forward it with his/her approval and commentary, as appropriate, to the Research Center for administrative review and processing (pending available funds, etc.)
 

5. A Progress Schedule (Figures A, B, and C) updated to reflect activities for the period being reported.
Failure to submit progress reports in a timely manner may result in termination of the work order.
 

Technical Memorandum
Following completion of Tasks 2 and 3, a technical memorandum will be developed that identifies the anticipated information requirements of potential users such as TDM agencies and state departments of transportation and results of the survey (Task 3).
Draft Final Report
The draft final report is due 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order. The draft final report will be submitted to Sandra Bell, Sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.
It will be edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format prior to submission to the Department for technical approval. The Research Center expects contractors to be able to provide well-written, high-quality report that address the objectives defined by the scope of service. Draft final reports will be prepared in accordance with the Guidelines for Preparing Draft Final and Final Reports, found at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/research%2Dcenter/Program_Information/Guidelines%20for%20Preparing%20a%20Final%20Report%2012-07.pdf  and in plain language according to the Governor’s initiative. This document provides information on all report requirements, including format requirements, the technical report documentation form, disclaimer language, and so forth.
Final Report
Once the draft final report has been approved, the university shall prepare the final report and one PowerPoint presentation summarizing the project’s purpose, methodology, and results. The university will deliver eight (8) copies of the final report in MS Word on CD no later than the end date of the task work order, to the attention of Sandra Bell at

The Florida Department of Transportation
Research Center, MS30
605 Suwannee Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

Each copy will be provided on a CD or DVD (i.e., for a total of eight disks). If the project manager requires additional copies, such provision must be indicated in the scope.

Final Report
Once the draft final report has been approved, NCTR shall prepare the final report. NCTR will deliver a minimum eight (8) copies of the final report in MS Word on CD or DVD. The CD/DVDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include at a minimum the contract number, task work order number, project title and date. The final report is due no later than the end date of the task work order and should be delivered to the follow address:

The Florida Department of Transportation
Research Center, MS 30
605 Suwannee Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

V.  Project Schedule

Start Date:  February 2010               Expected End Date: May 2011

V.  Project Budget

Fixed Price Subtotal                                        90,159.09

Indirect Cost (fixed price subtotal x 10%)      9,015.91

Total Fixed Price Amount                               99,175.00

VI. Use of Graduate Student(s) and Other Research Assistants

Graduate students will assist in collection and synthesis of material from commuter assistance programs (Task 2). They also will identify contact information for the largest commuter assistance programs in the country and review of the National Transit Database structure (Task 3). Students will assist with the development of the database (Task 4). Graduate students will also assist with preparation of the final report draft Tasks 6 and 7).

VII. Equipment

No equipment will be needed.

VIII. Net Conferences

Net conferences will be used for the kickoff meeting, advisory panel meetings, and other meetings as required with the project manager or pilot sites.

IX. Travel

It is anticipated that face to face meetings will be needed in the collection of data for the pilot test (Task 5). To the extent feasible, attempts will be made to secure case study examples within Florida, and within the Tampa Bay region, if possible, to incur vicinity mileage and parking charges only. If attempts to secure local case studies are not successful, staff may have to attempt to secure voluntary participation from commuter assistance agencies just beyond the Tampa Bay region. All travel must be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts.

X. Description of Research Roles on the Project

Phil Winters will serve as the primary contact for the project and will be responsible for project administration (Task 1). Mr. Winters, with assistance from Dr. Hillsman, will prepare the survey to assess the capability of selected TDM programs to supply the information required (Task 3), schedule and host teleconference/net conference meetings, coordinate data collection and be responsible for the preparation and submittal of all written deliverables (Tasks 3, 6 and 7). Mr. Winters will lead the effort to solicit and arrange for the participation of commuter assistance programs and in the requirement of pilot test sites (Task 5).
 

Sara Hendricks will provide input at the kick-off meeting (Task 1), and assist Mr. Winters lead in identifying the information requirements of the potential users of the system (Task 2). Ms. Hendricks will review the draft survey (Task 3). She will assist the recruitment and selection pilot test sites and assist in the implementation (Task 5). She will assist in the drafting of the final report (Tasks 6 and 7).
 

Ed Hillsman will provide input at the kick-off meeting (Task 1), and lead in identifying the information requirements of the potential users of the system (Task 2). He will provide assistance on the design of the survey the capability of selected TDM programs to supply the information required (Task 3). He will lead the development of a candidate system of reporting elements for which implementation is currently feasible (Task 4) with significant assistance provide by Mr. Winters and Ms. Hendricks. Graduate students working on Task 5 will report to him. He will assist Mr. Winters in the preparation and submittal of all written deliverables.
 

Jennifer Iley will provide assistance with contract administration, help with the set-up of net conferences, and assist with the preparation of the draft final report.
Graduate students will assist in collection and synthesis of material from commuter assistance programs (Task 2). They also will identify contact information for the largest commuter assistance programs in the country and review of the National Transit Database structure (Task 3). Students will provide the structure and programming for the development of the database (Task 4). Graduate students will also assist with preparation of the draft final report (Task 6).

Joel Volinski will provide internal review of technical memoranda and the draft final report.

Patricia Ball will provide technical editing of the draft final report.

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