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Relaxing instead of clutching steering wheels
commuter work
An ACE rider takes a break from catching up on work on his laptop to take a phone call. - photo by Photo Contributed

PLEASANTON – Mark Makuta settles into his chair and pulls out a newspaper.

Outside of the window the clacking of the railroad car seems to reverberate among the early morning crowd more focused on coffee and email that conversation.

It’s the quiet time that Makuta appreciates. It’s the chance to actually read the newspaper in the morning instead of rushing out the door and settling for blurbs of information on the radio that come in-between traffic updates.

Yes, Mark Makuta loves the ACE Train.

“I commuted for years, and when I started you enjoy that freedom of being in your own car and having that autonomy,” said the San Jose software engineer. “But that gets old in a hurry and then you start carpooling because it’s convenient but you lose that quiet moment. This gives me that back.

“Getting a few minutes of peace and quiet can be hard to come by. That’s not the case here.”

The idea behind the route was hatched in 1989 when the San Joaquin Council of Governments, the Stockton Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association of the Delta sat down to come up with a 20-year transportation plan. Measure K – the half-cent transportation sales tax increase – was hatched, and more than $50 million from the fund has since been invested in the ACE Project to provide local residents with a state-of-the-art service.

And the convenience of it all has even prompted some longtime Bay Area workers, like Frank Rainoni, to relocate to the Central Valley because it was cheaper and more convenient that facing the daily traffic.

But Rainoni’s story isn’t like that of others that simply commute. He actually purchased a house in Manteca simply because the ACE Train existed and fit his daily routine like a glove. He’s had friends move back to the Bay Area because they were tired of making the drive.

On Friday Rainoni and coworker Ray Yamada shared an end-of-the-week conversation at the Pleasanton ACE Station before boarding the train and heading home for a three-day weekend. Yamada said he’s been riding for years and knows more than half-a-dozen people at his place of work that have ditched the car in favor of the tracks.

“I had a co-worker that was riding it when it first started and I thought that I’d try it out,” Yamada said. “I love it because it takes a lot of that stress of driving and traffic away – you don’t have to worry about calling up and saying that you’re going to be late because there was an accident or anything like that.”

When gas hit its peak, Yamada said that he spent upwards of $100-a-week to fill his tank and get back-and-forth to the office, and not pays just over half of that to take the hassle-free route.

Jennifer Spikes echoed the same sentiment.

A shuttle takes her from the Pleasanton ACE station and drops her off right in front of her place of work where she and several other co-workers take the train back home.

“I used to see people riding the train and I’d ask them about it and they couldn’t say enough good things,” she said. “It takes all of that stress away. And with the free shuttle it drops me off right out front. I love it.”