There’s a possibility downtown Manteca and Ripon will get Altamont Corridor Express service even if Stanislaus County voters continue to reject a sales tax for roads, buses, and trains.
ACE Executive Director Stacey Mortensen told the Manteca City Council Tuesday that the option of extending commuter rail service south through Manteca and ending in Ripon is being considered should Stanislaus County fail to fund an extension into Modesto and ultimately to Turlock with a possibility of a future connection to high speed rail in Merced..
Stanislaus County voters are expected to vote on a half cent tax plan similar to San Joaquin County’s Measure M in November of 2016. Voters in that county rejected similar ballot measures in 2006 and 2008. The tax requires a two thirds vote to pass.
Mortensen said that surveys show potential ridership supporting the option for San Joaquin County to go it alone and make Ripon the southern terminus of ACE service should Stanislaus County fail to step up is something her bosses believe should be on the table.
ACE runs four trains week days covering the 86 miles from Stockton to San Jose and back. The trip takes two hours and 10 minutes. Just fewer than 1.1 million passengers were carried in 2014.
The Lathrop-Manteca station consistently rates in the top two for boardings switching off with Tracy. The daily ridership in mid-December had 554 bodings at Tracy, 546 at Lathrop-Manteca, 509 at Pleasanton, 272 at Stockton, 227 at Livermore, 189 at Vasco Road, and 187 at Fremont.
Fifty-five percent of the riders and 18.5 percent of the operating budget is from San Joaquin County. The Bay Area, with 45 percent of the ridership, contributes 28 percent of the budget. The fare box accounts for 50.16 percent of the operating budget. It is one of the highest fare box recovery in the country. Typically public transit such as buses and commuter trains secure only 20 percent or so of its operating revenue from fares.
Surveys indicate 75.3 percent or ACE passengers used to commute to work solo in cars while another 14.4 carpooled. Many use their time on the train to do work, something Mortensen noted they can’t do when stuck in freeway traffic.
ACE is working toward adding two more trains between San Jose and Stockton as well as upgrading tracks over the Altamont Pass to reduce travel time.
Game day trains to Levi Stadium for home San Francisco 49er games generated an average of 621 riders last season. Mortensen noted ACE “actually made money” on providing 49er fan service.
Should serve be extended into Modesto via downtown Manteca and additional trains added on the current route, projections anticipate 2.25 million riders by 2020. Extending service into Merced by 2025 could push ridership to 5.9 million a year.