‘No’ vote on state roads bill a ‘yes’ for commuter train line

April 11, 2017

Why ‘no’ means ‘yes’ for California

By F.K. Plous, Corridor Capital

Commuter rail systems in the U.S. have always been easy to understand: They carry office employees from their homes in the suburbs to large business offices in the central business district of a large city. The typical route originates in a semi-rural area, travels through the suburbs, and ends at a major downtown rail terminal 50 or 60 miles away in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago or San Francisco.

That pattern changed in 1998 when the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) service started running over the 86 miles between Stockton and San Jose, California. Neither city represented a classic metropolitan central business district. Stockton was a modest market town in the agricultural Central Valley, while San Jose historically was the southernmost of the San Francisco suburbs. So why start running trains between them?

While nobody was looking, San Jose had become the capital of a whole new region called Silicon Valley that had turned into the world’s biggest and fastest-growing center of digital technology firms and research labs. Job seekers were pouring in from all over North America as well as abroad, but the constricted valley lacked the space to house them all. Seeking affordable homes, they began spilling across the Sunol Ridge and Altamont Pass and settling in places such as Tracy, Livermore Niles Canyon and Pleasanton. The housing was cheap and the space was great, but the commutes along I-580 – sometimes two hours or more in each direction – were punishing.

The answer turned out to be ACE, which started out with two trains a day and now runs four – all inbound to San Jose in the morning and outbound in the evening carrying some 5,000 passengers a day. Demand has been rising for more frequencies and for extension of the route another 72 miles to Merced, which would transform the route from a commuter line into a genuine intercity rail corridor. The line’s manager, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Authority (SJRRA), acknowledged the need in 2012 when it changed the meaning of ACE from Altamont Commuter express to Altamont Corridor Express.

And now, according to this article from the San Francisco Chronicle, SJRRA appears to have the money to do it.

‘No’ vote on state roads bill a ‘yes’ for commuter train line

By Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, April 9, 2017

In an ironic twist, East Bay state Sen. Steve Glazer’s “no” vote on the governor’s mega-transportation tax may have paved the way for the biggest commuter line the Bay Area has seen since BART.

Here’s the story.

Gov. Jerry Bown and legislative leaders needed a two-thirds majority in both houses for the $52 billion tax and fee plan to pass.

Glazer’s refusal to go along with fellow Democrats meant that the governor needed to get a “yes” vote from a Republican. In this case, the Republican was Anthony Cannella of Ceres in Stanislaus County. Cannella asked Brown for $400 million to extend the 86-mile-long Altamont Commuter Express, or ACE, rail line, which runs from San Jose to Stockton, another 72 miles to Ceres and Merced in the Central Valley. And he got it.

Click here to read the full story.

State gas-tax increase promises passenger rail, jobs, smoother roads for Stanislaus, Merced

, The Modesto Bee
The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission will receive a $400 million appropriation from legislation approved last week to increase the state’s gasoline tax.

State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, secured the funding for expanding Altamont Corridor Express passenger rail service into Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for the San Joaquin rail commission, said the money will pay for laying new track in the corridor between Lathrop and Modesto. It will also pay for new trains, stations, and access fees for ACE to use the Union Pacific line from Ceres to Merced.

Plans for the first extension, no later than 2023, include stations in Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. By 2027, a second leg would include stations in Turlock, Livingston or Atwater, and Merced.

Click here to read the full story.

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