A Dream With Humble Beginnings
Thirty years ago, the California areas of Silicon Valley, Tri Valley and mid Central Valley were steadily gaining in population, but were poorly connected by public transportation. Interstates 205, 580 and 680 were becoming increasingly congested, with no end in sight. A workable and efficient, public transportation solution would need to be found in order to address the transit needs of the region’s rapidly increasing number of residents.
Funding for Rail
In 1989, the San Joaquin Council of Governments, the Building Industry Association of the Delta and the Stockton Chamber of Commerce began a bold initiative to develop a modern and versatile transportation system that would be the solution for an underserved population. In order to source the funding for such an ambitious project, local voters in November 1990 passed Measure K, a half-cent sales tax that would be allocated toward financing a number of transportation enhancements. It was determined early in the process that the development of passenger rail service would be the most pressing priority.
Birth Of The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC)
In April 1995, the seven cities and the County of San Joaquin approved a joint powers agreement that created the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC). The purpose of the SJRRC was to improve existing rail service and implement a rail system in San Joaquin County. This included pursuing the participation and agreements for commuter rail service with both Santa Clara and Alameda counties. The SJJRC JPA established a five-person board of directors with board members appointed by the San Joaquin Council of Governments.
Robert J. Cabral, Chairman of the Rail Commission and a San Joaquin County Supervisor was an early influential force behind the establishment of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and a supporter of rail service serving the Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley areas. He passed away in 2000.
In 1997, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC), the Alameda Congestion Management Agency (ACCMA) and the Santa Clara Transportation Authority (VTA) approved a Joint Powers Agreement establishing the Altamont Commuter Express Joint Powers Authority (ACE JPA). A board was established, with members comprised of three individuals from each of the participating agencies.
Altamont Commuter Express Rail Service Begins
The Altamont Commuter Express rail service began operations on October 19th, 1998 through a contract between the SJRRC and Herzog Transit Services. The initial schedule included two westbound morning trains and two eastbound trains in the evening. By 1999, the rail system was serving 1,000 daily riders in each direction.
On February 21st, 2000, a morning short turn between San Jose and Pleasanton was added, using an existing trainset. This gave Pleasanton and Fremont a third inbound train to alleviate crowding on the two earlier trains.
The first trainset arrived in San Jose and ran non-stop back to Pleasanton, later returning to San Jose with stops at Fremont and Santa Clara. With the success of the short turn, a full third round-trip entered service from Lathrop/Manteca to San Jose Diridon on March 5th, 2001. The Lathrop/Manteca origination was deemed necessary until ACE could make improvements to the Stockton area in order to relieve congestion. By August of 2005, all three trains were able to originate and terminate in Stockton.
In 2003, the ACE JPA was dissolved and a Cooperative Services Agreement was established by the San Joquin Regional Rail Commission, the Alameda Congestion Management Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The agreement designated SJRRC as the owner and operator of the Altamont Commuter Express train service. The Board of Directors was altered to be an eight-member body, made up of elected officials from both San Joaquin and Alameda counties.
ACE Expansion & Name Change
In November 2006, San Joaquin County voters approved a twenty-year extension to Measure K, assuring that rail service funding would continue into the future.
In an effort to reduce traffic congestion as a result of a planned, three year I-205 construction project, ACE added a midday round-trip on August 28, 2006. This service was discontinued upon completion of the highway project in November 2009.
On October 1, 2012, a fourth daily train was added to the schedule, which ran during the commute period. Also at this time, the service was rebranded as Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), which better reflected the ever-widening scope of services offered.
Saturday service was initiated on September 7, 2019, as a one-year trial to evaluate the need for weekend service on the ACE Corridor. Today, the ACE rail system offers four, daily round trip rides. From its humble beginnings, ACE has grown to proudly serve nearly 1.4 million people on an annual basis. The SJRRC has plans to upgrade and expand the ACE system in the years to come.
The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority & Amtrak San Joaquins
In addition to the ACE rail system, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission is also the managing entity of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, which manages and administers the Amtrak San Joaquins intercity passenger rail service.
Amtrak San Joaquins travels over 365 miles of track and stops at 18 stations. The train system today serves over one million riders per year on its route from Bakersfield to Oakland and Sacramento.