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Authors:  Karen Trapenberg Frick, Brian Taylor, Martin Wachs

Date: September 1, 2008

Project: Contracting For Public Transit Services: Evaluating the Tradeoffs

When considering public transit, travelers typically judge whether it serves desired destinations in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost – often in comparison to traveling by private vehicle. How public transit agencies choose to operate their services – their networks, service frequency, and fare structures – to compete with private vehicles and provide mobility for those without them is the subject of this synthesis. Specifically, we examine the “make” or  “buy” decision in public transit: Should government agencies operate (make) transit service directly, or does it save money to contract with private firms (buy) to operate transit service? The latter option is often called “contracting out” or, less accurately, “privatization.”

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