Caltrain’s Board of Directors unanimously approved TransitAmerica Services Inc. of St. Joseph, Mo. to operate the Peninsula commuter rail system. The approval comes after an extensive competitive bidding process that took more than 15 months and included detailed and expert evaluation of proposals from top rail management firms.

TransitAmerica submitted the highest ranking proposal which was 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.

Caltrain sought competitive proposals last year to obtain the best value and most innovative approaches to managing the iconic 147 year old rail system.

“We made an important business decision to go to the marketplace and seek new ideas, new energy and new approaches to how the rail operations contract was administered and performed.  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.

Under federal regulations the current employees working on the Caltrain system will have their jobs protected.

With today’s Board approval, 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 first full year (FY 2013) of the five-year contract is for $59.5 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.

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.

Caltrain expects there to be cost savings and efficiencies over the five-year life of the contract and praised TransitAmerica for producing a proposal that seeks to implement savings.

As part of the contract, Caltrain has secured a new innovative clause that will require TransitAmerica to achieve certain performance standards around management, safety, on-time performance, and other critical tasks that are imperative to the operation of the railroad prior to receiving its full management fee.

In its deliberations the Board expressed appreciation to staff for the transparent, open and comprehensive approach to selecting a contractor to provide rail operations services and stated it was looking forward to regular updates from staff and TransitAmerica about the transition of service. The Board also expressed its appreciation for the service Amtrak provided over their 20-year partnership.

“While the contribution of Amtrak to the Caltrain service has been significant, today’s decision was about the future of the system, not its past, and TransitAmerica provided the most effective plan for providing service to our riders,” said Sean Elsbernd, Chair of the Caltrain Board.

The recommendation for TransitAmerica came after an exhaustive 15-month evaluation process that included more than 30 technical area experts, day long interviewers with each of qualifying proposers and evaluation team visits of other systems operated by the qualifying proposers.