Transit Cooperative Research Program Overview
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) was established under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sponsorship in July 1992. Proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, TCRP was authorized as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and reauthorized in 1998 by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). On May 13, 1992, a memorandum agreement outlining TCRP operating procedures was executed by the three cooperating organizations: FTA; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and the Transit Development Corporation, Inc. (TDC), a nonprofit educational and research organization established by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The memorandum agreement was updated on January 12, 1999.
NEED AND PURPOSE
The nation's growth and the need to meet mobility, environmental, and energy objectives place demands on public transit systems. Current systems, some of which are old and in need of upgrading, must expand service area, increase service frequency, and improve efficiency to serve these demands. Research is necessary to solve operating problems, to adapt appropriate new technologies from other industries, and to introduce innovations into the transit industry. The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) serves as one of the principal means by which the transit industry can develop innovative near-term solutions to meet demands placed on it.
The need for TCRP was originally identified in TRB Special Report 213, Research for Public Transit: New Directions, published in 1987 and based on a study sponsored by FTA. A report by APTA, Transportation 2000, also recognized the need for local, problem-solving research. TCRP, modeled after the longstanding and successful National Cooperative Highway Research Program, undertakes research and other technical activities in response to the needs of transit service providers. The scope of TCRP includes a variety of transit research fields including planning, service configuration, equipment, facilities, operations, human resources, maintenance, policy, and administrative practices.
The primary participants in TCRP are (a) an independent governing board organized by TDC and designated the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee, (b) TRB as program manager and secretariat for the TOPS Committee, (c) APTA as a vital link to the transit community, and (d) FTA as program sponsor. Other important participants in TCRP include transit professionals, state and local government officials, equipment and service suppliers, and research organizations. Each of these participants has different interests and responsibilities; however, each is an integral part of the cooperative research effort.
SELECTION OF RESEARCH
Research problem statements for TCRP are solicited periodically but may be submitted to TRB by anyone at anytime. It is the responsibility of the TOPS Committee to formulate the research program by identifying the highest priority projects. As part of the evaluation, the TOPS Committee defines funding levels and expected products.
The TCRP focuses on research that is consistent with, and supportive of, FTA’s strategic research goals and TCRP strategic priorities. Following are the two FY 2011 FTA strategic research goals:
(1) Support Increasing Livability: FTA conducts research designed to help transit agencies improve livability in their communities. What infrastructure improvements are needed to increase capacity? What new or existing tools for assessing the cost benefits of increasing ridership are available to transit agencies? What are the most rapidly developing technologies or services available to make public transportation the mode of choice for commuter travel? What marketing methods are available that proved to be successful in increasing ridership? What measures of effectiveness are most beneficial to use for affecting positive changes in ridership? How can we improve the capacity of our transit workforce and industry?
(2) Support Improving the Performance of Transit Operations and Systems: FTA strives to make safe, affordable, reliable, accessible, and efficient public transportation available to all Americans, as ridership is critical for realizing the economic, environmental, and mobility benefits of Federal investments.
What coordination technologies or methods are available to ensure that the transportation benefits available to seniors and disadvantaged populations are fully utilized? What technical, process and operational advances best contribute to better decision-making and cost-effective management of the planning, design and construction of major transit investments?
How can we best apply recent advances in project planning and development to reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with large transit projects? What technologies and practices are available to help control costs of capital investment, service operations and maintenance?
How do we ensure transit assets are in a state of good repair? How can more efficient and more effective provision of transit services promote movement toward sustainability? What improvements to transit vehicles and infrastructure would reduce emissions and promote energy independence? Which technologies now available or currently being tested promise the greatest improvements in energy conservation, fuel economy and reduction of harmful emissions? What can FTA and individual transit agencies do to foster introduction of economical and environmentally friendly transit vehicles? How can land use policies support these efforts?
What safety considerations should be factored in capital, operating, and maintenance expenditures? What obstacles currently prohibit safety factors from being part of the initial planning process of capital projects? What technology and practical solutions can help transit agencies increase safety and security training, public awareness, and emergency preparedness? How can we improve the safety of transit workers?
The TCRP has adopted five Strategic Priorities:
I. Place the Transit Customer First
The importance of the transit rider as well as the community at large as the customer was a principal outcome of the TCRP Future Search. The American consumer society is demanding; no industry can prosper that does not place the customer first.
II. Enable Transit to Operate in a Technologically Advanced Society
TCRP will support public transportation to integrate state-of-the-art technology in all aspects of its business so that mobility needs can be served as communities change and customer needs evolve.
III. Continuously Improve Public Transportation
The TCRP will support communities throughout the United States to continuously improve public transportation.
IV. Flourish in the Multimodal Environment
More authority for transportation investment decisions is now in the hands of state and local decision-makers. The transit industry must work harder and smarter to realize the intermodal flexibility and community-based planning opportunities offered by federal and other programs.
V. Revitalize Transit Organizations
Information technologies, changes in the work force, and new roles and partnerships are revolutionizing the workplace. By reinventing themselves, transit organizations can "Work Better--Cost Less."
Problem statements should consider the FTA and TCRP priorities. While problem statements can be submitted at any time, the deadline for submitting problems for consideration is June 15 of each year. To avoid duplicating the work of others, please check information on research in progress and completed research when preparing a research problem statement. Click here for publications abstracts of TRB's completed research.
TRB provides day-to-day program management including the following tasks:
- Assisting the TOPS Committee in identifying and prioritizing research needs;
- Appointing and coordinating expert technical panels to guide research;
- Developing and distributing Requests for Proposals (RFPs);
- Processing and evaluating proposals to select the best-qualified research agency;
- Executing contracts with the selected researchers;
- Reviewing research reports;
- Publishing and disseminating research reports; and
- Promoting the application of research results.
Each project is assigned to a panel, appointed by the Transportation Research Board, which provides technical guidance and counsel throughout the life of the project. Panels include experienced practitioners and research specialists; heavy emphasis is placed on including members representing the intended consumers of the research product. The panels prepare project statements and select contractors based on evaluation of the proposals received. As in other TRB activities, TCRP project panels serve voluntarily without compensation.
SELECTION OF CONTRACTORS
The process for selecting TCRP researchers has been used by TRB in managing cooperative research programs for more than 40 years. This open process allows all potential research agencies to compete on the basis of technical merit and ensures that all proposers are treated fairly and that the program has access to the best talent available for each project. Guidance for the preparation of proposals is included in the TCRP brochure, Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals (Updated November 2010). Proposals from prospective research contractors are evaluated by the project panels. The evaluation considers the following: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; and (5) the proposer's plan for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises--small firms owned and controlled by minorities or women; and (6) the adequacy of the facilities. Selected agencies perform research under contract to the National Academies, guided by the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board's Cooperative Research Programs. Guidance for the preparation of final reports for submission to the TCRP can be found in Chapter 5 of the Procedural Manual.
Under SAFETEA-LU, $10.0 million was appropriated for TCRP in fiscal year 2010. An additional $10.0 million is anticipated in fiscal year 2011.
Primary emphasis is placed on disseminating TCRP results to the intended end-users of the research: transit agencies, service providers, and suppliers. APTA plays a key role in both conventional and innovative means of making research information available and makes maximum use of its committee structure. TCRP provides a series of research reports to transit operators, local agencies, FTA, and other interested parties; APTA arranges for workshops, training aids, field visits, and other activities to ensure that results are implemented by transit industry practitioners.
In addition to research reports, the TCRP includes a synthesis series. Synthesis reports are compendiums 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, the Transportation Research Board analyzes available information assembled from numerous sources, including numerous transit agencies. Each synthesis is an immediately useful document that records practices in use at the time of its preparation.
To submit a research problem statement or to request further information on TCRP, write or call:
Christopher Hedges, Director
Cooperative Research Programs
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Program information and requests for proposals are available on TRB’s World Wide Web Site at http://trb.org/tcrp. APTA also disseminates TCRP products and information through its web site: http://www.tcrponline.org.
The TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee
In the administration of the TCRP, it is essential to maximize both the substance and the appearance of fairness in the selection and management of contractors, at the same time ensuring the quality and expanding the number of potential researchers as much as possible.
It is in the interest of the TCRP to use the expertise of the best-qualified individuals and organizations available to perform the research programs, while avoiding actual or apparent conflict of interest. However, conflicts may arise or appear to arise if members of the TOPS Committee or organizations with which they are affiliated submit proposals on projects.
To prevent such problems in the administration of the TCRP, members of the TOPS Committee are not permitted to serve concurrently as principal investigators on any TCRP projects. Additionally, the following rules will apply to all members of the TOPS Committee for the duration of their terms of appointment:
- A TOPS Committee member is not permitted to be involved in the selection process for TCRP contractors, where the individual member or an affiliated organization is being considered.
- No involvement by a TOPS Committee member is permitted in TRB’s administration of a contract in which the individual member or an affiliated organization is involved.
- No involvement by a TOPS Committee member is permitted in setting or modifying administrative policies that would directly or materially affect either the administration of existing contracts with the individual TOPS member or affiliated organization or the ability of the member or affiliated organization to submit proposals.
Because of the special position of the TOPS Committee Chairman, the following additional rules also will apply during the Chairman’s term:
- Neither the TOPS Committee nor the immediate administrative unit of which the Chairman is a part may propose on any TCRP projects.
- The Chairman may not be involved in the preparation of a proposal for a TCRP project.
- The Chairman may not work on a TCRP project as a member of the research team or as a consultant to the team.
When a newly appointed Chairman of the TOPS Committee or other member of the Committee has existing activities or commitments covered in the foregoing lists of rules on a TCRP project at the time of appointment, those circumstances will be disclosed without delay to the Executive Committee of TOPS and recommendations will be made by the Executive Committee on a case-by-case basis. All issues arising out of the need to interpret these rules will be resolved by the Executive Committee, with the affected members standing aside as appropriate.
TCRP Project Panels
The Transportation Research Board, as a unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, accords special importance to the policies and procedures established by the institution for assuring the integrity and hence the public confidence in the reports. Extensive efforts are made to ensure the soundness of reports issued by the institution by selecting highly qualified members. Yet, if a report is to be not only sound but also effective as measured by its acceptance in quarters where it should be influential, the report must be, and must be perceived to be, (1) free of any significant conflict of interest, and (2) not compromised by bias, and (3) untainted by allegations of scientific misconduct.
To address questions of potential bias and conflict of interest for the protection of both the individual involved and the institution, individuals participating in studies and other activities are asked to complete a "Potential Sources of Bias and Conflict of Interest" form to be submitted to and reviewed by the institution. In addition, project panels are asked to discuss the general questions of bias and conflict of interest, and the relevant circumstances of their individual members, at each panel meeting.
The question of potential sources of "bias" ordinarily relates to views stated or positions taken that are largely intellectually motivated or that arise from the close identification or association of an individual with a particular point of view or the positions or perspectives of a particular group. Such potential sources of bias are not necessarily disqualifying for purposes of panel service. Indeed, it often is necessary, in order to ensure that a panel is fully competent, to appoint members in such a way as to represent a balance of potentially biasing backgrounds or professional or organizational perspectives.
It is also essential that the work of committees not be compromised by a significant conflict of interest or in some circumstances the significant appearance of conflict of interest, on the part of any member of a panel or anyone associated with the work of a panel (e.g., consultants, staff, etc.) For this purpose, the term "conflict of interest" means any financial or other interest which conflicts with the service of an individual because it (1) could impair the individual’s objectivity, or (2) could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. The existence of a significant conflict of interest ordinarily disqualifies an individual from service.
Full details on the program's work since inception can be found in the TCRP Annual Report.