The final pool of experts in the Brainstorming Round

With the closing of the first round of the Global Delphi in Public Transport it is time to look at how the final group of experts looks like. A few weeks ago we had preliminary statistics on their profile, however now we can revise and update those numbers with the entire list of experts. Let’s have a look[1]:

Professional Role:Note: ‘Other’ include: representatives of Think Thanks, representatives of voluntary professional association for bus industry, former president and general manager of Metropolitan Public Transport System Agencies, president of National Association of transport authorities, and individuals working in entities with multiple roles (e.g. both Authority and Operator of Public Transport), employees of PPP Agencies.


 Areas of Expertise:Note: ‘Other’ includes: expertise on Land Use and Transport Integration, Behavioral Modelling, Assessment of long-run policy outcomes, e.g of privatization, (de)regulation.


Geographical Region of Expertise:


In our next posts we will be bringing the results of Round 1 with the opinions these experts emitted in relation to the questions on performance and governance of metropolitan public transport.



[1] Since respondents could select more than one alternative, percentages in the graphs are relative to the total number of experts participating in the survey.





Who are the Experts?

The Global Delphi in Public Transport is online since last week and many participants have already sent us very interesting input. While we still wait for others to respond, we thought about having a glance on who, so far, has accepted our invitation and is already participating in this project.

Based on this partial pool of responses, we came up with a few general statistics on their profile. Let’s have a look[1]:


Professional Role:Note: ‘Other’ include: representatives of Think Thanks, representatives of voluntary professional association for bus industry, former general manager of Metropolitan Public Transport System, and individuals working in entities with multiple roles (e.g. both Authority and Operator of Public Transport).


Areas of Expertise:Note: ‘Other’ includes: expertise on Planning and Network Design,  Land Use and Transport Integration, Behavioral Modelling.


Geographical Region of Expertise:


[1] Please note that these were multiple choice questions and respondents could indicate more than one alternative. Percentages in the graphs are relative to the absolute number of respondents.




About Words

While designing this Deplhi survey, we received some useful comments from experts in the field – in particular, we were warned about possible difficulties in communication emerging from the use of different terminology in the field of public transport in different parts of the world. Some of the terms and expressions used, either in academia or by practitioners, vary in different contexts, and hence the terms we use in our survey might not be immediately clear to all our respondents. We want to offer some additional information that makes the interaction in our Delphi study more clear in various governance contexts. Here are some points that we initially want to clarify:

1. Metropolitan Public Transport System. When used in this survey, the expression refers to all collective modes of land passenger transport services within the metropolitan area and linking it to its direct environment. We include those available to the general public. We exclude long-distance services. We do not distinguish on the basis of ownership or control; these services could be either operated publicly or privately. In certain contexts it can be referred to as Transit System, Public Transit or just Transit.

2. Operator or Transport Operating Company. When used in this survey, the expression refers to the entity delivering the actual transportation services on the street or on the rails and with direct control of the logistical and personal operations of public transport services. Sometimes, this entity is also in control of the infrastructure capacity and allocation. This entity could be either a public or private organisation.

3. Authority or Metropolitan Transport Authority. When used in this survey, the expression refers to the government branch deciding on the public transport services in the metropolitan (either a free-standing entity or a function of local or state government), enacting political decision making in this field. This entity could combine this role with others, ranging from planning to procurement of services from Operators, or even the actual delivery of transportation services through its own Operator. In certain contexts it can be referred as Transport Authority, Metropolitan Transit Authority or Transit Agency.

4. Regulator or Regulatory Agency. When used in this survey, the expression refers to the authority that enforces the law on an industry e.g. safety regulations. Normally in the PT field if several services are provided by the private sector as concessionaire, there must be an independent Regulatory Agency to ensure that all PT operates at approved levels.

5. Clearing Company or Clearing House. When used in this survey, the expression refers to the entity responsible for the clearing and settlement system through which different Operators within an integrated fare and ticketing system can get paid the sums they are owned. Therefore, it refers to the feature required to enable an integrated ticketing and single travel card system. The clearinghouse functions, can be developed by private or public entities that can be also responsible for other functions in the transportation system – a Transit Agency, for instance, can in some contexts be also responsible for clearinghouse tasks.

6. Level of Government. When used in this survey, the expression refers to different levels of government that may hold responsibilities related to the planning, regulation, and/or delivery of public transport services in the metropolitan context. The denomination of these levels varies depending on political systems: local, province and national government levels; municipal, state and federal levels etc. For this research, we refer to metropolitan as the level of government that most tightly encloses the metropolitan area. In that we define metropolitan area by continued high densities of habitation around a central city. Smaller governmental entities are called local, higher entities, not covering a nation state, regional, higher entities covering a nation state national.

Were these clarifications helpful? Did you notice other terms or expressions that might cause difficulties for communication within our small global community of experts? If you have additional questions, comments or want to add something to or correct this list, please post your comment or contact us by email! We will ensure your anonimity when publishing your comment.




And it is gone!

The first round of our Global Delphi in Public Transport has started!

All selected experts have now received an official invitation containing the link to the first questionnaire of our survey. This first round consists in a brainstorming effort: through a few questions we will try to elicit views from experts to identify most relevant performance indicators, the broad policy aims to which they are associated, and also most relevant organisational features of metropolitan public transport systems.

Our expectation at the moment is that it will involve a total of four rounds, nut ths may change. An exact estimate is not possible at this stage however, and the evolution of the survey will depend on the reactions we receive from respondents.

Wijnand, Didier, and myself are excited and curious to see how this unfolds in the coming weeks!




Getting the variables right is just the first step

You may have seen the previous post, announcing a Global Delphi in Public Transport. It is time to situate this article within the overall research project of which it is part.

The connection between organisational form and performance in public transport systems[1] is debated, directly or indirectly, for many years (e.g. Chadwick, 1859). It remains a relevant discussion and continues to spur new research. These analyses indicate that some organisational elements (e.g. market deregulation, use of competitive tendering and contracting, existence of single transport authorities etc.) might be important for achieving different performance objectives (e.g. efficiency, patronage, sustainability etc.). However, a closer look at academic literature in this field reveals that there is still need to further explore aspects not yet properly addressed. Most articles in the field deal with such causal connection in a superficial way, assuming a direct and simple relationship between one or some organisational elements and one or a few isolated performance objectives. Eventually, these studies bring inconsistent and/or inconclusive results.

This is the research opportunity that we (Fabio Hirschhorn, Wijnand Veeneman and Didier van de Velde) are exploring. We want to look at the relationship between organisational form and performance in public transport with new eyes. In particular, by proposing that if/when said causality can be empirically attested, it is complex and needs more in-depth examination. Rather than deriving from simple and direct isolated organisational changes, performance-related outcomes can result from the combination – at the same time or in sequence – of the impacts from different organisational variables (or a configuration of them). Furthermore, to bring more certainty and refinement to any causality claim, it is necessary to assess whether any variable is either sufficient or necessary to bring about certain outcomes, as well as to check whether other variables or combinations of them could also produce same effects. The hypothesis supported here is that there is no silver-bullet to explain public transport performance based on organisational form and that possibly any explanation must go beyond formal structural mechanisms.

Overview of Research Object:

Using a mixed-method research, combining qualitative and quantitative analysis of data, we hope to shed light on existing patterns and clarify some of the mechanisms through which the causal relationship organisation-performance works. The work is built based on three blocks:


Block One: Getting the variables right

The first step to unveil the complexity of the relationship between organisational form and performance consists in properly understanding how both organisation and performance are seen and dealt with in the public transport sector. In particular, given the impossibility to analyse all existing variables at once, it is important to define which variables (both independent and dependent) are more relevant and deserve further scrutiny. To get the variables right, rather than doing a review of academic literature, the choice here is to develop a Global Delphi Survey with experts in public transport. Employing the ranking-type Delphi we will produce two authoritative rankings, comprising most relevant organisational features and performance aims (with respective quantitative indicators) to be analysed. These rankings, built based on views of those who are most knowledgeable about the field, are developed by using multiple questionnaires carefully crafted to elicit opinions from well-known experts acting in varied roles (academia, transport authorities, operating companies, users’ representatives etc.) – thus covering multiple perspectives in worldwide-spread public transport systems.

The ‘Delphi Selection Process’:


Block Two: Assessing the actual behaviour of selected variables

As a follow-up to the Delphi’s findings we will build a comparative case study assessment, using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Putting it simply, our aim is to take those variables selected as most relevant by sector experts in the Delphi, and analyse them in concrete cases. This will be done to compare public transport organisation and performance in metropolitan areas within some OECD member-countries, but more sets of cases can be later added to the study. This approach is consistent with the hypothesis that underpins the PhD (mentioned above) – QCA is based on the understanding that social phenomena are better comprehended in terms of configurations of factors, combinations of conditions that come together simultaneously or in sequence, leading to certain outcome(s). Therefore, as a tool and methodological approach it suits nicely the hypothesis we propose. Instead of analyzing relationships between two or three variables (standard variable-oriented approach), it allows the comparison of cases by comparing different configurations of independent variables that may be associated with the presence or absence of an outcome.

Comparative case-study:


Block Three: Making things more complex – adding time and informal structures

A final block of this research project will be based on within-case studies of selected metropolitan areas amongst those initially analysed in the QCA set. The purpose is to properly open the black-box of public transport governance in 3 or 4 cases to be studied in depth. This in-depth analysis of cases will add to the findings obtained in the Delphi and the QCA in at least two important ways. First, it includes the longitudinal dimension and therefore takes into account the historical evolution of public transport systems, shedding light on factors that are critical and peculiar to specific systems. In particular, it adds in relation to the QCA block because QCA in its original formulation does not take into account the order in which events occur and treats combinations of attributes as though they take place simultaneously. Secondly, the within-case analysis will allow for the consideration of informal elements also possibly impacting public transport, i.e. those aspects that are not part of the formal structure of the system and nonetheless are impact its performance. These elements can be informal channels of communication and other forms of informal coordination, politics and power dynamics, leadership character of particular individuals able to drive changes, the skill-set of the entity responsible for public transport planning etc. 

Adding the time dimension and informal structures (outside formally designed system):


[1] The expression Public Transport refers to metropolitan collective modes of land passenger transport services available to the general public with no limitation to state ownership, nor public sector management, planning or provision.


Chadwick, E. (1859). Results of Different Principles of Legislation and Administration in Europe; of Competition for the Field, as Compared with Competition within the Field, of Service. Journal of the Statistical Society of London, 22(3), 381–420.




Global Delphi in Public Transport

A new survey coming!

A research group formed by Fabio HirschhornWijnand Veeneman and Didier van de Velde is currently developing a global survey with high-level experts in public transport. The survey follows the Delphi methodology and elicits the opinions of selected experts on relevant issues related to the  governance of public transport systems. Our final aim is to produce an authoritative list and ranking of organisational features driving the performance in public transport systems.

We selected a panel with experts acting in varied roles in the field of public transport and covering worldwide-scale knowledge to ensure breadth and depth of know-how on the topics in discussion. The participation of these experts is anonymous and their names and individual opinions will be kept confidential. Through this weblog though you can stay informed about the progress of the research. Furthermore, a first complete overview of the results will be presented at the Thredbo Conference in August, 2017.

More to come soon!

Added by Fabio Hirschhorn