Altamont Commuter Express

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Altamont Commuter Express
logo_filename=ACE Logo.pnglogo_size=
old_gauge=
marks=ACEX
locale=San Jose to Stockton, California
start_year=1998
end_year=present
hq_city=Stockton, California

The Altamont Commuter Express (also known as ACE, pronounced "ace") is a regional rail service in California connecting Stockton with San Jose.

It is named for the Altamont Pass, through which it travels. The service was started on October 19, 1998 with two trains daily in each direction, later increased to three trains in each direction, and as of August 2006 runs four trains daily in each direction, including a "midday" train each direction. There are ten stops along its 86 mile (138 km) route, resulting in a total travel time of approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes end-to-end. Despite the fact that the tracks ACE runs on are owned by Union Pacific, ACE rarely experiences long delays as a result. ACE utilizes Bombardier BiLevel Coaches and MPI F40PH-3C locomotives, and is managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, with operations contracted to Herzog Transit Services.

ACE is currently exploring the possibility of expanding on two lines -- a Modesto-Sacramento line, and a Stockton-Pittsburg line [http://www.acerail.com/about-ACE/rfp/rfp-introduction.htm Report] , ACE website, access date July 22, 2008] .

History and Funding

The Altamont Commuter Express was established primarily to serve San Joaquin County residents traveling to work at firms in Santa Clara County. Today ACE serves a more diverse ridership. However, trains continue to leave Stockton each morning and return from San Jose after noon. The trains achieved enormous popularity during the initial years of service and survived a severe drop in ridership due to the dot-com recession of 2002. Struggles with freight traffic interference and track reconstruction did not prevent addition of a fourth train. And there have been plans to add another round-trip train. The operation is funded primarily by local sales taxes, with additional support from state and federal sources. [cite web|url=http://www.acerail.com/docs/pdf/Item%207%20Draft%20SJRRC%20Short%20Range%20Transit%20Plan%202007.pdf
title= Draft ACE Short Range Transportation Plan, Fiscal Year 2006-07 -- 2016|accessdate=2008-09-25
]

Service commenced under the governance of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission Joint Powers Authority formed in 1997 by Alameda, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties. The present Rail Commission has of one member each from the San Joaquin and Alameda county boards of supervisors, one BART representative, and representatives of five cities. Cost sharing for capital projects, excluding stations, during the initial 36 months of service was determined by the ACE Authority on a case by case basis and approved by each of the member agencies. The initial purchase of rolling stock, construction of stations, and other start-up costs, amounting to some $48 million, were covered primarily by a San Joaquin County transportation sales tax approved several years earlier, along with state and federal funding. Cooperative services agreements with the Alameda County Congestion Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority spell out funding of operations, maintenance and capital improvements. Currently, station improvements are the responsibility of the county in which the station is located. ACE pays the owner of the right of way, Union Pacific Railroad, about $1.5 million per year for the rights to run passenger service on the tracks; it also uses about 4 miles of Caltrain right of way in San Jose. In Fiscal Year 2006-7 the 675 thousand ACE trips generated fare-box revenues of some $4 million, approximately 30% of the $13.3 million operating and administrative cost. Most of the annual operating costs are underwritten by San Joaquin, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties in proportion to the boardings and alightings in each county. San Joaquin County funds its $2.32 million contribution from a half-cent transportation sales tax (30% of the tax adopted in 1990 and renewed in 2006 is allocated to bus, bicycle, rail, and pedestrian programs. The Alameda County Congestion Management Authority pays its $1.8 million share from its half-cent transportation sales tax (1.2% of its Measure B budget). Santa Clara County’s $2.6 million share is paid by the Valley Transportation Authority, operator of the county’s light rail and bus system, which also contributes about $1.5 million for shuttle services that take ACE commuters from train stops to job sites. Miscellaneous revenues, of some $2.5 million are supplied from federal and state grants, including Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. Each county absorbs its own administrative costs, estimated at $2.4 million annually.

tation stops

* Robert J. Cabral Station, Stockton
*Lathrop/Manteca
*Tracy
*Vasco Road (East Livermore)
*Livermore
*Pleasanton
*Fremont-Centerville
*Great America (Santa Clara North)
*Santa Clara "service has been suspended during the Union Pacific track work. ACE is providing shuttle buses during this time. ACE riders may also ride Caltrain for free from Diridon to Santa Clara."
*Diridon Station, San Jose

Connecting transit

*Amtrak (Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight, and San Joaquins)
*Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
*AC Transit
*WHEELS (Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority)
*County Connection
*Modesto Area Express
*San Joaquin Regional Transit District
*Caltrain

Route

an Jose to Great America

The northbound leaves San Jose's Diridon station and heads north on the main peninsula Caltrain tracks through the large rail yards in Santa Clara, California. As the train passes under De La Cruz Ave, the ACE leaves the peninsula tracks and heads North. The train passes over Central Expressway just west of its intersection with De La Cruz near of the end of the runway of San Jose International Airport. The train then passes over U.S. Route 101 and proceeds along Lafayette St. It then passes to the east of Paramount's Great America, a large substation, and the San Francisco 49ers training facility before stopping at the Great America station under the Tasman Dr. overpass.

Great America to Fremont

The train proceeds north along Lafayette Dr. passing through a golf course and then under Highway 237. It then turns due north and heads through the Alviso district of San Jose, passing just east of its abandoned marina. The train then heads out into the mudflats and sloughs of the bay. In the middle of the flats, the train passes through the sunken ghost town of Drawbridge. Next along the route are Cargill's (formerly Leslie's) salt evaporation ponds on both sides of the track where the train turns to the northwest. The train then passes a landfill before entering the town of Newark, California. At Baine Avenue, the train makes a 90o right turn. This turn is just a few hundred yards from the point where the track from the historic Dumbarton rail bridge connects in. The journey continues northeast along Baine Avenue and crosses I-880. Just after crossing Fremont Boulevard, it arrives at the Fremont Amtrak station. A historic sign remains on the portion of the station to the south of the tracks. It refers to the city of Centerville, predating the city of Fremont, and includes the distance to both Ogden, Utah and San Francisco, with the distance to S.F. calculated via the historic bridge.

Fremont to Pleasanton

The train leaves the Fremont station and turns east-northeast to head towards Niles Canyon. It crosses under the BART tracks and heads along Alameda Creek, but it does not interconnect with BART. It then turns north to enter Niles Canyon. The narrow canyon contains two rail lines (One now partially abandoned), Alameda Creek, the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, and Highway 84. The other rail line in the canyon was the route of the 1869 Sacramento-to-San Francisco Bay extension of the historic First Transcontinental Railroad and is now used by the Niles Canyon Railway. The train passes through a 3/4 mile long tunnel which cuts off one of the canyon's horseshoes. This tunnel was modified from its original configuration to accommodate intermodal double-stack freight trains. However, this left the track in poor condition, causing the train to reduce speeds from convert|45|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on to convert|25|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on in the summer, and down to convert|10|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on during the rainy season. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission plans to rehabilitate the tunnel as part of their 10-year service improvement plan. Eventually the train emerges into Sunol and heads north alongside I-680. It then passes through the center of Castlewood Country Club before pulling into the station in Pleasanton.

Pleasanton to Livermore

The train leaves the Pleasanton station and turns east-northeast, paralleling Stanley Blvd. It travels along Stanley Blvd. between Heron Pond and the old quarries. It enters Livermore as it crosses Kitty Hawk Rd., and turns more northwest as it crosses Murrietta Blvd. It then stops in downtown Livermore. It then passes under First Street (formerly highway 84) and stops under Vasco Road near the northwest corner of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Livermore to Tracy

The train then turns north at the edge of the hills and passes I-580. It then parallels Altamont Pass Rd. The path of the original 1869 Sacramento-to-San Francisco Bay extension of the First Transcontinental Railroad can be seen on the right for several miles. The track is not there, but the bed and some markers remain. The train makes numerous turns as it ascends Altamont pass. A large quarry and several wind farms are visible. The route eventually turns south and then passes under westbound 580 and over eastbound 580. The entrances for a pair of short tunnels on the older route under the summit remain just east of the path. The train then descends from the pass in a southeasterly route before crossing under 580 and over the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal before reaching the valley floor. The train then turns northwest along Schulte Ave and enters Tracy.

Tracy to Stockton

The train passes under I-205 before crossing the San Joaquin River. It then passes under Interstate 5 and stops in Lathrop. It then proceeds north past Sharpe Army Depot and into the final station in the southeast portion of downtown Stockton.

Fleet

* 24 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches
* 5 MPI F40PHC-3 locomotives

Rail/shuttle connections

*San Jose- Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight
*Santa Clara- Caltrain, VTA San Jose Airport Shuttle
*Great America-Santa Clara Station- Capitol Corridor, VTA Light Rail
*Fremont- Capitol Corridor
*Stockton- San Joaquins "(Only two trains per day to and from Sacramento stop at the downtown Stockton station used by ACE; all other "San Joaquins" trains stop at the nearby Stockton - San Joaquin Street station. Amtrak operates a shuttle between the two stations."

Notes

External links

* [http://www.acerail.com/ Altamont Commuter Express]
* [http://www.trains.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/001/018qsiiu.asp Trains Magazine article on ACE]
* [http://www.herzogcompanies.com/transit/index.php Herzog Transit Services]
* [http://www.tsgmultimedia.com/common/product_info.php?part_number=10020 ACE: Stockton To San Jose (Video Documentary about ACE) ]


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