By Jason Campbell
San Joaquin Valley commuters to Sacramento will be able to reach the Capital City work days before 8 a.m. under a new Amtrak Morning Express Service expected to launch on January.
The service would board passengers at the Bob Cabral station near downtown Stockton that also serves as the current northern terminus of the Altamont Corridor Express that carries commuters into the East Bay as far south as San Jose and the job-rich Silicon Valley.
Currently the earliest Amtrak San Joaquin train departing Stockton on a daily basis boards at 10:09 a.m. and arrives in Sacramento at 11:20 a.m.
Making rail service muscular is outlined in the California Department of Transportation released Draft 2018 State Rail Plan, which features near-term improvements for both the Amtrak San Joaquin service as well as ACE – both managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.
According to an ACE press release, the draft rail plan “will help guide the state’s priorities for rail investments that will support California’s economy for future generations” and will provide additional backing to a series of expansion efforts aimed at increasing ridership and providing additional access to communities in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys that are currently not served by commuter rail services.
For Amtrak, the plan calls for expanded service to and from Sacramento with additional stations in Elk Grove and Sacramento and the possibility of expanding the service further to Marysville. The plan also supports the new Amtrak Morning Express service that is expected to launch in January and will deliver passengers from the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento before 8 a.m.
The nod to the plans for expanded ACE services – with funding already identified in SB1 and SB132 – will only further solidify the state’s commitment to a post-2025 regional service to Merced through Modesto and Ceres. Other plans call for increased service to the Bay Area with half-hourly peak period service and hourly off-peak service. Current plans also call for additional ACE stations to be built throughout San Joaquin County – one in Tracy and potentially one at River Islands – as well as starting service at the existing downtown Manteca station to make it easier for residents to utilize the service that provides an alternative to vehicles for commuters heading over to the Livermore Valley or the San Jose area during the week.
According to the release, the passenger component of the California rail vision includes key elements that focus on a statewide system that ties urban, suburban and rural portions of the state together and integrating current transit options through multimodal hubs. Through a common fare system, according to the plan, trips throughout the network can be made on a single ticket rather than the series of standalone services that rail riders currently utilize.
The 60-day public comment window is currently open and will remain open through Dec. 11 for anybody wishing to share their hopes or their opinions about the proposal.
For more information about the Draft 2018 State Rail Plan visit www.dot.ca.gov/californiarail/