UMTA's Research and Development Program Should Pay Closer Attention to Transit Industry Needs

CED-82-17: Published: Jan 20, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the Urban Mass Transportation Administration's (UMTA) research and development program to identify management weaknesses in the program. UMTA improves long-term mass transportation productivity, efficiency, and service by providing its grantees with innovative equipment, service concepts, and management techniques for providing transit services.

GAO found that UMTA: (1) does not have a means of ensuring that the projects it undertakes are addressing the transit industry's most important needs; (2) is spending research funds and efforts on solving problems that the private sector is addressing on its own; and (3) does not identify or consider barriers that prevent intended users from accepting research results. Also, other than formal statements made from time to time before congressional committees, UMTA has not developed research policies or procedures that would provide its research offices and staff with standard criteria for planning and carrying out their research activities. While UMTA recognizes that its research should be directed toward the needs of the transportation industry, it has not designed a means of ensuring that its research programs are directed toward the most important, widespread industry needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: UMTA has reorganized the research and development program, but the problems still exist because UMTA lacks formal procedures for implementing its research policies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of UMTA should establish a policy requiring UMTA research offices to identify systematically the industry's needs within their individual mission and responsibility areas and to analyze those needs to determine research priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: UMTA has reorganized the research and development program, but the problems still exist because UMTA lacks formal procedures for implementing its research policies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of UMTA should require program managers to assess thoroughly the transit industry's willingness and ability to carry out a proposed research project on its own. In cases where industry is developing or experimenting with innovative equipment, concepts, or techniques, UMTA involvement should be limited to testing, evaluating, and disseminating the results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: UMTA has reorganized the research and development program, but the problems still exist because UMTA lacks formal procedures for implementing its research policies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of UMTA should require program managers to explore and identify potential barriers to industry's acceptance and use of proposed research and to work to overcome these barriers as part of the research process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

 

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