Commuter Trains: Who Runs Their Own and Who Contracts Them Out

This is always a hot topic. Why didn’t the MTA contract out operation of Metro-North? is a current topic on Boston just changed contractors AGAIN. The Springfield Line MIGHT go to Amtrak, or it might not.

A few years ago we built a WebSite about Amtrak’s Secret Business: Amtrak operates commuter trains for several local/regional transportation authorities, but they don\’t publicize this at all. Find out more about this profitable operation in a time when Amtrak looses all kinds of money.

Not going to get into light rail, streetcars, etc today; but we will hopscotch around the US, sort of East to West, North to South and cover heavy rail commuter lines.

Boston MBTA: contracted out ( largest commuter rail system contracted out)

Keolis Commuter Services (KCS) has reached agreements with all 14 labor unions representing its employees at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which KCS will begin operating on July 1.

In January, Keolis was awarded an eight-year, $2.6 billion contract to manage, operate and maintain MBTA’s commuter-rail service. The company is pledging to improve the system’s on-time performance and “provide a better overall experience” for passengers, according to a press release.

Some of my own comments. These are PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS ONLY and relate in FRANCE and  only to the French Riviera. For most of my years here, Veolia (not involved in Boston) was about the only company. Never any labor problems except the “mandatory” French nationwide strikes (a cultural anomaly that fortunately does not exist in United States). Ran a “tight ship” (buses in proper paint, operators in sort of uniforms, etc). KEOLIS only had a couple of minor contracts. But, one was important to me because it is the route to my golf outings. They had numerous labor issues. Mid-day buses not running, etc. Drivers could wear pajamas.Then politics entered its ugly head. KEOLIS  was awarded several   more local contracts. Several initial labor difficulties, but seem to be resolved. KEOLIS had buses every color but the right one (hey, in a tourist town this is a big thing). Tell somebody to look for an orange bus and a white one goes by even if the number is right and they will miss it. Recently KEOLIS brought in new buses with the correct colors.

Shoreline East contracted out

Metro-North: in-house

LIRR: in-house

MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) officials have proposed $3.4 million in service improvements, including restoration of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch and the addition of two cars to six rush-hour trains. Some of the service improvements, including restoration of the West Hempstead weekend service, will be implemented as soon as this fall while others will occur in 2015, LIRR officials said in a press release. The funding package includes upgrades on the Huntington, Port Washington, Babylon, Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Montauk branches, as well as service to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Barclays Center.

NJT: in-house

Montréal: Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) in-house

SEPTA Philadelphia: in-house

MARC (Baltimore/Washington):

Virginia Railway Express: contracted

SFRTA Tri-Rail (Miami) contracted

O-Train in Ottawa in-house

GO Transit Toronto in-house

NICTD South Shore Line (South Bend to Chicago) in-house


METRA (Chicago) in-house

Northstar Commuter Rail in Minneapolis / St Paul contracted

Trinity Railway Express, Dallas/Fort Worth contracted

UTA FrontRunner in Salt Lake City in-house

New Mexico Rail Runner Express in-house

Doing very well!

West Coast Express in Vancouver contracted

Sounder Commuter Express in Seattle / Tacoma contracted

WestSide Express Service Beaverton / Wilsonville Oregon contracted

Metrolink Los Angeles: contracted

Caltrain (San Francisco / San Jose): contracted

San Diego, California Coaster

Other operators considered commuter railroads by the American Public Transportation Association which we have not yet classified are (alphabetically)

A-train in Denton County Texas

Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) in California

Capital MetroRail in Austin, Texas contracted

Music City Star in Nashville, TN in-house

And pretty much all of the smaller, primarily one-line systems are contracted out.

Small systems tend to be cheaper to contact out, while large systems tend to be cheaper to operate in-house.