Asset management for small agencies

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While some large agencies have extensive maintenance budgets, smaller ones have to be more strategic in their asset management. Soure: Alan Weeks, Metro Library and Archive.


Transit asset management (TAM) is set of processes and practices managing capital assets in order to provide safe, cost-effective, and reliable service. Capital assets include rolling stock and other equipment, facilities, and infrastructure used in service provision. Establishing a TAM plan allows agencies to strategize on how to maximize the performance of its capital assets over their lifecycles. The 2012 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Asset Management Guide provides outlines TAM procedures. Smaller agencies, though, deal with fewer assets and fewer resources. This report, Asset Management Guide for Small Providers, is tailored to the needs of agencies with a smaller fleet.

TAM Plan Template

In additional to being smart strategy for any agency, creation of a TAM plan is a requirement for receiving FTA grants. This is mandated by the MAP-21 program[1]. While this guide does not provide step-by-step instructions for MAP-21 compliance, it does include an Excel template to help agencies design their plan. It can walk an employee familiar with the agency’s assets through the process of creating either a minimum-compliance or comprehensive TAM plan.

Transit Asset Management Plans

There is no strictly defined structure a TAM plan must take, but this guide recommends a structure based on FTA mandates and best practices across the industry. The structure includes five sections: introduction, asset portfolio, condition assessment, management approach, and work plans and schedules.


A TAM plan should start with a general introduction to the agency’s asset management strategy. This can include an overview of the TAM plan structure, the time horizon of the plan, roles and responsibilities of various members of the agency in carrying out the plan, and references to supplemental documents like vehicle management plans.

Asset Portfolio

Next, the plan should a database of all the assets owned, operated, and/or maintained by the agency. This includes revenue and non-revenue vehicles and facilities, as well ones acquired with or without FTA funds. The portfolio needs to have enough data on the assets to inform future decisions. This includes things like acquisition date, source of funding, use and condition, and projected replacement cost. It’s likely that an agency already has a lot of this information cataloged for other reporting programs.

Condition Assessment

After assets have been cataloged, the TAM plan should establish a process of systematically evaluating the conditions of the assets. This helps with predicting failure and identifying safety risks. Like with the asset portfolio, the only requirement of the condition assessment is that it includes enough detail to be useful as a monitoring and planning tool.

Along with a process for condition assessment, an agency should set target conditions for its asset classes. These targets could be age, mileage, or a simple pass/fail rating. More comprehensively defined target conditions are more accurate, but also more burdensome[1]. Setting minimum tolerable conditions helps identify capital needs by establishing exactly when action needs to be taken.

Stages of the lifecycle management process. Source: Federal Transit Administration

This section also contains data collection procedures, which will vary depending on asset class. For many assets, only a sampling will need to be inspected. For assets with higher risk, it becomes necessary to inspect a larger sample.

Management Approach

The TAM plan outlines the management of assets over their entire lifecycle, from procurement to disposal. This section will likely be informed by already-existing documents like fleet management plans. There are four main steps: design/procurement, maintenance, rehabilitation/overhaul, and disposal. The management approach can also discuss day-to-day decision making the prioritization of investments.

  • Design/procurement - acquisition procedures, including approval processes
  • Maintenance - maintenance schedule based on manufacturer recommendations and asset condition
  • Rehabilitation/overhaul - decision criteria for engaging in major overhaul
  • Disposal - procedures selling, transferring, or otherwise disposing of assets that have reached the end of their usable lifecycle

Work Plans and Schedules

Small agencies often have less input that larger ones when it comes to identifying long-term capital investments. Given these constraints, it is important that an agency works to prioritize the resources it has. Local policies and critical needs can inform these priorities. In the end, the work plans should help an agency reach its service targets by maintaining assets in a state of good repair or even enhancing their condition.

Continual Improvements

The TAM plan is a living document that should be regularly reviewed and updated. This should be done at least every four years. Major changes in assets, capital, or service need to be reflected in the plan. While an agency’s first plan might be fairly basic, it should be expanded as the agency becomes for familiar with the TAM process and collects more data.


It is vital that an agency effectively manage its assets in order to provide its customers with the best, most cost-effective service. Creating a transit asset management plan gives an agency a framework in with to maintain these assets. In addition, creation of a TAM plan is mandated by the FTA as a prerequisite for receiving federal grants. By following the steps in this guide, a transit agency can easily create an effective TAM plan.

Asset Management Guide for Small Providers


Additional Reading

Rose, D., Isaac, L., Shah, K., & Blake, T. (2012). Asset Management Guide: Focusing on the Management of Our Transit Investments. Federal Transit Administration.

The precursor to the Asset Management Guide for Small Providers, this document is aimed at large transit agencies. It gives a much more detailed look to the asset management process.

Spy Pond Partners, LLC, KKO & Associates, LLC, Cohen, H., & Barr, J. (2012). State of Good Repair: Prioritizing the Rehabilitation and Replacement of Existing Capital Assets and Evaluating the Implications for Transit. Transit Cooperative Review Board.

State of good repair is closely linked to transit asset management. This report outlines best practices related to maintaining state of good repair and presents four Excel tools that can be used in the process.

William, R., Reeder, V., Lawrence, K., Cohen, H., & O'Neill, K. (2014). Guidance for Developing a Transit Asset Management Plan. Transit Cooperative Review Board.

This report, which provides another set of detailed directions for creating a transit asset management plan, also includes an Excel tool to help agencies prioritize investment in transit assets.