Applicability of Public-Private Partnerships for Smaller-Scale Transit Projects

Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in developing creative solutions to inadequate funding for transportation systems, including transit. Funding constraints at all levels of government mean that public source funds are no longer sufficient to meet the backlog and sustain needed levels of investment going forward. To address this reality, a number of entities have tried using non-traditional planning and financing for transportation projects to support bridge, roadway, transit system, and transit station projects. For example, public-private partnerships (P3s) have been used by agencies across the country to help move deserving projects forward. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) defines the term "public-private partnership" as "contractual agreement formed between public-and private-sector partners, which allows more private-sector participation than is traditional". These arrangements usually involve a government agency contracting with a private company to renovate, construct, operate, maintain, finance, and/or manage a facility or system. While the public sector usually retains ownership of the facility or system, the private party will be given additional decision rights in determining how the project or task will be completed. The literature related to P3s documents successful examples of public-private approaches and highlights why P3s may or many not be successful for transit projects. While this information is helpful, it is limited because many of the case studies tend to be for large projects. There are likely smaller P3 projects that have been successful, but these are not well documented. This creates a void in the literature for small- to medium-sized communities who may be interested in considering alternative methods of funding for their transit projects. Furthermore, these communities, public agencies, and transportation authorities appear to lack the "roadmap" needed to realistically consider a P3 arrangement to support their project. Little information exists that either identifies smaller P3 projects or offers "best practices" that could be useful to other communities. Because it is often these smaller communities that are reliant on limited state and local funding and competing with larger projects for these minimal funds, better understanding when and how to implement a P3 is particularly critical. This research is intended to develop a library of case studies documenting small- to medium-sized P3 transit successes and, if particularly noteworthy, failures. It will also support development of a guidebook offering practical approaches to identifying projects that may be suitable for a P3, as well as tried-and-true methods for initiating, planning and implementing P3 for small- to medium-sized transportation projects. The research will build on existing reports, studies, and research, but also involve case study development of successful smaller-scale P3 projects. Projects that are part of a larger, community and livability enhancing effort will be a specific focus. It is recommended that research be conducted that relates to smaller-scale P3 projects that have been planned and implemented effectively. A case study of these P3 projects for transit would facilitate the determination of factors that appear to support P3 success. Documenting best practices for small- to medium-sized P3 projects would also help communities determine whether their project is well suited for P3, offer them some assurance that they do work on a smaller scale, and provide information that would assist those communities in planning for and implementing their project using a P3 method. One of the goals of this research effort will be to identify the variety of P3s that are available to support transit investments. Something as simple as signage on a local bus to support operations is an example of a P3, as is establishing a finance plan that involves a significant share of private local funding or employing a design-build delivery system. The goal of the effort will be to identify different types of P3s that communities are utilizing to support their transit investment, and publicize these examples to communities that may not be aware that these are options that could work for them. While large and small P3s may be similar in some ways, it is expected that there will be differences related to the number of private partners, the public funding sources available, the role of the private sector in the operation of the transit facility, and so forth. The research could potentially include the following steps: (1) Review existing studies related to P3 funding, focusing on any that highlight smaller-scale infrastructure investment. (2) Review experiences of communities and agencies that have utilized P3 approaches to fund and implement their project. (3) Identify the types of smaller transportation projects that might benefit from consideration of P3. (4) Interview communities or agencies that have used P3 to help fund their projects. It is expected that the interviews will involve collection of information related to: (a) Project type, size and scope; (b) Whether the project is part of a larger planning effort; (c) Funding that was pursued but unsuccessful prior to; (d) Community/agency approach to determining what public and private partners might be interested in funding the project; (e) Method for engaging those potential partners and documentation of successes and failures; (f) Explanation of P3 shares by each partner. Is the involvement simply division of the costs or are some in-kind services part of the arrangement; (g) Identification of the benefit to each of the partners. Why were they willing to become involved? (h) Legal and financial considerations; (i) Institutional impediments that were overcome and how. The outcome of this research would be a P3 guidebook and library of case studies that may be applicable to a variety of agency projects that may not otherwise consider public-private partnerships feasible or understand how to initiate a P3. The emphasis will be on smaller scale P3 projects, particularly those that are part of a larger community improvement effort.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $150000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project G-15

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20150127
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 38984

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01551876
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project G-15
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jan 28 2015 1:00AM