In-House and Outsourced Programs

Making the decision

When choosing the delivery method for a State RTAP program, managers have three options: running the program in-house, contracting the program out to a third party, or a combination of the two. In 2020, 53 percent of the states provided the program in-house compared to 49 percent in 2017. State programs are primarily (53%) operated by Department of Transportation staff. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of programs are outsourced to a consultant, transit association or university transportation center. The remaining 20% use a combination of in-house and consultants to administer the program, many of which outsource the training component of their program. Of the 21 states that outsource all or part of their program management, six use state transit associations, three use university transit centers and eleven use a private contractor or combination of private contractors.
See the Program Status and Trends page for more information. 

The following is an inventory of the self-reported program delivery models for states that responded to the 2020 survey:

States that run programs in-house States that contract out programs  States that run a combination
 Arizona  Alabama  Alaska
 Colorado  Arkansas  Georgia
 Hawaii  California  Massachusetts
 Iowa  Connecticut  Minnesota
 Idaho  Indiana  New Mexico
 Illinois  Kansas  New York
 Kentucky  Michigan  Ohio
 Maryland  Missouri  Tennessee
 Maine  New Hampshire  Washington
 Mississippi  Pennsylvania  
 Montana  Utah  
 North Carolina  Wisconsin  
 North Dakota    
 New Jersey     
 Rhode Island     
 South Carolina    
 South Dakota    
 West Virginia    

The method chosen will be based on many factors, and each state will prioritize factors differently. During a session at the 1st Technical Assistance and Tribal Transit Program Conference & Roadeo in March 2012 (entitled Managing a State RTAP Program- Secrets of Success), representatives from the Minnesota and Pennsylvania State RTAP programs recommended that State DOTs consider the following questions when choosing their delivery methods:

  • How involved does the manager want to be in the daily activities associated with program delivery?
  • How much time does the State DOT staff have to spend on the RTAP program?
  • What kind of staff resources does the program have?
  • What are the state subrecipients’ needs?
  • What is the budget for the program?
  • Is there another entity in the state that would be a natural fit to deliver the State RTAP program?
  • Does the state have travel restrictions that would prevent State DOT staff from visiting training sites?

If the manager finds that running the State RTAP program in-house is the right decision for the state, someone on the State DOT staff will be responsible for carrying out all of the tasks associated with administering and delivering the program. Advantages to running the program in-house are that managers have direct influence over how the program is delivered and regular contact with the subrecipients who request assistance. There are many best practices and samples in this toolkit that can assist with designing the program. However, administering and delivering the program in-house is not right for every state, and if contracting out some, or all, of the program is the best fit for a state, the following section will help the manager develop the structure of that relationship. 


Outsourcing the program

If the manager decides to contract out the State RTAP program, the first step is to inventory the organizations and entities in the state or region that might be a natural fit to take on this role. Are there entities that already provide training, have a relationship with local transit providers, or have specific rural and/or Tribal transit expertise? Examples of common State RTAP program contractors are state transit associations, universities, and private consultants.  
Although contracting out a State RTAP program may not meet the federal procurement threshold requiring competitive proposals (now $150,000), obtaining multiple bids is an important way to find a qualified contractor. Before the manager can develop the request for proposals, they must also have an idea of what the State RTAP program will do and which of those tasks they would like to contract out. If the manager intends to contract out the entire program, every activity for the program should be reflected in the scope of work. If the manager would like to have a combination of administering the program in-house and contracting out particular tasks, they should be very specific about what which tasks the contractor will be responsible for, how the contractor will report to the manager, and how the contractor’s performance will be measured.  

There are many different ways to design the delivery of the program, and the following are examples of how respondents of the 2020 Survey of State RTAP programs structure their programs: 

  • All parts of the program are outsourced.  
  • 95% of the program is outsourced - mainly the training part.  Only the RTAP Program administration and the Spring Workshop sessions are in-house.
  • We outsource training, but scholarship and other financial assistance are handled in-house.
  • Most of it.  Our RTAP contractor provides procurement training (and occasionally other topics) and serves as arbiter on questions related to policies, rules and procedures (most commonly in regard to training/conference scholarship requests or reimbursements).
  • Defensive driving, PASS and Drug & Alcohol are outsourced.  Other training is provided through National RTAP.
  • Driver training is outsourced.
  • Individual trainings, workshops, travels to conferences of Section 5311 subrecipients are processed in-house. Our General Training Program, organization of the Spring Transit Conference and Rodeo are outsourced.
  • We use RTAP funds for the contract and leadership makes decisions on training needs for the contractor to conduct for both internal and external customers.  The contractor also provides the technical "On-Call" expertise when various subrecipient situations arise.  The DOT also provides RTAP Scholarship opportunities for attendance to the annual Transit Association Trade Show for our 5311 rural subrecipients.  RTAP funds are dedicated to FTA compliance areas and for developing our internal FTA procedures and satisfactory and continuing oversight of our subrecipients. 
  • We outsource the RTAP program, including technical assistance, research, and training. We outsource: Annual Conference, Quarterly Trainings. In-house: Annual Conference, RTAP Scholarships, Driver Training.
  • Training is mostly outsourced.  Management of RTAP scholarships is handled in-house. 
  • The administration of the program (website, scheduling training, etc.) is handled by the consultant, as well as providing most of the training sessions. Our State DOT program maintains regular communication with the consultant and provides technical assistance to grantees on FTA program implementation. 
  • RTAP funds go to the State Transportation Association for training and program management.

States that contract out some, or all, of their programs have cited many benefits. During a networking webinar that National RTAP hosted for state RTAP managers in January 2012 (entitled Costs and Benefits of Outsourcing Your RTAP Program), representatives from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Idaho presented the benefits their State DOTs and subrecipients gained by having a third-party deliver the State RTAP program:

  • State DOT does not incur the costs of hiring new employees (salary and benefits), as this would need to come out of non-RTAP funds. 
  • State DOT staff members have time to work on other projects. 
  • State DOT does not have to hire new full-time people to manage the program nor does it have to add to its staff’s increasingly large workload.
  • Contractors can have more flexibility than State DOT employees to travel to conduct on-site training and build greater knowledge of training sites’ needs.
  • The right contractors will already have expertise needed to run the program well.
  • It can give subrecipients direct input into the RTAP program planning, giving them ownership over the program. 
  • Contractors are often able to respond to needs more quickly than a State DOT.  
  • When there are not enough resources in a State DOT to deliver a good program, the subrecipients might receive a better overall program through a contractor.
  • Often times the contractors are ‘closer to the ground’ and can understand the needs of subrecipients better than a State DOT. 
  • Having the program delivered by a third-party gives recipients another resource in addition toa State DOT to turn to for training and technical assistance.

When the manager puts the program out to bid, they should advertise the opportunity and solicit as many proposals as possible to ensure that there is a competitive process. The more proposals that are available to review, the more likely the manager will be able to find the right fit for the state’s needs. New Hampshire outsourced their program, and has shared the RFP and related documents. After the manager hires a contractor, they are responsible for ensuring that the contractor is in compliance with all of the requirements that apply to receiving federal funds. While not all of the Section 5311 requirements will apply, the RTAP program and the contractors will be responsible for some of the requirements, such as procurement, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and others related to program administration. For more information about what requirements Section 5311 subrecipients must meet, see the Transit Manager's Toolkit.

Whether the State RTAP program is administered and delivered in-house or outsourced, this toolkit can be used to find new ideas to implement at the State DOT or share with the third-party contractor.


Updated April 22, 2021