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Center Identification Number: 416-14

Project Title: Is Organizational Structure a Critical Determinant of Performance? An Investigation of the Structure/Performance Relationships of Public Transit Agencies

Principal Investigators: 

Dennis Hinebaugh, Transit Program Director

Keith C. Simmonds, Professor Political Science & Public Administration Florida A & M University
580-561 2837

Project Contact: Keith C. Simmonds


National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

FDOT Project Manager: 

Ike Ubaka, Public Transportation Office, FDOT

I. Project Objective

The objective of this project is to provide a detailed explanation of the relationship between the structures of public transit agencies in the United States and their performance. While the study's focus will be national in scope, the study will pay particular attention to Florida as one of its units of analysis. The project will identify the differences in organizational structure between agencies, and use this information to explain various measures of transit system performance. A detailed understanding of this relationship will allow public agencies in general and those in Florida, in particular, to improve performance and maximize their ability to provide transit services.

II. Project Abstract

At a time when public transit agencies are searching for more effective and efficient ways of raising revenue, expanding ridership, increasing service miles, and also seeking ways of reducing operating costs per passenger trip and per service mile, there is a critical characteristic of bureaucratic organizations that can significantly impact the ability of public transit agencies to achieve their functional goals. This critical characteristic is organizational structure.

Organizational structure defines the scope and limits of behavior within an organization, its lines of authority and accountability, as well as the organization's relationship with its external environment. It is an important question whether policy analysts, administrators and elected officials give this public administrative matter adequate consideration in their quest for increased performance in public agencies.

This study will investigate the extent to which the organizational structure of public transit agencies contributes to improvements in various measures of transit performance. The existing organizational structure of public transit agencies could be an important impediment to the maximization of goal achievement in various performance areas. The study, therefore, will investigate and evaluate the nature and extent of the relationship between organizational structure and performance in public transit agencies in general and Florida's public transit systems in particular. The results of this study will inform public transit policies, administrative considerations and legislative deliberations on improving public transit performance in Florida and the nation.

III. Task Descriptions

Task 1 Literature Review

The public administration literature on organizational development and change is replete with meaningful discussion on the effects that structure can have on performance. We do know that structure influences performance, but it takes specific investigation to determine the degree to which performance is impacted by structure. The principal objective of this task will be to provide a comprehensive review of the literature, which will set the parameters for an in-depth study on the relationship between structure and performance among public transit agencies. The literature review will also include a review of relevant state and federal statutes to determine whether they have implications for particular types of organizational structures. This search of the literature will enable the study to identify the various types of transit organizational structure throughout the US including Florida. Overall, then, the significance of the literature review is that it will establish the foundation for the methodology to be utilized in this study. The results of this task will be documented in Tech Memo 1

Task 2 Development of Methodology and Survey Instrument

The focus of this task is to develop a methodology that will assist the researchers in properly characterizing and estimating the nature as well as strength of relationship between structure and performance. A statistical correlation study is the best approach combined with a regression analysis. Design of a survey instrument also will be done during this task. The survey questionnaire will enable the researchers to obtain a substantive grasp of empirical data on both structure and performance. This data (along with other publicly available transit data) will be used as the basis of the study's correlation and regression analyses. The study will select a sample of performance indicators and measures of performance as the target of the analysis. The result of this task will be documented in Tech Memo 2.

Task 3 Data Collection

Secondary data will be the principal sources of the study's data collection. Examples of these sources will include The National Transit Database (NTD) and data from selected public transit agencies throughout the country. If the study is to offer any scientific explanation of the relationship between structure and performance it would be necessary to investigate similar relationships outside of Florida. It is also proposed that follow-up face-to-face interviews will be conducted among Florida's transit agencies while follow-up telephone interview will be conducted with out-of-state participants. Face-to-face interviews will provide the researchers the opportunity to meet directly with selected key public transit agency administrators who can inform, clarify or recommend additional resource-persons to whom the researchers can turn for additional useful information.

Task 4 Data Analysis, Evaluation and Assessment

Data collected from the study's representative sample of public agencies will be processed and subjected to a variety of analysis techniques. Results of this analysis will be used to generate explanatory tables, charts, and graphs, etc.

The data analysis conducted as part of task four will be evaluated in light of the project's objectives. The results of the evaluation will be used to establish a record of the current state of transit management in Florida. From this information, the report will proceed with an assessment of the prospects for improved performance and enhanced service that may be generated through a more detailed understanding of the effects that transit agency structure has on agency outcomes. Results of Tasks 3 and 4 will be documented in Tech Memo 3.

Task 5 Draft and Final Reports

A draft final report will be produced synthesizing and summarizing the findings of the study, including major findings from the literature, an executive summary, explanation of the methodological approach, data analysis, findings and recommendations for improved performance of public transit agencies in general and Florida's public transit agencies in particular. The ultimate goal of the proposed study is the production of a final document that will be used to better inform and focus the decision making-process. Upon approval of the draft final by the project manager, 100 copies of the final report will be produced.

IV. Student Involvement

Students will be used as part of the team that will collect and organize the data. They will also assist in the data analysis.

V. Relationship to Other Research Projects

Public administration scholars, particularly those from the "structuralist" school of thought have focused on structure/performance relationships but the researchers are not aware of any similar studies directed at Florida public transit agencies. The proposed study will be able to draw on a solid body of research of this nature, yet preserve its uniqueness as a focused study on Florida public transit agencies.

VI. Technology Transfer Activities

The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through a series of technical memoranda and a final report. Copies of the final report will be distributed to transit agencies, the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), state and local transportation agencies, and the FDOT Research Office.

VII. Potential Benefits of the Project

The benefits of the project include a clear and objective identification of the relationship between the organizational structure of public transit agencies and their performance. This information can be used by transit agencies in Florida and around the nation to improve transit management and enhance the provision of transit services. This study will also inform state and local government policy makers about the most effective transit organizational structures.

VIII. TRB Keywords

Public transit, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Performance measures, Indicators, Correlation.


National Center for Transit Research at the Center For Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375 (813) 974-3120 (813) 974-5168 Comments: