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Center Identification Number: 527-03


Project Title:  Benchmark Rankings for Transit Systems in the United States


Co-Principal Investigators:  


A. Nilgün Kamp, Senior Research Associate                                 




Dennis Hinebaugh, Transit Program Director





Center for Urban Transportation Research

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida


External Project Contact:


Tara Bartee, Transit Planning Administrator


I.  Project Objective                              


This projects aims to develop a method of measuring commonly maintained performance statistics in a manner that is broadly acceptable to the transit industry, and provides useful information that helps agencies improve their performance over time.


II.  Project Abstract


Benchmarking is a well-established practice among public and private entities that are interested in improving their performances.  Benchmarking allows agencies to measure their own performances against other similar agencies, assuming that similar types of data are maintained to allow for meaningful comparisons.  The benchmarking practice also allows agencies to measure their own progress over time.  Transit agencies maintain considerable data that are required by the federal government in order to receive federal funds.  These data could provide the foundation for meaningful benchmarks of performance to be established, which would help transit agencies realize “where they stand” in the industry.  However, at this time there is no effort to utilize these data on a national basis that is universally regarded as constructive by the transit industry.  Part of the problem is that transit agencies operate in different economic and geographic environments with different policy goals, making broad comparisons of system performance misleading.


III.  Task Descriptions


Task 1:  Identification of Advisory Committee and Review of Previous Analyses


In Task 1, CUTR will review/evaluate previous research/studies that ranked transit agencies, including research conducted by Professor David Hartgen of North Carolina and CUTR’s “Peer Analysis” for Florida transit agencies.  Strengths and weaknesses of these studies will be evaluated.


This project is envisioned to call guidance from an advisory committee composed of representatives of transit agencies.  In this task the investigators will identify representatives of transit agencies throughout the country who are familiar with National Transit Date Base information and who are interested in being part of an advisory committee. 


Task 2:  Analysis of NTD Data


In this task CUTR will use the most recently available National Transit Data Base information to develop comparative measures that would allow transit agencies to measure their own performance against relative peers.  Suggestions in the selection of an appropriate peer group will be provided (e.g., geographical location, agency size, service area population size, etc.).  In addition, a variety of categories will be established (e.g., maintenance cost per hour, accidents per 100,000 miles, passengers per hour, etc.) and transit agencies will be listed in the order they perform.  A mean (or an index if possible) will be established to provide an instant means of comparison.


Task 3:  Refinement of Suggested Measures


Preliminary results of Task 2 will be discussed with the Advisory Committee established in Task 1 as well as others in appropriate transit agencies.  In addition, CUTR will contact those agencies that rank very high or very low in certain measures to obtain a better understanding of their results.  At the completion of this Task, investigators will refine the suggested method of benchmark ranking established in Task 2.


Task 4:  Report of Findings


In this task, the investigators will report findings derived from the analyses performed in previous tasks.  A list of variables that are appropriate in benchmark ranking as well as suggested variables in establishing peer groups will be provided.  The report will also include a summary of input obtained from the Advisory Committee and other representatives of the transit industry.  A draft report will be provided one month before the delivery of the final report.


IV.  Project Schedule, Milestones


Project Start Date:  TBD















Task 1













Task 2













Task 3













Draft Report













Final Report














V.  Project Budget


Benchmark Rankings for Transit Systems in the U.S.

Budget Categories

State Share

   Institute Director Salary


   Faculty Salaries ($26.44 X 468.79 hours)


   Administrative Staff Salaries


   Other Staff Salaries


   Graduate Student Salaries ($12 X 83.33 hours)


   Undergraduate Salaries


   Staff Benefits


Total Salaries and Benefits


   Permanent Equipment


   Expendable Equipment and Supplies


   Domestic Travel


   Foreign Travel


   Computer Costs


   Other Costs


Total Direct Costs


   Indirect Costs





    Notes:  This budget does not reflect any federal participation.  The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above.


VI.  Student Involvement


Graduate students will be used to assist in the data collection and analysis.


VII.  Relationship to Other Research Projects


This project is completely consistent with the theme of the National Center for Transit Research:  “to enhance the performance …. of public transportation …. in urban areas …. dedicated to improving operating agencies’ abilities to provide their services in a manner that is more efficient, productive …”  The project will evaluate data and processes previously contained in the NC rankings and CUTR’s peer review process.


VIII.  Technology Transfer Activities


The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through a draft and a final reports.  Copies of the final report will be provided to the Florida Research Office, the State Public Transportation Administrator, the Manager of the Transit Office, Transit Operations Administrator, the FTA, and other involved Federal agencies, states and transit systems which participated in the analyses, and an HTML version of the report will be housed on the NCTR website. 


IX.  Potential Benefits of the Project


Transit agencies are frequently challenged to improve their performances, whether it is to satisfy Board of Directors or taxpayers, or to maximize their efficiency to allow expansion of service.  The information from this project will allow transit agencies to determine if they are “in the ballpark” in terms of performance, and they will also know which agencies are high performers in various categories.  This will allow exchange of information between such agencies, and hopefully result in improved performance in the future.  This trend has been noticed as a result of the peer analysis that CUTR has performed for Florida transit systems over the past decade.


X.  TRB Keywords


Public Transit, NTD, benchmarking.


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: