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Caltrain Recommends New Operator to Run Train System

Caltrain Recommends New Operator to Run Train System

The recommendation is based on a competitive process that extended over more than 15 months and included detailed and expert evaluation of five proposals from top rail management firms.

The proposal presented by TransitAmerica received a consensus top ranking. Proposals were scored in three major areas of criteria – the management, operations and maintenance plan; the cost proposal; and the qualifications and experience of the firm and key personnel proposed by the firm as the management team for the Caltrain service.

The first full year (FY 2013) of the five-year contract is for $62.5 million, within the projected Caltrain operating and capital budgets. Subsequent contract amounts are subject to annual negotiations.

With a transition to a new rail contractor, federal regulations provide job protections for current employees.

“We made a business decision to go to the marketplace and the result is an opportunity for a partnership between TransitAmerica and Caltrain that can meet the high expectations we have for a safe, reliable, viable Peninsula commuter rail service now and in the future,” said Caltrain Executive Director Michael J. Scanlon.


“This is a contractor with the experience, the know-how and the vision to assist Caltrain in operating a system that provides opportunities for improvements, expansion, cost and operational efficiencies and to continue and enhance the long-established Caltrain culture of safety first.”

Should the Joint Powers Board approve the final recommendation, it would bring to an end the 20-year relationship between Caltrain and Amtrak, which has operated the rail system since 1992, when the Joint Powers Board assumed responsibility for the iconic 148-year-old Peninsula commuter line.

“The contribution of Amtrak to the Caltrain service can never be fully measured,” said Scanlon. “The successes enjoyed by Caltrain are due in significant part to the partnership between Amtrak and the agency, and we are grateful for all Amtrak has done.”

Once the contract is executed, there will be a five-month period during which the new operator will transition into place and mobilize its new management team. During that period, Caltrain and Amtrak will remain in a partnership and Amtrak will continue to operate the railroad as it participates in the transition.

The Caltrain panel recommended TransitAmerica after receiving best and final offers from four firms, including Peninsula Corridor Rail Services, Inc., a partnership between Amtrak and rail car manufacturer Bombardier.

The best and final offers were received after extensive review of each proposal by a technical evaluation team – more than 30 individuals, including Caltrain staff, consultants and advisors from Caltrain partner agencies—who assessed each proposal in several key areas, including safety, finance, operations, maintenance and customer service.

The evaluation team then provided its comments to a scoring team of senior Caltrain staff. TransitAmerica received the highest scores by each member of the scoring team. The company also had a demonstrated track record of success operating other commuter rail systems across the country, including San Diego’s Coaster, Dallas’ Trinity Railway Express and New Mexico’s Rail Runner Express.

The selection committee then made a recommendation to Joint Powers Board ad hoc committee, which has been meeting periodically with Caltrain management to receive updates on the process. The ad hoc committee concurred in the recommendation. Agency staff then proceeded to negotiate terms with TransitAmerica and Caltrain staff reached an agreement for the Board’s consideration at the September meeting.

The major components of Caltrain’s new five-year contract, with five one-year options, include the daily staffing and operations of trains, as well as inspection and maintenance of tracks, the passenger rail vehicle fleet, rights of way, structures, the signaling and communication network, stations, and other facilities.

Scanlon said that while cost was a critical criterion, it was not the only factor in identifying the best proposal to meet the system’s needs. He said TransitAmerica presented the agency with the best overall proposal to provide the desired operational enhancements and performance improvements for Caltrain riders with an achievable operations plan that should result in efficiencies to the system over the life of the contract.

“TransitAmerica simply provided the best solution for our railroad,” said Scanlon. “TransitAmerica demonstrated that they were the most aligned with our vision for the operation of Caltrain. Their plans for Caltrain clearly are the best value offered by any of the proposers.

“This decision is not about rejecting any of the proposers. It is about selecting a firm that provided the most effective plan for the best value.”


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