Not very many people took advantage of the new middle-of-the-day train between Stockton, Tracy and San Jose, but Altamont Commuter Express employees are convinced it’s a good start.
“Midday trains are usually a very slow burn,” said ACE chief executive Stacey Mortensen, who said she hoped up to 250 people would eventually catch the service that began Monday.
Mortensen said existing services were expected to fill as customers gained more options for leaving Tracy and returning home.
The new westbound train, which leaves Tracy for San Jose at 10 a.m., and the new eastbound train, which leaves Tracy for Stockton at 1:45 p.m., opens up the Bay Area to seniors and students Monday through Friday, Mortensen said.
The midday trains are using three cars with up to 380 seats — but she said one might move to another service to relieve crowding there.
The new trains connect with the Bakersfield Amtrak line in Stockton, and all services connect with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system in Pleasanton.
Aboard Tuesday’s new morning service, ACE operations manager Hubert Hanrahan said commuter numbers were slightly stronger than they were Monday, when about 30 passengers hitched a ride on the inaugural run. He said he expected the number to grow by Friday as word and advertising spreads.
Cisco Systems compliance engineer and frequent ACE traveler Keith Han, who was one of four people to catch the 10 a.m. service from Tracy on Tuesday, said the new timetable would make it easier to bring his wife and three kids to San Jose for day-trips.
He said three existing services, which leave Tracy between 4:52 a.m. and 6:58 a.m., are too early for his family.
“Now it’s more convenient because we don’t have to rush,” he said.
A round-trip between Tracy and San Jose costs an adult $15.
The new train is part of an overall effort to improve ACE service. More than 20 ACE trains on the existing morning and evening runs were delayed by between 15 and 45 minutes this month, and Mortensen said she hoped dedicated ACE rails would cut back on delays within three years.
“The economy out here is booming and (Union Pacific is) pushing a lot of freight containers through this area … So the capacity that we have is just slowly ebbing away.
“My full-time effort is to try to get our own track. We’re going to buy it where we can, lease it where we can, and build it where we can.”
Copper wire thieves also caused delays by stealing overhead wires that allow ACE trains to communicate with one another. Mortensen said ACE was trying to work around this by switching to radio communications.