Planning Approaches in Contracted Fixed-Route Bus Transit Service in the United States: Private Sector’s Role in the Planning Process and Its Influence on Performance Outcomes

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bike, operations - performance, organisation - contracting, organisation - performance, place - north america, planning - methods, planning - service quality


fixed-route bus service, planning approaches, contract, performance indicators


This study explored the role of planning approaches implemented by agencies that contracted a significant portion of fixed-route bus service and related those planning approaches to service performance. Of particular interest are the rationale behind agency decisions of where to situate planning functions, the role of the contractor in the planning process, and the implications of planning approaches on service cost, quality, and efficiency. Eight cases focused on U.S. transit agencies located in major metropolitan areas that contracted more than 20% of their fixed-route bus service. The authors utilized a combination of agency documents, National Transit Database data, and respondent interviews to uncover the planning approaches employed by each agency and to relate them to key performance indicators. The results show that agencies that do not contract planning functions do so to retain maximum control and oversight of bus service, the role of the contractor in the planning process is augmented as the proportion of contracted service increases, and agencies that employ a strategy with heightened levels of contractor interaction are more likely to experience positive performance outcomes.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.