|Project on Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Problems
This is a staff digest of the progress and status of TCRP Project J-7, "Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Problems," for which the Transportation Research Board is the agency conducting the research. Individual studies for the project are managed by Donna L. Vlasak, Senior Program Officer.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) was established in 1992. The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed the TCRP, and it was authorized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. On May 13, 1992, a memorandum agreement outlining operating procedures for the TCRP was executed by three cooperating organizations: the Federal Transit Agency (FTA); the National Academy of Sciences, acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and the Transit Development Corporation, Inc. (TDC), a non-profit educational and research organization established by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
A storehouse of information exists on nearly every subject of concern to the transit industry. Much of this information has resulted from both research and the successful application of solutions to the challenging issues faced by practitioners in their daily work. Because there has been no systematic means for compiling such useful information and making it available to the entire transit community, the TOPS Committee--an independent governing board organized by the TDC and designated the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection Committee--authorized TRB to undertake a series of studies to search out and synthesize useful knowledge from all available sources and to prepare documented reports on current practices in the subject areas of concern. Reports from this endeavor constitute a TCRP report series, Synthesis of Transit Practice, that collects and assembles the various forms of information into single concise documents pertaining to specific transit problems or sets of closely related problems.
THE SYNTHESIS PROGRAM
This synthesis series reports on various practices, making recommendations where appropriate. Each document is a compendium of the best knowledge available on measures found to be successful in resolving specific problems. To develop these syntheses in a comprehensive manner and to ensure inclusion of significant knowledge, TRB hires a consultant with expertise in the topic area to gather and analyze available information assembled from numerous sources including a large number of transit agencies, and write a summary report. A panel of experts in the subject area is established to guide the researcher and to review the synthesis report.
For each topic, the project objectives are (1) to locate and assemble documented information; (2) to learn what practice has been used for solving or alleviating problems; (3) to identify all ongoing research; (4) to learn what problems remain largely unsolved; and (5) to organize, evaluate, and document the useful information that is acquired.
Each synthesis is an immediately useful document that records practices that were acceptable within the limitations of the knowledge available at the time of its preparation. As the processes of advancement continue, new knowledge can be expected to be added to that which is now on hand; eventually the synthesis may need to be updated or redone. Whenever you believe that a synthesis should be updated, it would be appreciated if you would write TRB and let us know.
Selection of Topics
TCRP Project Committee J-7 meets each year to select topics for study using funds from the upcoming fiscal year. Current funding allows for initiation of about four syntheses per year.
The following factors are considered in the selection process for synthesis topics:
- The problem should be widespread enough to generate broad interest in the synthesis.
- The problem should be timely and critical for expediting delivery, improving the quality, or lowering the cost of transit services.
- The problem is appropriate if current practice is non-uniform or inconsistent from agency to agency, or if the validity of some practices appears to be questionable.
- The quality and quantity of useful available information should indicate a need to organize and compress that, which has already been learned and written on the topic.
- The topic should not be one where ongoing research or other activities in progress might be expected to render the synthesis obsolete shortly after completion.
The continued success of this project depends on a constant supply of worthy synthesis topics. Candidate topics can be submitted via the Internet using the "Suggest an NCHRP or TCRP Synthesis Topic" button provided on the Synthesis Web page. Candidate topics are suggested by members of the J-7 committee and by a variety of other sources, including transit officials, equipment and service suppliers, research organizations, FTA, APTA, and TRB Committees. The interest of those who have recommended topics is sincerely appreciated, and they are urged to continue.
Conduct of the Studies
Throughout the year, following the J-7 project committee's selection of topics, studies are initiated essentially in the order of priority assigned by the committee. A panel consisting of practitioners and researchers is formed for each topic. At its first meeting, this topic panel thoroughly discusses the topic, refines the tentative scope to its final form, suggests sources of information, and and discusses potential topic consultants.
Following this meeting, a fixed-fee contract is initiated with a consultant to gather information on the topic, synthesize it, and draft a report. Typically, the agreement covers a period of 7 months. Information gathering and preparation of the first draft of the synthesis report usually takes from 4 to 5 months. This draft document is reviewed by the topic panel with the consultant, at a second panel meeting. A subsequent draft is prepared and additional meetings may be scheduled if necessary, although this rarely occurs.
After the staff is substantially satisfied with the report, a final draft is sent to the members of TCRP Project Committee J-7 for their approval. At the same time, topic panel members have their last chance to review the draft document. Comments from both these reviews are incorporated into the final report, which is usually published as a TCRP Synthesis of Transit Practice.
New TCRP Synthesis Topics