Who's going to operate M-1 Rail? Organization seeks bids

The search is on for the third-party operator of the M-1 Rail. The group behind the winning proposal will manage day-to-day operations and maintenance of the light rail line, which is currently under construction. All submissions are due by April 16.

The M-1 Rail will be a 3.3-mile long streetcar line stretching from downtown to New Center. The organization behind the project is a nonprofit, put in place by the private businesses and philanthropic organizations that created and funded the line.

Third-party operators of light rail lines is nothing new in the U.S. Streetcar systems in Tucson and New Orleans utilize third-party operators of their lines. Other cities that are currently building their own streetcar systems, including Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Washington, D.C., are also searching for third-party operators.

The responsibilities of running the M-1 are many, including the hiring, training, and scheduling of employees. They also include the development of a standards of practice for customer service, safety, and fare collections. Track, switch, signal, and platform maintenance is required. The maintenance and cleaning of the vehicles is also included.

"Passengers want a reliable, safe, and clean experience and the operator of the line will be a catalyst for that," says Paul Childs, chief operating officer of M-1 Rail. "The contractor we select will begin working with us at least 12 months in advance of streetcar operations. They will be instrumental in developing processes and procedures for operations and fulfilling all of the obligations required by Federal, State, and City government agencies."

Details of the contract include an initial five year operating agreement with M-1 retaining the rights to extend that contract another two to five years. M-1 Rail officials expect operating costs at $5 million a year.

Source: M-1 Rail press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.