Public-private transportation projects have a lot of moving parts. A veteran planner shares some basics to ensure they work together
Doug Parker is a director and senior practice lead, transit technology, at IBI Group, an international planning, design, architecture, transportation and technology consulting firm based in Toronto. Run through any list of major public-private (P3) transportation projects in Canadian cities and IBI has probably played a part.
Last month, Parker spoke on a panel looking at the role of P3s in fleet transit electrification at the CUTRIC Canadian Low Carbon and Smart Mobility Technology Conference.
While P3s are essential to most major projects in today’s environment, there’s still a wide range of familiarity and comfort among municipalities and transit agencies in their use. According to Parker — whose group assists transit agencies with planning and deployment of transit technology — P3 success hinges on all of the pieces fitting together properly.
“A large number of vendors have to come together to create an integrated solution,” he says.
To that end, during his presentation Parker outlined three keys to getting successful transit electrification P3s off the ground.
1. Motivation. The private sector needs to be motivated to take part in the initiative. A way to achieve this, Parker says, is for project leaders to emphasize in their pitch that companies will get something in return, even though it’s a “joint-purpose approach.”
2. Bespoke solutions. In many P3s that Parker sees, transit agencies often feel they aren’t receiving as many benefits as they should from the relationship. One way to change this view is by showing how a transit electrification initiative can be different than other P3s.
“There could be a certain amount of customization,” says Parker. “That could be really important because … every transit agency is a little bit different, even though they are all trying to accomplish the same thing.”
3. Return on investment. This, not surprisingly, is a primary selling point, with responsibility for reassurance in this area falling on the agency side.
“They need to be able to put the kind of guarantees in place that would have the private sector feeling that even though it’s well-known that the revenue sources available to transit agencies can vary over time, that it’s credible,” he says. “That they will be able to count on a stream of revenue over time.”