Has collaboration contributed to goal achievement in Swedish public transport?

Roger Pyddoke and Karin Thoresson. K2 Working paper 2022:5

Collaborative contracting between public transport authorities (PTAs) and bus operators has been presented as a successful method for reaching public transport policy goals. This paper examines management processes and outcome data, asking whether this management approach, incorporating more far-reaching collaborative elements, is associated with higher goal achievement in two Swedish regions and two contracts. Stated regional policy goals are ridership growth, reaching set levels of customer satisfaction, and some cost-efficiency. This management approach suggests that PTAs should delegate more planning responsibility to operators. PTA management assessed the approach to be valid but, to our surprise, also said that they frequently reclaimed previously abandoned control to secure desired outcomes. This indicates that more delegation may not necessarily have led to increased goal achievement. Without making claims as to causality, we note that ridership increased in both regions and individual contracts, while customer satisfaction stagnated and costs increased steeply in both regions, but not in one contract. The paper questions whether collaborative contracting, on average, has contributed to ridership increases, although it may have in some instances.