Metro to Apply to Become “Managing Agency” for Surfliner

The Surfliner. Photo:## Lane##

In my recent piece on the proposed local takeover of the Pacific Surfliner inter-city rail route the pivotal question I poised multiple times was which agency would take on the responsibility of managing the service.

The title of agenda item #46 among the consent items on the Metro Board agenda yesterday gives us the name of the first candidate agency to emerge: “Direct staff to prepare a Proposal for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to become the Managing Agency of the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Service”.

Besides repeating some of the goals the local stakeholders have given for seeking to take over managing the route, the staff report lays out the reasons why Metro believes it should be selected to manage the Surfliner:

Metro is a major member agency of the LOSSAN JPA. We are centrally located on the

LOSSAN Corridor. Our agency has the structure and staff capabilities to provide

management services to the JPA. In addition, we have sufficient office space to house

the management staff of the service and are centrally located to southern California.

If the Governor signs the Surfliner bill (he has until Sunday to decide whether to approve or veto it) the next stage of this drama will be acted out at the Oct. 15th LOSSAN Board meeting to be held at the Metro Headquarters Building. This should be when it becomes clear besides Metro which other of the LOSSAN member agencies are interested in being the Surfliner’s managing agency.

  • calwatch

    Right now SANDAG is the lead agency for LOSSAN. You would think Metro would be the obvious choice but there is a huge anti-LA bias in the OC and San Diego, that doesn’t necessary translate the other way. Examples include the creation of District 12 for Caltrans, serving exclusively Orange County, or the lawsuits that San Diego is doing over the Los Angeles-centric Metropolitan Water District. The jury is still out on whether they will beat this rap. Quite frankly, the people at SANDAG are just as competent, have just as good staff, and can house the management as Metro is. 

  • Anonymous

    SANDAG has done a far better job coordinating its munis, and commuter rail.  Travel on Breeze, Coaster, Sprinter and the MTS services including Trolley is seemless.  

    And they have done this despite what I am sure is pressure from a hometown company to buy more fare collection equipment.

    Metro running Surfliner?  Pah-leese. 

  • calwatch

    Well to be fair MTS just X’ed out the municipal operators when they stopped cooperating, Does anyone remember National City Transit, with their red Orion I’s? They wouldn’t play ball with MTS. The next year, they were defunded and their routes chopped up and absorbed by other MTS routes.

  • Wqjackson

    I think who controls the largest system in the agency should be the one who manage the surfliner.

  • David D.

    SANDAG hasn’t had much of a direct role in managing transit operators. MTS, which was known as MTDB until the early 2000s, carried a big stick when it came to muni consolidation +/- 10 years ago. MTDB spoke softly and County Transit System (CTS) listened. Then Chula Vista Transit (CVT) headed its calls. National City Transit (NCT) resisted, and MTS beat the living daylights out of it with that stick.

    @calwatch:disqus, CVT had the maroon Orion I’s. NCT had white Flxibles with a baby blue stripe. Interestingly, CVT still technically exists, but it might as well not. Apparently NCT ticked off MTS so much that not only did it get shut down, but all its routes were replaced. That is why there are no more 600-series routes. (700-series routes are CVT, and 800-series routes are former CTS.)

  • Anonymous

    Well, then that is SANDAG, no?

  • If the MTA is so interested in running trains, they need to give their BUS operations to someone else, because THEY ARE NOT COMPETENT AT IT! The MTA is clearly, OBSCENELY BIASED in favor of TRAIN OPERATIONS (whether heavy rail, light rail, or commuter trains!). The MTA is too big, and disorganized to be COMPETENT OR EFFECTIVE in running both trains AND buses! 

  • Wqjackson

    I don’t think SANDAG is the agency for the job. Maybe you mean The Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTD)?

    The 18 cities and county government are SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments.This public agency serves as the forum for regional decision-making. SANDAG builds consensus; makes strategic plans; obtains and allocates resources; plans, engineers, and builds public transportation, and provides information on a broad range of topics pertinent to the region’s quality of life.

  • calwatch

    In case you missed this thread, SANDAG CURRENTLY staffs the LOSSAN corridor, as evidenced by what happens when you go to There is absolutely no doubt they could ramp up to staff LOSSAN, for the few people it takes. Capitol Corridor requires 14 FTEs for their operation – and I would imagine that Surfliner would be near the same. HR, fiscal, and IT services can be provided just the same if it’s Metro, OCTA, or SANDAG. If LOSSAN went with OCTA, they would gain the marketing genius of Ted Nguyen, who is probably one of the brightest stars in public communication in the transportation industry today. 

    So Metro is not necessarily the only choice. In fact, it isn’t even the best choice, what with Matt Raymond jumping ship, the TAP fiasco, and the ExpressLanes fiasco on the horizon. Metro needs to concentrate on managing what they have now, and not asking for more money or more tasks. 

  • In my background piece I noted SANDAG has said they do not want to be the managing agency. And I hear at least two other agencies besides Metro are interested in applying.

  • Anonymous

    Never underestimate the parochialism and resentment in San Diego about all things Los Angeles. It’s in their DNA. Any disagreement between LOSSAN and a local government will automatically blossom into “big bad Los Angeles is picking on us again.”

    Metro makes as much sense to run those trains as the MWD makes sense to run the regional water pipes. Which is to say, perfect sense. Which is why San Diego power brokers will go ape-poop when they see this.

  • Years ago I attended an event in Orange County and struck up a conversation with someth savvy fella from San Diego and he described how tensions even in their region are such it took 10 years for NCTD and San Diego Transit (maybe he meant MTS?) to have a joint meeting.

    At the same meeting I saw first hand OC folks react to something merely because it was a project in Los Angeles as if that was the kiss of death. I to this day feel half the reason the Centerline light rail didn’t happen is folks in O.C. see urbanism as an L.A. thing and that the orange orchards are still just down the street or some such. “Light rail” would be a sign that OC is urban. Yet somehow Metrolink doesn’t have that same taint so expanding that was OK. Huh?

    When SCAG and SANDAG had a joint meeting it was held near the border between the two so the venue wasn’t seen as being in the territory of one or the other.

    Look how carefully the Metrolink Board is balanced to keep L.A. in check. Is it any wonder some of us are curious what are the prospects fo rcreating a JPA Board that overcomes this history of regional tensions, etc.


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