Alexander Laska | Eno Center for Transportation 202-879-4700 |
Jon Orcutt, TransitCenter | 718-383-6631 |
Hayley Richardson, TransitCenter | 404-312-3685 |

REPORT: Contracted Operations Can Improve Transit Service – A “How to” and “How not to” Guide

On Tuesday October 10th, TransitCenter and the Eno Center for Transportation released “A Bid for Better Transit: Improving Service with Contracted Operations.” The report examines how and under what circumstances public transit agencies can contract bus or rail operations to private providers in order to improve transit service for riders while simultaneously preserving essential labor protections.

The report is timely. The contracting portions of transit operations is under active debate in Boston and Washington D.C. Many transit providers are struggling with changing transportation dynamics and an uncertain fiscal environment.

Transit service contracting arrangements are common in other countries, but most large American transit agencies directly operate fixed-route transit services with their own employees, using equipment procured and owned by the agency.

A Bid for Better Transit is clear that service contracting is complex and controversial and requires careful consideration. Most importantly, it can be how cities and regions engage in more transparent assessments of service levels, transit performance, and ways to improve them. Service contracting is not a quick fix for lowering public costs.

Contracting can also provide an opportunity for transit and labor leaders to update working conditions and challenge outdated assumptions about how the public and private sectors work together.

The report presents six case studies – three in Europe (Oslo, Stockholm, and London) and three in North America (Vancouver, New Orleans, and Los Angeles). It shows how devising poor contracts, chasing the lowest bidder, and undercutting workers can leave an agency and its riders with substandard service.


A Bid for Better Transit: Improving Service with Contracted Operations” will be available on
October 10 at and