3.69 - Managerial Decisions and Performance in European Urban Public Transport – A Comparative Analysis”, PhD Thesis, University of Porto, 2016

Project Description

Managing public transport operators usually involves a wide range of actions and decisions relevant for their performance. However, state-of-the art literature in that field only vaguely reflects upon any effects from operational, tactical, or strategic managerial choices. In addition, studies are often dominated by controversial cross-sectional approaches unsuitable for the proper incorporation of explanatory variables of performance in general. Therefore, this work proposes a two-stage time-series Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) to assess the relation between managerial decisions and economic performance of operators over time. Based on annual reports, both notions are evaluated for three operators from Portugal and Germany over the course of 64 years. Different techniques are used to approximate the real world state with modelling. Decision time-series are generated from text-based data with Content Analysis including the classification, operationalization, and analysis of multiple decision categories, such as network, fleet, personnel, schedule, fare, service and management decisions. Following the logic of self-benchmarking, DEA time-series are computed from three inputs and two outputs capturing the broader objectives of public transport provision by means of effectiveness and efficiency. DEA time-series are regressed on the decision times-series and socio-economic variables in an innovative time-series regression approach to assess dynamic effects from management decisions over a period of 10 years. Findings are compared between operators to identify similarities and differences over time in terms of decision-making, managerial focus, performance evolution, performance orientation, magnitudes and time-lags of effects from managerial decisions on performance as well as the role of external variables. Among other findings, this research outlines the importance of service- and customer-oriented management practices and the force of external influences towards operator performance. It further suggests the adequacy of considering effectiveness as an integral component of modern performance analysis in public transport and the need for caution concerning the application of crosssectional DEA to a set of rather heterogeneous operators.

Research Team


  • Sebastian Ebert
  • Álvaro Costa (supervisor)

Financial Support

  • FCT

Stage of Progress

  • Finished in 2016