What came first: The transit station or the train?
Obviously in Manteca’s case it’ll be the transit station.
Critics have a point when they say it doesn’t appear to make sense to build a transit station before Altamont Commuter Express service reaches downtown Manteca. But given the fact it has taken well over a decade to get to this point the city probably wasn’t jumping the gun by too much.
The ACE trains will eventually extend into Modesto.
Meanwhile, Manteca will have put in place a transit hub central to all of Manteca that offers a fairly unique feature of sitting alongside a separated bike path that is part of a 15-mile system that will eventually loop Manteca.
Besides being used to coordinate existing Manteca Transit and San Joaquin Regional Transit bus services it opens the door for other specific transit services such as the buses that take commuters to the Livermore Lab. It also could - as Manteca grows larger - become an effective way to perhaps lure Greyhound back.
All of that has a lot of “ifs” for critics. They are right. But keep in mind the transit station and expanding transit services is what voters of this county said they wanted not once but twice when they initially authorized the Measure K half cent sales tax and then extended it a few years ago.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to make major investments.
And yes, there is a good chance that ultimately the ACE stop for Manteca will not stay or be downtown but instead be accessed via a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the 120 Bypass much like BART is in Pleasanton. That’s because the 120 Bypass corridor may be better suited if ACE goes all the way to high speed trains.
Given the funding challenges, the odds are Modesto service will probably pass through downtown Manteca first and for a long time before the 120 corridor happens.
So why not build a transit station at South Main Street and the 120 corridor? The answer is simple. It would not be very effective given that it is not in the center of Manteca and it is not near much of anything else at the moment.
This brings up the other plus of the transit station. It is the first new building in downtown since the 1990s when the Golden Valley Credit Union opened on Center Street. Combined with the Library Park renovation and expansion, it will bookend the heart of downtown with two gathering places.
The potential of the transit station is magnified significantly by the fact Moffat Boulevard provides a direct link to the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park. Moffat Boulevard is in transition. In the past 12 years, fairly amazing changes have occurred. The cattle feedlot is gone as are the overnight truck parking and trash dump sites. The Tidewater is in place as are curbs and sidewalks. Spreckels Park fronts it as does the BMX park and the Manteca Business Park along with Crossroads Grace Church. Plans are still in the works for the city’s first high rise - Oak Valley Community Bank - that will be accessed via Moffat Boulevard.
The transit station is another piece of the puzzle of the rebirth and revitalization of Moffat. It also could help set the stage for rebuilding parts of the central district with more intense uses that involve both residential and commercial. As such, it could be looked back on 30 years from now as an investment that helped avoid downtown Manteca from meeting the same fate that Stockton did on its downhill spin that they are still struggling to get out from under.
Manteca barely had 40,000 people 20 years ago. It won’t stay at 70,000 people for very long.
There are now two major investments in the central district - the Library Park expansion and the transit station - that can be game changers if used right.
Both can lure people downtown to cultural, social and leisure activities. And both can serve as a catalyst toward a long-term transformation.
It is a journey that starts with small steps.
And one of those steps is the transit station.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.