All aboard: Challenges and opportunities for collaboration in transit procurement

Thursday, April 21 | 11a-12p PT | 2-3p ET

CoProcure hosted an intimate discussion for procurement professionals in transportation and transit, featuring the view from a large metro area and another from a smaller city. Below is a recap of our conversation and some solutions to consider at your own organization during these challenging times.



Sydnee Distance

Contract Specialist, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Washington, DC


Wendi Frisbie

Business Services Manager, Lane Transit District, Eugene, Oregon

One of the major trends we heard from the panelists and attendees is related to procurement talent. There’s a shortage of talent, continuous need for training, and a steady exodus of seasoned procurement professionals retiring and taking their knowledge with them. These factors are resulting in increased workloads, less time in the day, and teams with a knowledge base in specific categories being reassigned to other items.

Another thing panelists noted was that, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, prices on fuel and on other goods and services keep going up. The higher pricing and supply chain delays are pushing more goods and services over the threshold, which adds more complexity to the purchasing process.

In this environment, an added challenge is spending additional money under the recent CARES Act and infrastructure legislation, or the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Everyone is facing supply and demand issues, resulting in teams having to be more creative and plan even further out than usual. Fortunately the CARES Act has no expiration date and is a reimbursement of funds. But for ARPA, there are deadlines and it’s even more important to make sure they hit milestones and deadlines.

In light of these challenges, these are solutions that panelists shared to address transit-specific needs, and some key takeaways that are applicable to all public procurement teams.

1. Get help with FTA contracts

For the FTA piece in their contracts, Lane Transit District uses this Procurement Clauses Matrix and follows these guidelines for every purchase, even if it is only state funded.

2. Incorporate end users into your purchasing process

Because of staff shortages, Lane Transit District is moving toward distributed procurement as opposed to a more centralized procurement department. In this model, end users in different departments first conduct their own research and due diligence, then they send their requests to the procurement team to finalize those steps. Leaders at her agency have empowered their whole staff by educating them on the benefits of cooperative contracts, and helping them find good solutions before even coming to the purchasing team. The result is being able to have a smaller staff and more efficient operations, while still getting competitive pricing by not having to do a quote or RFP.

3. Collaborate with other agencies by:

  • Using cooperative contracting. At WMATA, finding contracts she could use was still time consuming, so Sydnee turned to CoProcure to help. For instance, she recently had to research and purchase facilities maintenance services. Sydnee did a quick search on CoProcure and found a Sourcewell cooperative contract that met her requirements.

  • Teaming up. Instead of bidding as an individual entity, Lane Transit District partnered with a local utility company who put out a community-wide request / proposal for fuel and let them join. They were able to allocate resources to Eugene without having to head-on compete with other larger jurisdictions, bump up their priority and delivery, and get a better price in bulk.

  • Including piggybackable language in your contracts. To the extent possible, include piggybackable language so others can use your contracts! This makes it easy for others to leverage that experience.

4. Check out these additional resources

  • The FTA’s Third Party Contracting Guidance (Circular: C 4220.1F) provides contracting guidance for recipients of FTA awards when using that federal assistance to finance its procurements (third party contracts).

  • The National Rural Transit Assistance Program website can guide transit agencies through procurement processes and provide a checklist of required certifications and clauses. It is a free tool and can be very helpful!

To our transit procurement professionals: We see you. It’s a challenging environment out there, but we hope that some of these resources will be helpful for you in your work.

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