Improving Metro’s Unsolicited Proposal Policy

It’s been just over two years since Metro debuted its Unsolicited Proposal Policy. In that time, the policy has exceeded expectations, in the number of proposals generated (113 to date; 16 for megaprojects), the ability of Metro to advance those ideas to implementation (more than a dozen) and the quality and magnitude of ideas.

Highlights include:

P3/PDA approach to Sepulveda Decision was made to use a PDA and an alternatives analysis for the project and a project team charter are underway Preliminary Development Agreements bring the developer responsible for designing, building, financing, and potentially operating and maintaining the project earlier in the process. This allows the developer to consider the full lifecycle of the project from the beginning and take more ownership of project constraints and opportunities. It incentivizes the developer to design a project that meets customer needs, is affordable, constructible, environmentally clearable, and efficient to operate and maintain. If they cannot design such a project, it could mean that they either have to pay damages to Metro, or they lose their opportunity to serve as the contractor.

For a project of this complexity, a PDA could lead to cost savings, acceleration, and improved project outcomes.

West Santa Ana Branch Decision was made to pursue P3 and an initial market sounding is complete The West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) Transit Corridor Project is a new 20-mile light rail transit line that would connect downtown Los Angeles to southeast LA County, serving the cities and communities of Arts District, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, unincorporated Florence-Graham community of L.A. County, Vernon, Huntington Park, Bell, Cudahy, South Gate, Downey, Paramount, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia. A P3 could deliver more value for Metro’s investment, including project acceleration.
Microtransit Decision was made to pursue a pilot and 3 contracts were awarded for feasibility studies, to be followed by service on the street Unlike a standard bus, the service will follow turn-by-turn instructions from a navigation system that uses live traffic conditions and real-time requests for picks-up and drops-offs to generate the most efficient possible shared trips for Metro customers. The service will be used for short trips under approximately 20 minutes in duration in defined service zones, and utilize vehicles that are smaller than traditional transit vehicles.

Whether beginning a trip, completing a trip, or seeking a complete trip solution, riding the new service will be intuitive, user-friendly, and designed to encourage the use of multiple modes of public transportation.

The new service, known as Microtransit, will be on-call when riders want it, where they want it, connecting more people and places to our existing system.

Systematic financing approach for ExpressLanes Decision was made to accelerate project and complete within 10 years, and a toll bond underwriter bench recently established in order to do so Metro’s ExpressLanes Strategic Plan outlines the expansion of Tier 1 ExpressLanes throughout the County (see page 10 of this document for a map of Tier 1 ExpressLanes). A system financing approach could leverage the revenue streams of each new project to finance the network expansion.
Street Signal Interface Connected Bus Project Decision made to pursue project and it is now underway. The server systems are up and running, router and display prototypes are completed, and signal data feed and application are in development. Test whether an application can use signal information to provide to Bus Operators on the Metro Orange Line with better information, leading to more green lights and a smoother ride.
Mobile Tolling Decision made to pursue a pilot program that can be expanded to the entire system. RFP bidding closed in late June. Test whether an application can produce virtual gantries so that customers can use a smartphone instead of a transponder to access the ExpressLanes. This would enhance the customer experience and reduce capital and operating costs.

These projects, and many others in development, demonstrate that the process has been highly beneficial to Metro and L.A. County. It has been useful in getting these ideas in the door, developing them and driving decisions based on them. Still, we are always looking for ways to improve.

Companies are often shooting in the dark, and every proposal that misses the mark creates extra work and distraction for the subject matter experts across Metro who are working on other critical projects and initiatives — like keeping the buses and trains running and implementing Measure M. We’d like to see more high-impact and actionable proposals and fewer low impact and half-baked ideas.


With these new changes to the policy, Metro hopes to shine a light so that companies understand where to focus, and can better align their solutions to Metro’s existing challenges. We plan to do this a number of ways, including creating challenge statements that will allow Metro to point industry toward specific pain points where innovative solutions are needed. We also want to mobilize various industries through Unsolicited Proposal Forums that create a community that will submit proposals to solve these challenges.

Improve inputs and process for better outputs

We are also working on our process and toolkit, including:

  • Increasing the review time frame to 90 days so that we can create more buy-in and conduct a more thorough evaluation if needed.
  • Explicitly allow and encourage employee submissions, so that ideas don’t just come from outside the agency.
  • Introduce a Proof of Concept policy so that Metro can formally work with an outside party to demonstrate the value of an offering or application, without a contract, so long as the expense falls on the outside party.

These improvements should make the process more focused and see a higher return on investment.

5 replies

  1. When will Metro stop trying to re-invent the wheel? Bus lanes and parking free development around rail stations is the only thing this city needs. Everything else is a distraction.

  2. So far OEI has been a bust. Microtransit is going to be a massive drain on Metro’s resources for little added benefit over what private industry can provide. Just because an object is shiny and new doesn’t mean Metro should get into the game. OEI should focus instead on getting the rail lines accelerated or on finding cost savings for existing projects/operations.

  3. Could you clarify what this statement regarding ExpressLanes means: “Decision was made to accelerate project and complete within ten years”. I presume it just refers to either 1 ExpressLane project (the 105 project) or completing the system financing mechanism? As written, it reads to imply completing the whole 621-mile strategic plan in 10 years, which is surely impossible.