3 tips to build a right-sized transit tech spec.

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See if this sounds like you…

You work at a transit agency, and you wear a lot of hats. And not only are you overworked, but your staff is too. Most days, success is defined by just keeping your buses moving smoothly. You desperately need an upgrade to your Intelligent Transit System (or perhaps you just NEED an ITS), and after years of lobbying and cajoling your agency’s administrators you finally have both the approval and funding needed to begin the procurement process.

But there’s a catch (there’s always a catch) … YOU must be the one to write the RFP.

Did I mention you were busy and overworked and now you’re charged with developing the critical document needed to guide the process for a large and complex purchase.

No pressure, right?

Well rest easy, because we’ve compiled a few tips to help you build a right-sized transit spec and look like the transit pro you are.

#1 Avoid clutter: The busy transit professional can be tempted to go online and copy/paste sections from sample RPFs to cover all the bases in the proposal. Seldom does this approach yield anything but an ungainly mess. By all means, use other proposals as reference material, but write to your specific situation and keep the end document crisp and laser-like in focus. Cover the basics, by providing insights into your customers and clearly defining your agency’s situation, make and models of vehicles, existing hardware, and ultimate goals of the systems

#2 Set realistic expectations: It’s not uncommon for RFPs to ‘shoot for the moon’ and contain both language and specifications that are completely outsized for an agency’s true operational needs and financial capabilities. Your transit spec should contain an overview of your agency, its challenges, and desired outcomes. Let the bidding firms write responses to your situation and not chase lengthy list of arbitrary technical details, hardware specs, and pie-in-the-sky performance criteria.

#3 Develop a compliance matrix: When you get responses for your RFP, you want to guide vendors to give you the answers to the questions you truly need. A compliance matrix forces respondents to provide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (or similar responses) to specific questions and criteria. This approach factors out much of the ‘marketing speak’ and ‘technobabble’—and helps to drill down to the nitty gritty details of whether a particular solution will deliver on your need or not. This makes deciding on a solution far more quantifiable and serves to simplify and streamline your decision-making process.

It’s not difficult to write a lean, mean RFP. In fact, it can be a relatively painless and straightforward process that doesn’t take any great amount of time to produce. Which leads us to a bonus tip…

Consult all stakeholders in advance of writing your RFP: Any large project has numerous interested parties affected by the ultimate transit system you purchase. Be sure to take the time to speak with your riders, drivers, dispatchers, and administrators prior to drafting your RFP. Learn their pain points and use the feedback to guide your decision-making and prioritization of system capabilities. Trust us, it’ll go a long way to simplifying acceptance of your chosen solution.

There you have it, three simple steps to writing a right-sized transit spec. Not too big. Not too small. Just a perfect RFP designed to be easily understood by vendors and evaluated by your staff.

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