Our golf group’s excursion on
the Altamont Commuter Express to San Jose and back, as reported in last week’s
column, has generated several comments, both orally and in written form in
Several responders asked how
to purchase senior-citizen half-fare tickets, and others expressed curiosity about
other aspects of the trip.
One reader, Sandi Burgos of
I needed more than two rides on ACE to know the problems that regular
passengers often encounter.
At the top of her list: The
ACE rule against riders placing laptops, backbacks or other items on seats next
to them is not enforced by train personnel.
“Every single day, there are
people with luggage, backpacks, computer carriers, etc., that take up two or
three seats, and people have to sit on the stairs or on the floor,” she wrote.
“How right is that?”
Her comments struck a chord
with other members of our five-man ACE-excursion group. They mentioned that,
yes, they saw several riders on our car that morning with either backpacks or
computer cases on the seats next to them. One man moved his computer case when
people were looking for a seat, but another passenger didn’t make a move to
clear the space next to him.
We didn’t see anyone seated
on the stairs or on the floor that morning, but with only a couple of vacant
seats visible in our car, I can well imagine that occurs.
ACE plans to add more cars to
the most heavily traveled trains in the next month or so, but that doesn’t mean
the apparently common practice of occupying two seats should be ignored.
One Tracyite asked where
senior citizens can get discount tickets. I replied that the ACE ticket booth
station was open and staffed before 7 o’clock the morning we took our trip. It
appeared to be closed before the 10:02 a.m. train arrived some three hours
later, but in those cases, tickets can be purchased upon boarding the train.
I bought our senior citizen
Tracy-San Jose tickets ($7.50) at the ACE office in
after I found the
station ticket office closed at 10 a.m. several days before our ride.
On its Web site
(acerail.com), ACE does offer special deals for group excursions, so it is
worth checking out if an organization is interested.
I told one person that for
many people, the best schedule for a trip to
would be to take the uncrowded 10:02 a.m. westbound train out of
time after lunch for other activities, including making a visit to the San Jose
Tech Museum — a unique facility chronicling the growth of Silicon Valley’s
high-tech revolution and other technological advances — before boarding the ACE
eastbound train at 3:35 p.m. That train arrives in
trains were on time.
The future of regional rail
services, for ACE and BART in particular, is the subject of constant
conjecture. I ran into Da Mayor, Brent Ives, the other morning at Barista’s
downtown, and he told me a number of issues face ACE in the immediate future.
Brent, who has served on the
San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission — ACE’s parent — for 15 years since its
formation, said at Barista’s and later that joint use of Union Pacific tracks
between Stockton and San Jose is a continuing concern.
“When you run both freight
and commuter-rail trains on the same tracks, there are always conflicts,” he
said. “And freight trains can take priority, although our on-time record is
According to Brent, talks
between the rail commission and U.P. about the commission’s purchase of U.P.
tracks used by ACE has ended in the past few months after U.P. pulled the plug.
That leaves the establishment of a separate ACE rail line over the
on the old Southern Pacific right-of-way or on a new route — a goal, but one
not easily achieved.
The outcome of the high-speed
rail bond on the November ballot — which promises an Altamont Pass high-speed
feeder element — and a new round of federal funding for regional transportation
projects, due to be decided next spring, could be keys to any break-through
plans, according to Brent.
“We just have to keep
plugging away and see what develops,” he said. “No one gave us much a chance of
getting ACE trains rolling a decade ago, but we did it, and I’m proud of what
we’ve been able accomplished so far.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy
Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at