Altamont Corridor Express

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Altamont Corridor Express
Altamont Corridor Express logo.svg
ACE Altamont Pass.jpg
Altamont Corridor Express train climbing its namesake Altamont Pass
OwnerSan Joaquin Regional Rail Commission
Area served San Joaquin Valley, Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of stations10
Daily ridership8,300 (weekdays, Q2 2022) [1]
Annual ridership227,900 (2021) [2]
Headquarters Robert J. Cabral Station
Stockton, California
Began operationOctober 19, 1998;24 years ago (1998-10-19) [3]
Operator(s)Herzog Transit Services
Reporting marks ACEX [4]
Infrastructure manager(s) Union Pacific (Stockton–Santa Clara)
Caltrain (Santa Clara–San Jose)
Number of vehicles10 locomotives, 30 passenger cars
Train length1-2 locomotives, 4-8 passenger cars
System length85 mi (137 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Average speed39 mph (63 km/h)
Top speed79 mph (127 km/h)
System diagram


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Altamont Corridor
Vision (2024/2027)
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Phase 1 (2024)
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Santa Clara
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San Jose
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Caltrain to Tamien
Coast Starlight to Los Angeles

The Altamont Corridor Express (also known as ACE, formerly Altamont Commuter Express) is a commuter rail service in California, connecting Stockton and San Jose during peak hours only. ACE is named for the Altamont Pass, through which it runs. [5] Service is managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, and operations are contracted to Herzog Transit Services. [5] The 86-mile (138 km) route includes ten stops, with travel time about 2 hours and 12 minutes end-to-end. In 2021, the line had a ridership of 227,900, or about 8,300 per weekday as of the second quarter of 2022. ACE uses Bombardier BiLevel Coaches, MPI F40PH-3C locomotives, and Siemens Charger 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. Saturday service commenced in September 2019. As of 2018, average weekday ridership is 5,900. [6]

The tracks are owned by Union Pacific Railroad, previously built along the Western Pacific Railroad main line. 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


ACE train at San Jose Diridon station Altamont Commuter Rail MPI F40PH-3C 3106 with ACE Train 4 at San Jose Diridon Station, July 16th, 2012.jpg
ACE train at San Jose Diridon station

By the 1980s, three rapidly growing areas in California – Silicon Valley, the Tri-Valley, and the San Joaquin Valley – were poorly connected by public transit, as Interstate 580 and Interstate 680 became more congested. Commuting from the San Joaquin Valley or the 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 the northern section of the San Joaquin Valley. In November 1990, San Joaquin County voters passed Measure K, a half-cent sales tax to fund a variety of transportation improvements. [7] [8] The highest-priority project was the establishment of passenger rail service to San Jose. [3]

Former ACE logo, used until 2013 Altamont Commuter Express (logo).png
Former ACE logo, used until 2013

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. [3] 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. [3] The operation is funded by a variety of state and federal sources, largely sales tax revenue collected by the three JPA signatories, while farebox revenues account for about one-third of costs. [9]

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 Union Pacific Railroad about $1.5 million per year to use their tracks. ACE trains also use about 4 miles (6.4 km) of Caltrain track in San Jose. [10] Service began on October 19, 1998, with two daily round trips running to San Jose in the morning and Stockton in the evening. [7]

Service expansion

ACE service to Santa Clara station began in 2001, was suspended in 2005, and returned in 2012. Santa Clara station 0937 11.JPG
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 four bilevel coach cars, for a total seated capacity of 1,120 passengers in each direction daily. In September 1999, less than a year after opening, the service reached 1,000 daily riders per direction, near full capacity. [11]

With that success, the agency wanted to add additional runs. To enable more trains on the line, ACE funded $3 million in track improvements, [12] but the limited amount of equipment only allowed ACE to add a morning "short turn" run between San Jose and Pleasanton. This "turn-back train" started service on February 21, 2000, and gave Pleasanton and Fremont a third inbound train to alleviate the crowding on the two earlier trains. [13] Even with the added capacity, by early 2001 ACE was regularly carrying more than 700 daily standees. [14]

ACE purchased additional equipment, allowing the "turn-back train" to operate to Lathrop/Manteca station, nearly the full length of the route, beginning on March 5, 2001; trains also began stopping at Santa Clara station. [15] Although the third train added 560 seats in each direction, it brought an immediate increase of 380 daily riders.

ACE then planned to add a fourth round trip later in the year, with fifth and sixth round trips by 2006. [14] 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. [3]

On January 6, 2003, ACE introduced the Stockton Solution Shuttle, allowing Stockton passengers to use the ACE trip which terminated at Lathrop/Manteca. [11] 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. [16]

On August 28, 2006, ACE added a fourth round trip, which operated midday using one of the existing trainsets. [3] On November 7, 2006, San Joaquin County voters approved a 20-year extension of Measure K. [8] Suffering from reducing funding due to the Great Recession, ACE cut the lightly used midday trip on November 2, 2009. [11] On May 14, 2012, ACE restored service to Santa Clara station. [7] [17] On October 1, 2012, a fourth rush-hour round trip was added, running approximately one hour after existing trips. [11]

Altamont Corridor Express

Car in new Altamont Corridor Express livery at Fremont station in July 2018 New ACE livery at Fremont-Centerville station, July 2018.JPG
Car in new Altamont Corridor Express livery at Fremont station in July 2018

In December 2012, the service was rebranded from Altamont Commuter Express to Altamont Corridor Express to reflect plans for a broader scope of service. [18]

In March 2014, ACE opened a $65 million, 121,000-square-foot (11,200 m2) maintenance facility in Stockton. [19] On July 1, 2015, management and governance of the San Joaquin passed from Caltrans to the new San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. [20] 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. [21] [22]

ACE received Road Repair and Accountability Act funds in order to initiate Saturday service in January 2018, [23] with two Saturday round trips added in September 2019.

Future plans

In association with the California High-Speed Rail project, the ACE line is planned to be dramatically upgraded and expanded. Beginning around 2008, initial plans called for the Altamont Corridor Rail Project to produce a high speed rail "Super ACE" capable of halving the travel time between the endpoints. [27]

As the high-speed rail project was scaled back and rerouted to Pacheco Pass several years later, these plans were replaced with the more modest ACEforward program. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission issued a notice of intent to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement in June 2013; [28] this was released in 2017 and prioritized goals as either long term or short term. [29] Short term goals included track improvements, a possible reroute through downtown Tracy including new stations, a West Tracy station, and a new extension to Modesto in addition to additional daily round trips. Long term goals included upgrades to the existing corridor to allow as many as 10 daily round trips, extension to Merced and electrification of the line from Stockton to San Jose. [29]

Also under studied were possible connections with BART at Union City or the Tri-Valley [30] [31] via traditional ACE rail, diesel multiple units, or bus bridges. [32] This connection is planned to be facilitated by the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority. [33]

Altamont Corridor Vision

The state senate allocated $400 million in revenue from a gas tax increase to ACEforward expansion. [29] ACE was awarded $500.5 million in April 2018 for expanded service to Ceres and Sacramento [34] to provide more rail service and connections within the Central Valley. [35] [36] Service is expected to begin from Ceres by 2023 [37] with interim bus bridge service to Merced until that segment of Union Pacific right-of-way is upgraded. Four trains will depart Ceres in the mornings, and one train may make the complete run to San Jose with others transferring passengers at North Lathrop. [38]

By 2019, the plan had come to be called the Altamont Corridor Vision, with an expected price of $9.7 billion, allowing ACE to run up to six weekday round trips in 2023 with the goal of ten weekday round trips once additional track infrastructure is completed. ACE and the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority sought funding to construct a shared tunnel under Altamont pass in order to speed service and increase reliability. [39] The Union Pacific right of way between Ceres and Lathrop will be double tracked to facilitate passenger service. [37] As of 2019 platforms are being extended to accommodate longer trains. [40]

Valley Rail

Valley Rail is the project to route ACE and Amtrak San Joaquins along the little-used Sacramento Subdivision between Stockton and Sacramento. Six new stations would be constructed along the line with a layover facility at Natomas. Trains would run the length of the line from Natomas to San Jose or Ceres with a midday short turn to Stockton. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released in 2020, with services expected begin no later than 2023. [41] The North Elk Grove station was eliminated from planning in September 2020. [42]


As of July 2019, ACE operates four round trips per weekday in the peak rush hour directions – westbound (to San Jose) in the morning and eastbound (to Stockton) 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). [43]

ACE did not operate on weekends or major holidays until September 7, 2019, when two Saturday round trips were added. [44]


Altamont Corridor Express train crossing the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge between Fremont and San Jose ACE EMD F40PH Fremont - San Jose.jpg
Altamont Corridor Express train crossing the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge between Fremont and San Jose

From San Jose to just north of Santa Clara, ACE uses the Caltrain main line (Peninsula Subdivision), 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 Coast Subdivision, then the Niles Subdivision to Niles. From Niles to Lathrop, the line uses the Oakland Subdivision. [45] [46] From Lathrop to Stockton, the line uses the Fresno Subdivision.

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. [47]

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.

Tickets and fares

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, and monthly passes.

Rolling stock

Charger locomotive at Santa Clara in 2021 ACE train at Santa Clara station, September 2021.jpg
Charger locomotive at Santa Clara in 2021

ACE operates push-pull trains with one to two diesel locomotives and four to eight bilevel coach cars. [10] Trains typically operate with the locomotive(s) leading westbound and the cab car leading eastbound.

ACE has ordered 17 additional Bombardier BiLevel cars (5 cab cars and 12 coaches). Deliveries were expected to begin sometime in 2021. The entire fleet of Bombardier bilevel coach cars and MPI F40PH-3C locomotives will be rebuilt, overhauled, and repainted to have a matching paint scheme, except for two F40PH locomotives that were retired in May 2020. They will then continue to operate along with the newer Siemens Charger SC-44 locomotives, which entered service in 2020. [48]

MPI F40PH-3C 43102-3105
Siemens Charger 43110-3113
Bombardier BiLevel VI coach223201-3222
Bombardier BiLevel VI cab car 83301-3308
Bombardier BiLevel IX coach123223-3227(delivered cars)Deliveries started mid 2022
Bombardier BiLevel IX cab car53310-3315Deliveries started mid 2022

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lathrop, California</span> City in the state of California, United States

Lathrop is a city located 9 miles (14 km) south of Stockton in San Joaquin County, California, United States. The 2022 California Census reported that Lathrop's population was 30,659. The city is located in the San Joaquin Valley in Northern California at the intersection of Interstate 5 and California State Route 120.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manteca, California</span> City in the state of California, United States

Manteca is a city in San Joaquin County, California. The city had a population of 83,498 as of the 2020 census.

<i>Capitol Corridor</i> Amtrak service from San Jose, CA to Auburn, CA

The Capitol Corridor is a 168-mile (270 km) passenger train route in Northern California operated by Amtrak between San Jose, in the Bay Area, and Auburn, in the Sacramento Valley. The route is named after the two points most trains operate between, San Jose and Sacramento. The route runs roughly parallel to Interstate 880 and Interstate 80. Some trips run from Oakland to San Jose, while a single daily round trip runs all the way from San Jose to Auburn, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Capitol Corridor trains started in 1991.

<i>San Joaquins</i> Amtrak service in San Joaquin Valley, CA

The San Joaquins is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak in California's San Joaquin Valley. Six daily round trips run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, with onward service to Sacramento and Oakland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sacramento Valley Station</span> Railway station in Sacramento, California, US

Sacramento Valley Station is an Amtrak railway station in the city of Sacramento, California, at 401 I Street on the corner of Fifth Street. It is the seventh busiest Amtrak station in the country, and the second busiest in the Western United States with thousands of riders a day and over a million passengers per year. Today, it is served by 38 daily Amtrak and Amtrak California trains and many Amtrak Thruway Motorcoaches. It is also the western terminus of the Sacramento RT Gold Line light rail system and the Route 30 bus serving Sacramento State University.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Livermore station</span> Train stop for Altamont Commuter Express

Livermore is a train station in downtown Livermore, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lathrop/Manteca station</span>

Lathrop/Manteca station is a train station in southern Lathrop, California, served by Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service. The station is located on rail tracks and a rail yard that is on land that was once a turkey farm. It is three miles (4.8 km) from Lathrop and one and a half miles (2.4 km) from Manteca to the east, a location chosen to draw commuters from both cities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert J. Cabral Station</span> Train station in downtown Stockton, California, US

Robert J. Cabral Station, is a railway station in Stockton, California. In 2003, the station building was named in honor of the late Robert J. Cabral, a San Joaquin County supervisor instrumental in the creation of the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), originally Altamont Commuter Express.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Modesto station</span>

Modesto station is a staffed Amtrak station in Modesto, California. It serves the on the San Joaquin line. Designed by Pacific Design Associates of Modesto and VBN Architects of Oakland, the $2.4 million depot was built on four acres of former dairy pastureland. The station has one platform which serves a single track.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Modesto Transportation Center</span> Bus terminal and former train station located in downtown Modesto, California

The Modesto Transportation Center is a bus terminal and former train station located in downtown Modesto, California.

Merced station is a proposed California High-Speed Rail station in Merced, California, located in Downtown Merced. The environmentally approved site is on Martin Luther King Jr. Way near the interchange with Route 99/59, placing it about 7 blocks south from the existing Merced Amtrak station. The station was initially intended to be the northern terminus of the system's Initial Construction Segment. As of April 2022 the California High-Speed Rail Authority is studying an alternative location proposed by the City of Merced and other stakeholders, 8 blocks to the west-northwest along 15th Street, between O Street and R Street. The high-speed rail line will run on the south side of the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way at these locations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority</span> Transportation authority in northern California

The Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority is a special-purpose district body formed for the sole purpose of providing a public transit connection, known as Valley Link, between broad-gauge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and standard-gauge Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) services, in Northern California.

Ceres station is a future Altamont Corridor Express rail station in the city of the same name. It is expected to open to revenue service in 2024 as the terminus of the first phase of ACE's expansion to Merced. The station is located between Railroad Avenue and CA 99 near the southbound Whitmore Avenue exit underpass; the platform is only accessible approaching from the east side of the tracks. A bus will connect to Merced at first, with rail service to follow in the future. Parking will be available on nearby surface streets.

The Manteca Transit Center is the primary public transit hub of Manteca, California. The bus station features five bus bays with Manteca Transit as the primary operator; the agency also maintain their offices at the facility. San Joaquin Regional Transit District and Altamont Corridor Express shuttle routes also serve the transit center. Modesto Area Express service began in July 2020. Altamont Corridor Express commuter rail service is expected to commence at a newly constructed platform along the Union Pacific rail line by 2024.

Ripon is a future Altamont Corridor Express station in the city of the same name. The platform will be located between the railway right of way and U.S. Highway 99, south of the Main Street interchange. Access to the platform will be via a pedestrian overcrossing southwest over the tracks to South Industrial Avenue. It is expected to open to revenue service in 2024 as a station along the first phase of ACE's expansion to Merced.

North Lathrop station is a planned Altamont Corridor Express station in Lathrop, California – the second to be constructed in the city. It is expected to open to revenue service in 2023 as part of the first phase of ACE's expansion to Merced.

Southfront Road is a planned railway station in Livermore, California. It is a stop on the planned Valley Link system. Rush hour short turn Valley Link trains would operate from here to Dublin/Pleasanton. Service is expected to start as early as 2028.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turlock station</span> Unopened train station

Turlock station is a future Altamont Corridor Express station in the city of the same name. It is expected to open to revenue service as early as 2025 as part of the second phase of ACE's expansion to Merced. The station is located at the intersection of Golden State Boulevard and Front Street. The platform is planned to be connected to the Turlock Transit Roger K. Fall Transit Center via an elevated pedestrian bridge. The station is also adjacent to the city's Greyhound Lines bus stop.


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Route map:

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