Published April 21, 2015
Volume 23, Number 4

ACE Trains Let Commuters Relax or Work
ACE Train

By Zoe Francis

ACE Train wants riders to kick back and enjoy their commute to work or celebrate with football fans to the next 49ers game on the rail system’s deluxe triple-decker cars.
ACE – Altamont Corridor Express – offers weekday train service from Stockton to San Jose with multiple stops in between and, of course, return trips back from San Jose. The Pleasanton station near the fairgrounds is one of the route’s most popular stops.
“What’s interesting is there’s about 900 people that get off the ACE Train in the morning and 900 get back on to travel the rest of the route,” Roxanne Lindsay, the system’s Tri-Valley community outreach representative, said.
Wheels buses are waiting at the station when trains arrive to whisk riders directly to Hacienda and BART, a service free for Hacienda employees and residents. Some Hacienda companies have their own shuttle services from ACE to the office.
“It’s about an eight-minute ride between ACE Pleasanton and the BART station,” Lindsay said. “That’s the valley people’s connection to San Francisco and Oakland.”
ACE started in the mid-1990s with the help of Measure K, a transportation funding measure for San Joaquin Valley.
“Those transportation funds still supply a good deal of ACE’s operating budget,” she said. “(ACE) currently uses Union Pacific freight line rails.”
ACE also gets funding from Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
The clean, well-maintained trains take commuters over the Altamont Pass and into Silicon Valley, bypassing clogged interstates. Riders can relax or get work done instead of wasting time in stop-and-go traffic.
“You’re not sitting in crazy traffic, so you can be productive and get to work relaxed,” Lindsay said. There is even a sleeper car for riders who want peace and quiet.
“It’s dimly lit. Nobody can talk,” she said. “You acknowledge when you go in there that you’re probably just going to relax. There are people who want that quiet time for whatever method of relaxing that they have. Just think how much happier they are when they get home.”
Bikes are allowed on the lower deck of cars and some cars are outfitted with Wi-Fi so hard-working commuters can always stay connected.
“You can see the kind of service we provide,” Lindsay said. “They’re comfortable trains. They’re clean. Everyone is on a routine schedule, so you get to know the people you’re riding with. They have friends on the train.”
ACE currently runs four trains every morning and evening, but long-term plans will expand the number of trains running each weekday.
“Within the next five years, we’re looking at providing up to six trains, improving the travel time to a degree,” Lindsay said. “Within 10 years, there will be 10 trains. It gives us more flexibility. Our ridership is increasing so fast. We’re well over 4,000 riders a day and a million passengers a year. The demand is definitely there.”
ACE also may extend its lines to serve Manteca to Merced, areas where commuters now rely on shuttles to get them to ACE stations.
“As California grows, the demand is more and more there,” she said. “We feel this five-year project will be really timely.”
ACE has tested weekend routes in years past, especially to California’s Great America amusement park, but is currently finding success with running trains to the Sunday San Francisco 49ers football games.
“The stadium is right there at Great America,” Lindsay said. “You get off the train and go to the stadium. You don’t have to park. You don’t have to drive. You don’t get stuck in traffic after the game. You’re in a train full of fans. If you just go down to the Pleasanton station and talk to the people who are waiting for the train, the excitement is so fun. It must be crazy for the game.”
People who have never ridden ACE before are encouraged to sign up through the Hacienda website for a free two-day test drive. The ACE website has a personal trip planner to help riders plan their entire route from home to work or wherever they may travel.
“Transportation is important to the economy not only in the Tri-Valley, but the entire Bay Area,” Lindsay said. “The way the Livermore Valley is growing, ACE needs to continually find ways to improve their service to keep up with that.”
And riding the train is just plain fun.
“The view is beautiful,” she said. “The scenery you see is like on any train. You see parts of the country that you don’t normally go through.”
Learn more about ACE Train at acerail.com.
Visit the Hacienda website’s Special Offers pages to sign up for the free two-day trial -- hacienda.org/form/details/new%20rider%20program%20ace%20tickets.
The Hacienda Special Offers pages also have a link to sign up for free Wheels passes -- http://www.hacienda.org/form/details/wheels%20eco%20pass

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