Contracting Commuter Rail Services

Over the past 40 years, there has been considerable change in the way commuter rail services are provided in the major metropolitan areas of the United States and Canada. Up until the early 1960s, commuter rail services in these two countries were owned, operated, and paid for by privately owned freight railroads. Starting around that time, public agencies began to subsidize the continued operation of the few remaining trains that ran in only a handful of metropolitan areas. By contrast, the commuter rail industry in North America today has grown to 29 systems serving 24 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada. Most of these systems contract for all or part of their operating and maintenance services. This expansion and evolution of commuter rail has led to a wide variety of strategies and approaches for managing the operation and maintenance of these services, which are offered by a growing number of entities. The result has been two basic approaches to service delivery: (1) bundled services where one entity provides all the functions necessary to operate the service and (2) unbundled services where the provision of services are broken down into separate contracts. Currently, there are no guidelines or generally recognized best practices to consider in determining how to provide a city or a metropolitan region with commuter rail service. There is a need for a presentation of potential approaches, an evaluation of the approaches, and guidance on how and when to apply them to existing and new services. The objective of this research is to provide guidance to public agencies and other key stakeholders in the contracting of commuter rail services. This research will include an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each potential approach, including the service effectiveness, service quality, and service cost effectiveness, as well as any safety impacts, of each approach. Key system attributes should be included as part of the evaluation such as passenger miles, train miles, revenues, costs, infrastructure ownership, and other appropriate criteria that could help the practitioner compare and assess the value of the various service approaches.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project G-14

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Chisholm-Smith, Gwen

  • Performing Organizations:

    Texas A&M Transportation Institute

    Texas A&M University System
    3135 TAMU
    College Station, TX  United States  77843-3135
  • Principal Investigators:

    Cherrington, Linda

  • Start Date: 20150218
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180630
  • Actual Completion Date: 20180630
  • Source Data: RiP Project 37640

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01543518
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project G-14
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Nov 17 2014 1:01AM