13.5Quality of Service Contracts

The whole duty of government is to prevent crime and to preserve contracts.Lord Melbourne, former UK Prime Minister, 1779–1848

It is generally accepted that private vehicle operators are most likely to maintain a high quality of service if their contract includes the right incentives to provide a continuous high quality of service. A “quality of service” contract, also known as a “quality incentive” contract is an effective mechanism to encourage operators to deliver excellence in service on an ongoing basis. A quality of service contract stipulates how an operator’s performance is tied to its financial compensation. If an operator fails to perform properly in certain aspects of its service, then the firm will incur penalties or deductions in its payments. Likewise, a firm that exceeds service expectations can be rewarded with a bonus payment. Normally this service quality is measured by metrics agreed upon in the contract and monitored by the government authority or a third party auditor.

Quality of service contracting is increasingly popular in higher-income economies with privately contracted transit service providers. Of the BRT systems in higher-income economies, several of them have private operators with a contract that includes some quality of service elements. The Amsterdam R-Net BRT, for instance, has a contract with its operator that includes bonuses and fines for failure to meet or exceed key performance indicators. These indicators include punctuality, information, cleanliness, and driver friendliness. An independent organization carries out a monitoring regimen with twenty indicators in the field every three months. The Nantes BRT is also operated by a company under a quality of service contract. The level of service is specified in the contract and measured by fifteen indicators, with a specific level that the operator has to reach for each indicator. An external firm conducts the audits, and if the operator does not reach the required global level, the operator has to pay a penalty to Nantes Métropole. Still, many private sector operators in higher-income economies are not operating under any sort of quality of service provisions in their contracts, and there is significant room for improvement in much of the higher-income economies.

In lower-income economies, quality of service contracting was all but unknown prior to its introduction into the TransMilenio operating contracts in Bogotá. Since then, many of the quality of service elements in Bogotá’s BRT system have been emulated in other cities, such as Guangzhou, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Ahmedabad.

In the case of Bogotá’s TransMilenio system, poor performing operators can experience revenue reductions of up to 10 percent of the operator’s monthly income. Further, in extreme cases, an operator can even lose the concession for consistently unacceptable services.

Since TransMilenio operators are paid based upon the number of kilometers travelled, penalties for poor performance are imposed by reducing the number of kilometers assigned to the operator. The basis for fines and penalties are explicitly set out in the initial contract. Areas covered in the quality incentive contract include maintenance practices, customer service, driver safety, administrative practices, and environmental performance. Table 13.4 summarizes the types of infractions and their associated penalties.

AreaType of infractionPenalty
Maintenance / vehicle deficienciesAlteration of / damage to the vehicle interior or exterior: Unauthorized advertisements, nonfunctional signal lights, unclean bus, or damaged seating50 kilometers
Maintenance / vehicle deficienciesFailure to follow predetermined schedules for maintenance, repair, or inspection50 kilometers
Maintenance / vehicle deficienciesNonfunctional doors or worn tires100 kilometers
Maintenance / vehicle deficienciesAlteration of or damage to the GPS system or the radio communication system250 kilometers
Customer service / operationsStopping at a different station than the assigned station or not stopping at an assigned station25 kilometers
Customer service / operationsStopping for a longer period than requested25 kilometers
Customer service / operationsBlocking an intersection25 kilometers
Customer service / operationsUse of stereos, driver’s mobile devices50 kilometers
Customer service / operationsParking bus in an unauthorized location60 kilometers
Customer service / operationsChanging route without authorization60 kilometers
Customer service / operationsDelaying system operation without a valid reason60 kilometers
Customer service / operationsOver-passing another bus with the same route without authorization60 kilometers
Customer service / operationsOperating during unauthorized hours175 kilometers
Customer service / operationsPermitting the boarding or alighting of customers in places other than stations250 kilometers
Customer service / operationsOperating bus on streets different than the formal trunk lines without authorization250 kilometers
Customer service / operationsAbandoning a bus without a valid reason250 kilometers
Consistency of driver performancePerformance difference between best operator and other operators, < 20 percent0 kilometers
Consistency of driver performancePerformance difference between best operator and other operators, 20 – 25 percent30 kilometers
Consistency of driver performancePerformance difference between best operator and other operators, 25 – 30 percent75 kilometers
Consistency of driver performancePerformance difference between best operator and other operators, > 30 percent120 kilometers
Administrative / institutionalFailure to send reports required by TransMilenio50 kilometers
Administrative / institutionalImpeding the work of inspectors from TransMilenio SA50 kilometers
Administrative / institutionalHiding information or providing incorrect information50 kilometers
Administrative / institutionalInappropriate administrative or accounting procedures100 kilometers
Administrative / institutionalAbuse of power in relations with staff100 kilometers
EnvironmentalFuel / oil leaks and spillages25 kilometers
EnvironmentalNoise and air pollutant levels above the levels stipulated in the bid contract50 kilometers
EnvironmentalMishandling of hazardous materials50 kilometers
SecurityAny security violations not in compliance with contractual obligations100 kilometers for each day in violation

Source: TransMilenio SA

In some instances where public safety is compromised, TransMilenio SA will also directly impose penalties upon the drivers in addition to fining the operating company. Thus, violations such as driving at excessive speeds or disobeying traffic signals can result in driver suspensions or termination of employment (Table 13.5).

ActionPenalty to driverPenalty to operating company
Lack of driver’s license of bus registration documentSuspension (next day)100 kilometers
Failure to provide first aidOne-day suspension100 kilometers
Refusal to provide customer with informationOne-day suspension100 kilometers
Accident between two TransMilenio vehiclesPenalty depends upon investigation100 kilometers
Running red lightImmediate suspension100 kilometers
Backing up while on a trunk lineOne-day suspension50 kilometers
Possession of a firearmImmediate suspension100 kilometers
Disobeying police instructionsOne-day suspension200 kilometers
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other prohibited substancesImmediate suspension200 kilometers
Accident resulting from an irresponsible actionOne-day suspension200 kilometers
Improper approach to station platformThree times in a single day results in a one-day suspension50 kilometers
Excess velocityOne-day suspension100 kilometers
Encroachment onto pedestrian crossing100 kilometers
Mechanical problems that are not resolved in less than one hour50 kilometers
Verbal or physical aggression to customersImmediate suspension100 kilometers
Conducting fare collection on board vehicleImmediate suspension200 kilometers
Disobeying instructions from Control Center or traffic authoritiesImmediate suspension100 kilometers

Source: TransMilenio SA

The public company, TransMilenio SA, is responsible for monitoring and evaluating compliance with contractual norms. Inspections occur both randomly and within periodic schedules. Some violations can also be detected through the GPS system. Control center staff can record average speeds and vehicle movements, and thus staff can determine when speeding or other vehicle violations occur.

TransMilenio SA collects 90 percent of the fines and penalties in the “Fines and Benefits Fund,” while the remainder is retained by TransMilenio SA. The “Fines and Benefits Fund” is then periodically distributed to the highest-performing operator. Thus, the scheme provides a double incentive to avoid poor performance by first penalizing poor quality service and then rewarding excellence. In addition, since the penalized operators also forfeit a certain number of kilometers serviced, the well-performing operators also gain by receiving increased service allocations.

Penalized operators do have some recourse to contest unwarranted fines. If the operators feel that the penalties have been imposed unfairly, an appeal can be presented during the weekly meetings that take place between the operators and TransMilenio SA. If the other operators and TransMilenio SA concur that the fines were unwarranted, then the amount of the fine is returned.

Once this quality of service contract was developed in Bogotá, it was modified and usually simplified in other countries. In Guangzhou, the operating contracts with the private operators include a system of penalties linked to penalty points, as shown in the Table 13.6.

NoEvaluate ItemPointsEvaluate Content and Scoring MethodsScore Deduction
1First and last bus punctuality10 pointsFor each delay, deduct 0.5 points from score0.5 points/incident
2Number of vehicle breakdowns per thousand bus kilometer in BRT corridor30 pointsIn BRT corridor, for each vehicle breakdown that happens per thousand bus kilometer, deduct 1 point from score1 point per incident per thousand bus kilometer
3.1The number of accidents per million bus kilometer30 pointsGeneral accidentBoth at fault: 0.5 point each incident per million bus kilometer; ; Bus driver mostly at fault: 1 point each incident per million bus kilometer; ; Bus driver at fault: 1.5 point each incident per million bus kilometer;
3.2The number of accidents per million bus kilometer30 pointsSerious accidentBoth at fault: 1 point each incident per million bus kilometer; ; Bus driver mostly at fault: 2 point each incident per million bus kilometer; ; Bus driver at fault: 3 points each incident per million bus kilometer;
4The number of complaints per million bus kilometers20 pointsIf one complaint happens per thousand trips, and the operators need to be responsible for it, one point will be deducted from the score. If one operator is complained about 30 times, all the points will be deducted from the score1 point per incident per thousand trips
5.1Adherence to tasks given to operators by the government10 pointsPoor completion about the tasks given by the government (such as vehicle preparation is not timely, not in place)1 point per incident
5.2Adherence to tasks given to operators by the government10 pointsDoes not perform the tasks given by the government2 points per incident

Cape Town developed an extensive set of penalties that not only included a long list of performance metrics but also placed the onus for monitoring conformity with the performance metrics on the operator. This included stiff penalties if the information was found to be fraudulent.

When applied fairly, a system of quality incentive contracts provides a powerful tool in motivating high-quality service from operators. By selecting the appropriate measures and following up with a rigorous inspection regimen, operators will be given the right level of incentives to remain focused on providing a quality product.