Making your decision
When choosing the delivery method for your state RTAP program, you have three options: running the program in-house, contracting the program out to a third party, or a combination of the two. In 2010 and 2013, National RTAP conducted surveys of state RTAP programs, and of the states that responded to the surveys (with information taken from 2013 unless it was not available), 51% run their state RTAP program in-house, 30% outsource the program, and 19% use a combination of the two. From 2002-2013, the trend has been towards outsourcing all or part of the program.
The following is an inventory of the self-reported program delivery models for states that responded to the 2015 survey
(2010 data used when none other is available):
|| New Mexico
|| New York
| North Carolina
| North Dakota
|| New Hampshire
|| New Jersey
| Rhode Island
| South Carolina
| South Dakota
| West Virginia
The method you choose will be based on many factors, and each state will prioritize factors differently. During a session at the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference & Roadeo in March 2012 (entitled “Managing a State RTAP Program- Secrets of Success”), representatives from the Minnesota and Pennsylvania state RTAP programs recommended that state DOTs consider the following questions when choosing their delivery methods:
- How involved do you want to be in the daily activities associated with program delivery?
- How much time does your state DOT staff have to spend on the RTAP program?
- What kind of staff resources do you have?
- What are your subrecipients’ needs?
- What can you afford to spend on the RTAP program?
- Is there another entity in your state that would be a natural fit to deliver the state RTAP program?
- Does your state have travel restrictions that would prevent state DOT staff from visiting training sites?
If you find that running the RTAP program in-house is the right decision for your state, someone on your DOT staff will be responsible for carrying out all of the tasks associated with administering and delivering the program. Advantages to running the program in-house are that you have direct influence over how the program is delivered and regular contact with the subrecipients who request assistance. There are many best practices and samples in this toolkit that can assist you as you design your program. However, administering and delivering the program in-house is not right for every state, and if you find that contracting out some, or all, of the program is the best fit for your state, the following section will help you develop the structure of that relationship.
Outsourcing your program
If you decide to contract out your state RTAP program, the first step is to inventory the organizations and entities in your state or region that might be a natural fit to take on this role. Are there entities that already provide training, have a relationship with local transit providers, or have specific rural and/or tribal transit expertise? Examples of common state RTAP program contractors are state transit associations, universities, and private consultants.
Although contracting out an RTAP program may not meet the federal procurement threshold requiring competitive proposals (now $150,000), obtaining multiple bids is a important way to find a qualified contractor. Before you can develop the request for proposals, you must also have an idea of what the state RTAP program will do and which of those tasks you would like to contract out. If you intend to contract out the entire program, every activity for the program should be reflected in the scope of work. If you would like to have a combination of administering the program in-house and contracting out particular tasks, you should be very specific about what which tasks the contractor will be responsible for, how the contractor will report to you, and how you will measure the contractor’s performance.
There are many different ways you can design the delivery of your program, and the following are examples of how respondents of the 2013 National RTAP survey of state RTAP programs structure their programs: some states contract out all tasks except the scholarships program which is handled in-house; other states administer the program in-house but contract out all training tasks; some states have an advisory committee, but the contractor takes care of all daily tasks; and in some states, the entire program is contracted out, but a state DOT representative has daily involvement in the program. Other tasks that are contracted out by survey respondents are webinars, technical assistance, conference planning/hosting, and creating/distributing a newsletter.
States that contract out some, or all, of their programs have cited many benefits. During a networking webinar that National RTAP hosted for state RTAP managers in January 2012 (entitled “Costs and Benefits of Outsourcing Your RTAP Program”), representatives from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Idaho presented the benefits their state DOTs and subrecipients gained by having a third party deliver the state RTAP program:
- State DOT does not incur the costs of hiring new employees (salary and benefits), as this would need to come out of non-RTAP funds.
- State DOT staff members have time to work on other projects
- State DOT does not have to hire new full-time people to manage the program nor does it have to add to its staff’s increasingly large workload
- Contractors can have more flexibility than state DOT employees to travel to conduct on-site training and build greater knowledge of training sites’ needs
- The right contractors will already have expertise needed to run the program well
- It can give subrecipients direct input into the RTAP program planning, giving them ownership over the program
- Contractors are often able to respond to needs more quickly than the state DOT
- When there are not enough resources in the state DOT to deliver a good program, the subrecipients might receive a better overall program through a contractor
- Often times the contractors are ‘closer to the ground’ and can understand the needs of subrecipients better than the state DOT
- Having the program delivered by a third party gives recipients another resource in addition to the state DOT to turn to for training and technical assistance
When you put the program out to bid, you should advertise the opportunity and solicit as many proposals as possible to ensure that you have a competitive process. The more proposals you have to review the more likely you are to find the right fit for your needs. New Hampshire recently outsourced their program, and has shared the RFP and related documents. After you hire a contractor, you are responsible for ensuring that the contractor is in compliance with all of the requirements that are tied to receiving federal funds. While not all of the Section 5311 requirements will apply, you and your contractors will be responsible for some of the requirements, such as procurement, DBE, and others related to program administration. For more information about what requirements 5311 subrecipients must meet, see the Transit Manager's Toolkit.
Whether you administer and deliver your program in-house or outsource the RTAP program, this toolkit can be used to find new ideas to implement at your state DOT or share with your third party contractor.