TRB Standing Committee on Transit Data - AP090 - TCRP Synthesis 2021

TRB Standing Committee AP090

TCRP Synthesis 2021

Hello! Welcome to our TCRP Synthesis working proposal site for 2021. Below, you’ll find some of the culled research interests based on committee member conversation. Use the prompts and descriptions below to craft your own TCRP Synthesis proposal and send the results back to the CRC (Raymond Chan). They don’t have to be perfect - but do flesh them out with detail based on the guidance from TCRP Synthesis.

If you’ve submitted syntheses in the past, the instructions for 2021 are new and slightly more involved.

AP090 Dates:


Copied from the TCRP Synthesis Submission page:

The following factors are considered in the selection process for synthesis topics:

The scope of work aligns with a $45,000 budget and a 10-month turnaround.

Please use the outline below for creating your synthesis topic statement. Upload your topic statement in a Word document to the Submission Portal.

  1. Topic Title

    • Communicate what the synthesis is about in as few words as possible (i.e., the practices the synthesis will document).
  2. Background
    • One or two paragraphs providing description of the topic to be studied. This section gives context for the proposed topic.
    • A synthesis is appropriate when most agencies engage in a practice but they do it differently (i.e., there are no standard guidelines or regulations).
  3. Synthesis Objective
    • One paragraph is sufficient.
    • Statement of specific practices the synthesis will document.
  4. Information To Be Gathered
    • A bulleted list is recommended.
    • Examples of important aspects of the practices to be documented.
    • The information to be gathered should be factual and not require the opinion of a survey recipient.
  5. How the Information Will Be Gathered

    • The following activities are typically performed for a synthesis:
      • Literature review
        • A survey of agencies
          • Follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples
          • Identification of knowledge gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps
  6. Information Sources
    • Relevant organizations, individuals, or literature references
    • Literature searches can be conducted on TRID (, which includes the Research in Progress database (

Additional Info for our committee:


Am I capable of writing a TCRP Synthesis?

Yes! Besides, the entire committee will be providing you with editorial support. The fact that you’re reading this and are interested puts you in a good position to write this. ;)

I’ve never written an academic paper… can I still write a synthesis?

Yes! Use the resources outlined in “Information Sources” above to get a firm ground of “what’s been done,” then position your idea to build off the work of others.

Oh no, this problem has been answered!

Has it? Does it have a transit context? Is it widely known? - position your synthesis proposal to respond to this gap.

There’s already a TCRP Synthesis on this? Is it recent? Is the synthesis still relevant? I smell a gap here that you can exploit

Why did you strip the best practice phrase off of everything?

TCRP Syntheses are not best practice documents (Best practices are better for the more involved TCRP Problem Statement). They document the current state of the industry to better provide organizations understanding of what each other are doing.

Working Synthesis Proposals


Training the executive and the organization

There was a common theme among many participants that bureaucracy, organization, executive understanding of the value data lead to organizational strife within agencies with competing priorities. Some common refrains are the lack of investment into data processes, breaking down organizational silos, and the limits of data. Participants noted that many organizations feared judgement of bad data, leading to barriers. Others noted that decision makers often asked for the data to ‘make decisions’ - in the vein of strangling the statistics to provide the intended answer. Data has simultaneously become weaponized and devalued - poor metrics lead to perverse incentives. Performance “Dashboards” become evaluation tools without proper assessment of the effectiveness of such tools. Can singular, mean centric metrics describe complex, multifaceted aspects of operations?

Learning and maintaining skillsets

The tools and skills necessary to manage, analyze, and present data is ever changing - from human computers to complex spreadsheets transitioning into databases, SQL, and R/Python tackling structured and relational datasets. The explosion of non structured and non quantitative data has accelerated the development and implementation of new tools such as image recognition and natural language processing. Data users tend to have limited resources to expand techniques when burdened with training other staff as well as processing analysis requests from other entities. How we manage and train this analysis workforce is important to understand to better prepare staff for future challenges.

Sharing Data

Everyone wants more data and many times we know where the data is. However, gatekeepers restrict access to datasets for various reasons. How do agencies manage data access such that they provide ample access without interfering with production or operating environments. What sort of budgets and techniques do agencies provide internally and externally to better share data with partners, internal and external? What organizational barriers exist and how do agencies work to reduce these barriers?

Related to Data Management and use on AP010 TCRP Synthesis proposed research

TCRP Report 214 is something we should read first before sending this! Thanks Cecelia Viggiano (EBP) for doing the work and sharing. National Acadamies has a nice blurb on this.

Other ways to help

Check out the other topics on AP010 - Transit Management and Performance