As it gears up to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the ACE train, which traverses the Tri-Valley en route from Stockton to San Jose, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) is rolling out a number of service innovations. From a beefed-up daily schedule to new amenities like lounge cars, and, eventually, weekend service, ACE is refreshing its brand to convey the stronger role it will play in regional transit.
The updating, called the Commitment 15 campaign, "reaffirms SJRRC's commitment to prepare for the next 15 years of service by working toward increased satisfaction levels among riders, increased ridership, and becoming an emerging, cutting-edge transit agency," notes the agency's Errol Schmall, Marketing & Communications Specialist.
Many of the innovations pivot around last year's name change from the Altamont Commuter Express to the Altamont Corridor Express. While it is not highly visible, this small modification represents a significant transition, as the Corridor designation expands eligibility for federal funding and allows the rail system to broaden its scope, attracting more passengers and delivering more public benefits.
One of the first elements of the upgrade is ACE train 07, an addition to the morning schedule, which arrives in Pleasanton at 8:15 and makes its last stop in San Jose at 9:17. The timing is designed less for commuters than for leisure riders, Schmall explains, pointing out that from the Diridon station in San Jose it is just a 10-minute walk downtown to museums and shopping. Riders can also make the connection to Caltrain.
Along with plans for more midday trips is the weekend service expected to roll out for 49ers football when home games debut in the 2014 season. The new stadium is right across from the Great America station in Santa Clara, and ACE is "the only rail service from the San Joaquin Valley that can bring people right to the stadium entrance," Schmall enthuses.
Also on tap for next year is the introduction of two new comfortable lounge cars that will go into service during the work week. By popular request, the cars will serve breakfast, snacks, and coffee on the morning commute and switch to more meal-type fast food in the evening.
ACE trains also run periodically to serve special events. So far this year two supplemental trains are planned, to Great America on June 15, and to the downtown San Jose Jazz Festival on August 10.
Another part of Campaign 15 is the redesign of the ACE logo and website, complete with the addition of real-time schedule tracking. "What really matters is the passenger experience on the train," says Schmall. The logo update is "a reflection of the refresh taking place inside the trains, and the agency's renewed sense of purpose to help people take a little stress out of their lives."
To encourage ridership, SJRRC offers a free shuttle from the Pleasanton station, across from the Alameda County Fairgrounds at 4950 Pleasanton Avenue, to the BART station near Hacienda. The agency also has a test-drive program with three consecutive days of free ACE commuting as part of Hacienda's New Rider program. For information, go to www.hacienda.org/forms/forms_order_rider.html . For schedules, tickets, and other details, visit www.acerail.com .
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