Altamont Corridor Express

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Altamont Corridor Express
Altamont Corridor Express logo.svg
ACE EMD F40PH Fremont - San Jose.jpg
Altamont Corridor Express train crossing the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge between Fremont and San Jose
Owner San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission
Locale San Joaquin Valley, Tri-Valley, and Silicon Valley
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 10
Daily ridership 4,900 (weekdays)[1]
Began operation October 19, 1998[2]
Operator(s) Herzog Transit Services
Reporting marks HTSX
Number of vehicles 6 locomotives
25 passenger cars
Train length 1 locomotive, 6-7 passenger cars
System length 85 mi (137 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Top speed 79 mph (127 km/h)
System map

The Altamont Corridor Express (also known as ACE, formerly Altamont Commuter Express) is a commuter rail service in California, connecting Stockton and San Jose. ACE is named for the Altamont Pass, through which it runs.[3] Service is managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, and operations are contracted to Herzog Transit Services, using AAR assigned reporting mark HTSX.[3][4] The 86-mile (138 km) route includes ten stops, with travel time about 2 hours and 10 minutes end-to-end. The tracks are owned by Union Pacific Railroad. ACE uses Bombardier BiLevel Coaches and MPI F40PH-3C locomotives.

Service began on October 19, 1998, with two weekday round trips. A third round trip was added in May 2001, followed by a fourth round trip in October 2012. As of 2016, average weekday ridership is 4,900.[1] Under the ACEforward program, a number of improvements to the service are being considered. These include a rerouted line through Tracy, an extension to Modesto and Merced, and connections to BART at Union City and Tri-Valley.

History and funding[edit]


By the 1980s, three rapidly growing areas in California - Silicon Valley, the Tri-Valley, and the middle part of the Central Valley - were poorly connected by public transit, even as Interstate 580 and Interstate 680 became more congested. The three areas had connections to San Francisco and Oakland via Caltrain and the Amtrak San Joaquin (and later BART and Capitol Corridor trains), but commuting from the Central Valley and Tri-Valley to Silicon Valley required using a car or limited bus service. In 1989, the San Joaquin Council of Governments, Stockton Chamber of Commerce, and the Building Industry Association of the Delta started work on a 20-year transportation plan for their section of the Central Valley. In November 1990, San Joaquin County voters passed Measure K, a half-cent sales tax to fund a variety of transportation improvements.[5][6] The highest-priority project was the establishment of passenger rail service to San Jose.[2]

ACE Train #4, the 3:35 eastbound, at San Jose Diridon station with F40PH-3C #3106

In 1995, San Joaquin County and seven cities along the route formed the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) to oversee the creation of the service.[2] In May 1997, the Altamont Commuter Express Joint Powers Authority (ACE JPA) was formed by the SJRRC, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and Alameda Congestion Management Agency (ACMA). That agreement formalized financial support, administrative processes, and governance for the rail service.[2] The operation is funded by a variety of state and federal sources, largely sales tax revenue collected by the three JPA signatories; farebox revenues account for about one-third of costs.[7]

Cost sharing for capital projects, excluding stations, during the initial 36 months of service was determined by the JPA 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 Measure K funds. 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; it also uses about 4 miles (6.4 km) of Caltrain track in San Jose.[8] Service began on October 19, 1998, which two daily round trips running to San Jose in the morning and Stockton in the evening.[5]

Service expansion[edit]

ACE service to Santa Clara station began in 2001, was suspended in 2005, and returned in 2012.

The original service used two trainsets, each with 4 bilevel coach cars, for a total seated capacity of 1120 passengers in each direction daily. In September 1999, the service reached 1000 daily riders per direction, resulting in many trains running at capacity.[9] On February 21, 2000, a morning short turn between San Jose and Pleasanton was added using an existing trainset, giving Pleasanton and Fremont a third inbound train to alleviate the crowding on the two earlier trains.[10] The trip was added after ACE funded $3 million in track improvements to reduce conflicts with Union Pacific freight trains and Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains.[11] By early 2001, ACE regularly carried more than 700 daily standees.[12] After additional equipment was bought, the "Turn-back Train" was replaced by a nearly-full-length trip originating at Lathrop-Manteca on March 5, 2001; trains also began stopping at Santa Clara station.[13] Although the third train added 560 seats in each direction, it brought an immediate increase in 380 daily riders. ACE then planned to add a fourth round trip later in the year, with fifth and sixth round trips by 2006.[12] However, by late 2001, the deepening dot-com recession was severely hurting ridership, and expansion plans were put on hold. On June 30, 2003, the ACE JPA was dissolved in favor of a Cooperative Services Agreement between the three member agencies.[2]

On January 6, 2003, ACE introduced the Stockton Solution Shuttle, allowing Stockton passengers to use the ACE trip which terminated at Lathrop/Manteca.[9] The trip was extended to Stockton on August 1, 2005. At that time, service to Santa Clara was suspended to allow for the construction of a second platform and pedestrian tunnel at the station.[14] At this time, three Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach trips connecting to the San Joaquin - one to San Jose and two to Stockton - were open to ACE riders.[9]

On August 28, 2006, ACE added a fourth round trip, which operated midday using one of the existing trainsets.[2] On November 7, 2006, San Joaquin County voters approved a 20-year extension of Measure K.[6] Suffering from reducing funding due to the Great Recession, ACE cut the lightly-used midday trip on November 2, 2009.[9]

Altamont Corridor Express[edit]

Former ACE logo, used until 2013

In May 2012, ACE restored service to Santa Clara station.[5] On October 1, 2012, a fourth rush-hour round trip was added, running approximately one hour after existing trips.[9] In December 2012, the service was rebranded from Altamont Commuter Express to Altamont Corridor Express to reflect plans for a broader scope of service.[15]

In March 2014, ACE opened a $65 million, 121,000 square feet (11,200 m2) maintenance facility in Stockton.[16] On July 1, 2015, management and governance of the San Joaquin passed from Caltrans to the new San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.[17] The SJJPA has nominal control over the SJRRC, but delegates all responsibility over ACE to the SJRRC.

On March 7, 2016, an ACE train was derailed by a mudslide in Niles Canyon near Sunol. The front car plunged into the rain-swollen Alameda Creek. Fourteen passengers were injured, but there were no fatalities.[18][19]

Future plans[edit]

ACE service is planned to be extended to Modesto, offering connections to Amtrak and later California High-Speed Rail.

In association with the California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project, the ACE system is planned to be upgraded and expanded. Initial plans, beginning around 2008, called for the Altamont Corridor Rail Project to produce a high speed rail "Super ACE" capable of halving the travel time between the endpoints.[20] As the CAHSR project was scaled back several years later, these plans were replaced with the more modest ACEforward program. The ACEforward program has several planned results, including upgrades to the existing corridor to allow as many as 10 daily round trips, extension to service to Modesto and later Merced, a possible reroute through downtown Tracy, and possible connections with BART at Union City or Livermore.[21][22]

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission issued a notice of intent to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement in June 2013.[23]


As of August 2016, ACE operates four daily round trips, all of which run westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening. Trains are scheduled to make the 85-mile (137 km) one-way trip in 2 hours 12 minutes, an average speed of 39 miles per hour (63 km/h).[24]


ACE train climbing Altamont Pass

From San Jose to just north of Santa Clara, ACE uses the Caltrain main line, shared with Caltrain and Amtrak service. From Santa Clara to Stockton - the majority of the route - ACE runs on Union Pacific Railroad freight lines. From Santa Clara to Newark, ACE uses the Coastal Subdivision, then the Niles Subdivision to Niles. From Niles to Stockton, the line uses the Oakland Subdivision.[25]

The route runs through Niles Canyon, parallel to the Niles Canyon Railway, Highway 84, and the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. The line passes through a 0.75-mile (1.21 km) 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, reducing speeds from 45 mph (72 km/h) to 25 mph (40 km/h) in the summer and as low as 10 mph (16 km/h) during the rainy season. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission plans to rehabilitate the tunnel.[26]

East of Pleasanton and Livermore, the line runs through the Altamont Pass on the original Feather River Route. After crossing the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal into the Central Valley, skirting the southern edge of Tracy. It then turns north between Lathrop and Manteca and runs to Robert J. Cabral Station in Stockton.

Stations and connections[edit]

Map of ACE and connecting services

Tickets and fares[edit]

ACE tickets are available at select stations and on ACE's web site. Distance-based fares are available in one way, round trip, 20 trip, weekly, and monthly passes.

Rolling stock[edit]

A typical ACE train with F40PH-3C #3106 leading

ACE operates push-pull trains with a single diesel locomotive and six or seven bilevel coach cars.[8] Trains typically operate with the locomotive leading westbound and the cab car leading eastbound.

Model Quantity Number
F40PH-2C 5 3101-3105
F40PH-3C 1 3106
Bombardier BiLevel Coach 16 3201-3216
Bombardier BiLevel Cab Car 9 3301-3309

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Transit Ridership Report: First Quarter 2016" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. May 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "History of ACE". San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. 
  3. ^ a b Solomon, Brian (2013). North American Railroad Family Trees : An Infographic History of the Industry's Mergers and Evolution. Minneapolis, MN: Voyageur Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0760344880. 
  4. ^ "AAR Railroad Reporting Marks (2015)". Railserve. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Altamont Corridor Express (ACE)". BayRail Alliance. 
  6. ^ a b "Measure K". San Joaquin Council of Governments. 
  7. ^ "2014-2015 WORK PROGRAM & BUDGET" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. June 6, 2014. p. 6. 
  8. ^ a b Van Hattem, Matt (June 30, 2006). "Altamont Commuter Express: The commuter rail service linking San Jose and Stockton, Calif.". Trains Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2006. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Cox, Jeremiah (July 10, 2013). "Altamont Commuter Express on the SubwayNut". Subway Nut. 
  10. ^ "History". San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. Archived from the original on May 11, 2000. 
  11. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (November 16, 1999). "ACE to Add Third Morning Train / Pleasanton-to-San Jose service will begin by Feb. 15". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 29, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b White, Mike (March 12, 2001). "4th Ace train to bolster the fleet". Press Herald. Archived from the original on November 8, 2001 – via San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. 
  13. ^ Bott, Fran (March 1, 2001). "Third ACE train ready to roll". The Record. Archived from the original on November 8, 2001 – via San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. 
  14. ^ "Schedule Changes will be effective August 1, 2005" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. August 1, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 26, 2005. 
  15. ^ "SJRRC Refreshes ACE Brand with new Logo" (Press release). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. December 10, 2012 – via Mass Transit Magazine. 
  16. ^ Rembulat, Vince (March 23, 2014). "ACE opens $65M state-of-art facility". Merced Bulletin. Retrieved August 29, 2016. 
  17. ^ Sheehan, Tim (June 26, 2015). "Valley agency takes control of Amtrak San Joaquin trains". Fresno Bee. Retrieved August 29, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Fallen Tree Derails Train in California; At Least 9 Injured". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  19. ^ Tucker, Jill; Lyons, Jenna; Cabanatuan, Michael. "14 hurt as commuter train derails -- no ACE service Tuesday". SFGate. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  20. ^ Johnson, Zachary K. (November 13, 2009). "'Super ACE' rail project touted". Modesto Bee. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  21. ^ "ACEforward Alternatives Analysis and Development (presentation at SJRRC Board Meeting)" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. April 4, 2014. 
  22. ^ "ACEforward – Improving the Altamont Corridor Express" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. July 2015. 
  23. ^ "NOTICE OF PREPARATION OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT". San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. June 24, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Getting You There". San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  25. ^ "SUPPLEMENTAL NOTICE OF PREPARATION OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT: ACEforward – Notice of Additional Project Element – Niles Junction Connections" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. May 9, 2016. p. 8. 
  26. ^ Luna, Henry J.; The Pacific Locomotive Association (2005). Niles Canyon Railways. Charleston, SC: Arcadia. ISBN 978-0738529837. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google

KML is from Wikidata