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
San Francisco Bay Area
Counties: San Joaquin, Alameda, and Santa Clara
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 10
Daily ridership 4,900 (weekdays)[1]
Began operation October 19, 1998
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 (reporting mark HTSX; formerly the Altamont Commuter Express), also known as ACE (pronounced "ace"), is a commuter rail service in California, connecting Stockton and San Jose.[2]

ACE is named for the Altamont Pass, through which it runs. The service began on October 19, 1998, with two trains each way, weekdays only. In November 2009, three trains a day each way began, and four trains a day in September 2012.[3] 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 is managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, and operations are contracted to Herzog Transit Services, using AAR assigned reporting marks HTSX.[2][4]

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]

Former ACE logo (pre 2013).

The Altamont Commuter Express (the original name) was established for San Joaquin County residents traveling to work in Santa Clara County. ACE trains are presently limited to morning departures from Stockton and return departures from San Jose in the afternoon. The trains were popular at first, then had to survive a severe drop in ridership due to the dot-com recession of 2002. Struggles with freight traffic interference and track reconstruction prevented the addition of a fourth train until September 2012.[3] The operation is funded by local sales taxes, with support from state and federal sources.[5]

Service began 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; it also uses about four miles (6 km) of Caltrain track in San Jose.[6]

In Fiscal Year 2006-2007, a total of 675,000 ACE trips generated fare-box revenues of around US$4 million, about 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.[citation needed]

In 2012, the service was rebranded from Altamont Commuter Express to Altamont Corridor Express to reflect plans for a broader scope of service.[7]

March 2016 derailment[edit]

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.[8][9]

Future plans[edit]

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.[10] 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.[11][12]

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission issued a notice of intent to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement in June 2013.[13]


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).[14]


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.[15]

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.[16]

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]

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

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.[6] 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 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. 
  3. ^ a b "ACE Train Schedule". Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  4. ^ "AAR Railroad Reporting Marks (2015)". Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  5. ^ "Draft ACE Short Range Transportation Plan, Fiscal Year 2006-07 -- 2016" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "SJRRC Refreshes ACE Brand with new Logo". Mass Transit. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  8. ^ "Fallen Tree Derails Train in California; At Least 9 Injured". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  9. ^ Tucker, Jill; Lyons, Jenna; Cabanatuan, Michael. "14 hurt as commuter train derails -- no ACE service Tuesday". SFGate. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  10. ^ Johnson, Zachary K. (November 13, 2009). "'Super ACE' rail project touted". Modesto Bee. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  11. ^ "ACEforward Alternatives Analysis and Development (presentation at SJRRC Board Meeting)" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. April 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ "ACEforward – Improving the Altamont Corridor Express" (PDF). San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. July 2015. 
  13. ^ "NOTICE OF PREPARATION OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT". San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. June 24, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Getting You There". San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ Luna, Henry J.; The Pacific Locomotive Association (2005). Niles Canyon Railways. Charleston, SC: Arcadia. ISBN 978-0738529837. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google