Caltrain to select 2nd lowest bidder for contract

September 2, 2011 12:07:38 AM PDT
Big changes are coming for Caltrain: Amtrak is out. The Peninsula commuter train will be managed by a private company.

For nearly 20 years, Amtrak has operated Caltrain, but that relationship will end in about five months. TransitAmerica Services was selected today to run the railroad.

"Better than Amtrak," said Caltrain spokesperson Mark Simon. "More efficient, more effective and a better use of our resources."

TransitAmerica will begin operating the system in early 2012. The selection process took more than 15 months; four other firms competed for the contract.

Caltrain's board of directors selected the Missouri-based firm because, among other things, it had a solid plan for providing the best service for customers.

Caltrain riders say on-time performance is at the top of their list; others, like Anthony Pantoja of San Francisco have their own ideas about how to improve things.

"Things could improve if we made the Baby Bullet touch base with some of the other stops, like Sunnyvale," Pantoja said. "Some of the more local stops so people can get a universal feel for it."

Board members say TransitAmerica is the company capable of making those changes. The five-year deal is worth $399 million.

"You are going to see a good job of cost-containment," said Caltrain board chair Sean Elsbernd. "You will see, hopefully over the next five to ten years, a lot of construction on the line with high-speed rail with electrification, and these folks have great expertise in that world."

TransitAmerica will also oversee conductors, station agents and other employees.

"We're concerned for the safety, and how this operation continues to run smoothly, to the benefit of people who live here and ride Caltrain every day and the people who work here," said Doug Bloch with the Teamster Union.

However, Caltrain assures that the jobs, retirement, wages and benefits are protected.

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