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SJ Valley is where the workers live

On any given day 162,262 commuters travel from the outer edges of the Northern California Megaregion to reach the job-rich core of the Bay Area.

The data compiled by the American Community Survey and analyzed by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute shows more than half of those commuters — 82,723 — originate in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Another 40,911 live in the Monterey Bay Area and 38,528 from the Sacramento area. Between 2013 and 2016 the increase in commuters was largest from the Northern San Joaquin Valley as the numbers jumped by 27 percent.

At the same time the Bay Area core is generating six new jobs for every new housing unit that is built. Meanwhile the typical cost to rent or buy a Bay Area housing unit is equivalent to the monthly cost of three housing units in the San Joaquin Valley. The Tri-Valley region while pricier than the Northern San Joaquin Valley isn’t as expensive as the Bay Area. That has resulted in Manteca being the fastest growing city in the megaregion of 17 million residents with Livermore, San Ramon, Stockton, Tracy and Dublin in the top 20.

Part of the justification the BART board made for investing in the Valley Link commuter line are statistics that show since 2010 the nine-county Bay Area region has created 700,000 new jobs but has built only 100,000 housing units. That forces more workers to locate away from the Bay Area core putting additional pressure on freeways.

 Based on that traffic on the Interstate 205-Interstate 580 corridor serving the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the Tri Valley is projected to increase 60 percent by 2040 as the two regions continue to grow as the affordable housing solution for the job rich Bay Area.

More than 80,000 vehicles — including 14,000 trucks — currently snake their way over the Altamont Pass weekdays.

It is against that backdrop that the BART governing board earlier this year sent $135 million that had been set aside for as BART extension to Livermore to the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority to construct a Northern California Megaregional connection between the Altamont Corridor Express and BART systems. The endeavor is also eligible for another $400 million that’s also committed to the project through the Bay Area’s Measure BB.

The decision was based on it costing BART $1.8 billion to extend BART service to the west side of Livermore. The regional rail authority is pursuing the first phase of Valley Link service to connect trains to BART initially from River Islands at Lathrop with the second phase extending service into Stockton. That service could be up and running by 2024 at a cost of $500 million or so less than simply extending BART service to the western edge of Livermore. 

Trains on the Tri-Valley segment will initially operate every 12 minutes during peak hours to match BART service frequency. In the off peak hours, Tri-Valley trains will run every 30 minutes.

Those trains originating from the San Joaquin Valley will operate every 24 minutes during peak times to meet every other BART train. The trains would operate on an hourly frequency during off-peak times.

Trains are initially projected to have 25,000 riders per day. They will run on tracks that right-of-way has already been secured to build upon.

By getting vehicles off the I-580 corridor it is expected to improve overall mobility for key freight movement between the Port of Oakland and the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

Valley Link stations are planned at Isabel Avenue as well as the Greenview ACE station in Livermore, West Tracy/Mountain House, downtown Tracy, River Islands at Lathrop, and in North Lathrop for a second ACE connection.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email