Get ready for the rail revolution.
And it has nothing to do with pie-in-the-sky $1.2 billion train trenches or even upwards of 60 trains a day ultimately passing thru Manteca.
Instead it has everything to do with how Manteca’s location on key rail corridors along with expanded Altamont Corridor Express service as well as Valley Link trains coming downtown the track will mean for our quality of life as well as the sustainability of the Manteca economy.
In 2023 or shortly thereafter, you will be able board an ACE train on Moffat Boulevard at Main Street and reach San Jose and Sacramento as well as a number of points in between. Toss in Valley Link — the connector service to BART at the Dublin/Pleasanton station — that will have a transfer point with ACE on Sharpe Depot property just outside the city limits and you can go from downtown Manteca to downtown San Francisco without using a vehicle.
The coming passenger train services have the potential to be a seismic impact on Manteca.
Yet the city is doing little or anything to leverage the coming train service that would make cities six times our size envious.
That’s because elected leaders are focused on the negative while overlooking the positive. The current operational issues with UP freight trains and the promise that overall rail traffic including ACE could take the number of trains passing thru the middle of Manteca from 20 to 60 a day are the trees that prevents them from seeing the forest.
The fact workers — and eventually those traveling for other purposes whether it is recreation such as sporting events or day trips, shopping, or even pursing higher education as train service becomes more robust as the years pass and the regional population grows — can take trains combined with public transit or short Uber/Lyft connections will give those living in Manteca unparalleled mobility in the Northern California Mega Region stretching from San Jose to Sacramento as well as San Francisco to Fresno.
Overlaying that are Amtrak trains and even the much maligned California high speed rail plans for the future using the same general corridors means Manteca is at the true crossroads of the north state for rail and freeway when it comes both to moving people and goods.
That has a huge draw for employers and is a big plus for people.
Talk to people in Manteca and the odds are not many of them will have many nice things to say about the railroad.
As far as they are concerned, the Union Pacific Railroad is one gigantic negative — blocked crossings, noise, loud train whistles, and the potential for derailments or worse.
It is a rather short-sighted way of looking at a major assest.
Thanks to being on two major track corridors — the Fresno line that runs down the San Joaquin Valley and runs seamlessly into the line heading north and beyond into Sacramento as well as the Altamont Pass line connecting with the Bay Area — Manteca is in a unique position.
The issues people have should not be dismissed nor can the community afford to have its leaders ignore the potential problems for future train traffic. But that must include not only practical solutions but also efforts to turn what everyone seems to perceive as a pending rail Armageddon into as many pluses as possible.
First and foremost ACE service and planned connectivity from transfer points at rail lines with Valley Link, ACE, Amtrak and even high speed rail must be leveraged to the max.
It opens the door for many things including a thoroughly unique downtown for not only a Central Valley city but even among Bay Area cities.
A true transit village could be developed eventually right in downtown where people — mostly younger professionals that helped fuel downtown transformations in places like Livermore and Pleasanton — would want to live. That involves high density housing with a rail station at their doorstep that is their entry to accessing the mass transit web servicing arguably one of the world’s greatest and most robust mega regions when it comes to job opportunities and venues for recreation from urban to nature.
If you don’t think that’s plausible, who do you think are snapping up the $2,000 to $2,400 monthly apartments in Manteca along the 120 Bypass corridor and are fueling the demand for even more which is why banks are now financing multiple major complexes in town? They are not Amazon line workers or even those working jobs in Manteca that may earn them $60,000 a year.
The world is changing. Just like the advent of securing a railroad stop more than 125 years ago to allow the shipping of milk by Southern Pacific train from a lone converted boxcar on the side of the tracks originally dubbed Cowell Station planted the seed that grew into Manteca, latching onto the emerging rail web that will connect public transit in the mega region by planning to grow on what it will bring will markedly change the course of Manteca.
The transit station is in downtown. It happens to be across from vacant land and other property that will be ideal for a transit village as the city grows toward — and past — the 100,000 population mark.
The city should do its best to emulate what River Islands at Lathrop is doing. Cambay Group with a storied 30-year plus history of making extremely smart investment moves in Northern California housing is pursuing a transit village able to house 1,500 plus people able to support a strong mix of dining, entertainment, services, and shopping with rail access.
That will happen just over seven miles west of downtown Manteca. Why not work on a downtown plan that uses the transit station as a major asset as we move deeper into the 21st century instead of trying to recreate the salad days of the 20th century?
The city — if they had the will and foresight — could take the lead in a long-range effort partnering with the private sector to cobble together property to make a transit village possible.
It would infuse 1,500 people with homes downtown that have disposable income and would help fuel a 24/7 central district with the night life and such that people say they want.
Manteca can’t leverage anything with more interchanges, additional freeway lanes, and expressways circling the city to help downtown and strengthen the community’s social as well as cultural fabric.
They can, however, harness the railroad and the commuter trains coming down the tracks to make sure when Manteca hits 214,000 that we simply won’t just be a slightly better version of today’s Modesto with better freeway access and a 500-room hotel and indoor waterpark resort.