A new guidebook for small- to medium-sized public-private partnerships (P3) has been published by the Transportation Research Board's (TRB’s) Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).
Prepared by WSP USA, TCRP Research Report 191: Public Transportation Guidebook for Small- and Medium-Sized Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), serves as a resource to explore, evaluate, initiate, plan and implement small- and medium-sized public-private partnership initiatives.
The guidebook addresses why and when to consider P3s for small- and medium-sized projects, what types of initiatives may be undertaken, and how to effectively undertake them.
“In an environment of limited resources and expanding needs, transit agencies are seeking innovative ways to do more with less, and as successful P3s are implemented across the country, the benefits to the transit agency are becoming more evident,” said Nathan Macek, vice president and director of project development and finance at WSP. “Public transit agencies are laying the tracks of innovation by forming partnerships with the private sector to improve existing services and more efficiently deliver new services and facilities.”
Macek spent 18 months preparing the publication with a team that included consultants Elizabeth Neely and Ella Claney. The team researched best practices and lessons learned by public transportation providers on small- and medium- sized P3 projects.
“The study examines innovative partnerships between transit agencies and the private sector to improve existing services and more efficiently deliver new services or facilities,” Macek said. “Our research addresses how the mix of partnerships is quickly evolving to include innovative collaboration with technology companies, last-mile transportation providers, marketing firms, and others.”
A P3 project screening checklist and a spreadsheet accompanies the guidebook to assist transit agencies with screening and evaluating P3 initiatives.
“The checklist, in particular, provides a framework to help project managers think through the delivery of an agency’s first P3, but is also useful for agencies experienced in delivering P3s,” Macek said.
For agencies that are new to P3 projects, the biggest concern is where to begin the process. Macek said this guidebook helps them with that challenge.
“We’ve tried to demonstrate that agencies large and small have done P3s of varying sizes, so with the right project, it’s something any agency can do,” he said. “The checklist summarizes the resources that agencies need to research before getting started, and helps them follow through with the successful delivery of a P3 project.”
As P3s become a preferred method for delivering transportation projects, Macek has seen an increase in its use to deliver smaller projects by transit agencies large and small. “Agencies that have not undertaken P3s are often uncertain regarding the complexity a P3 project brings,” he said. “This guide should help them to better understand the P3 process for projects of all sizes.”
For more than 15 years, Macek has been developing innovative financing approaches that help transit agencies address their budgetary challenges. Researching this topic for the TCRP guidebook proved to be a perfect fit with his experience.
“This study was a rewarding opportunity to put some of the knowledge I’ve obtained working on projects for individual transit agencies to work for the transit industry as a whole,” he said. “U.S. transit agencies have just begun to scratch the surface on P3s, and I’m hopeful through our research we’ll see a lot more examples in the coming years that help to enhance mobility options for the riding public.”
Click here for the guidebook and checklist, which are available for free download from TRB's website.