New: Caltrain board evaluates executive director

At the February board meeting, in a closed session item starting at 9am, the Caltrain board will take a step that some board members had been eagerly seeking for years.

Previously, the chief executive of Caltrain had been also simultaneously the General Manager of SamTrans and the head of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the agency that administers the county’s transportation tax. So if the Caltrain board was dissatisfied with the rail CEO, there was no straightforward way of replacing the executive.

With the announced upcoming departure of General Manager Jim Hartnett,  Carter Mau, who had been Deputy GM will become Acting GM, while Michelle Bouchard, formerly Caltrain’s Chief Officer of Rail, is promoted to Caltrain’s Acting Executive Director.

So, for the first time, the Caltrain board can review the performance of an ED who does not have other jobs at SamTrans and the TA.    This is not yet the full hire/fire authority that some Caltrain board members have been seeking. It would be possible, in theory, that SamTrans as the managing agency could retain a Caltrain CEO who received a vote of no confidence from the Caltrain board. But it seems implausible that they would want to do so.  In fact, it would be reasonable for SamTrans to agree that they would not retain a Caltrain CEO who did not have the support of the Caltrain board.

In the process of reforming Caltrain’s governance and management for the increasing needs of the era of electrification, this is a significant step.