In the June/July 2010 California Rail News, there is an article about the Altamont Commuter Express’ future expansion plans.
In the article: “ACE Sets Plans For An Upgrade,” Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) Board Member Robert Reynolds explains, “California Rail News recently sat down with ACE Executive Director Stacey Mortensen and Strategic Development and Communications Coordinator Thomas Reeves to look at the future of this vital link.” ACE operates on 86 miles of Union Pacific trackage between Stockton and San Jose. ACE was launched in 1998 to provide commuter rail services, largely to Bay Area workers living in the northern San Joaquin Valley, as a viable alternative to busy Highway 580 over the Altamont Pass. ACE has truly done an admirable job of providing such service.
In addition to all the other discussion in the article, “Service could extend to Sacramento and Fresno but that has not been decided,” writes Reynolds.
It’s important to note a Bay Area bedroom community Fresno is not, at least not yet. So, right now, I’m not so sure bringing ACE here makes sense. But this doesn’t mean that Fresno shouldn’t have some form of passenger rail feeder service to integrate into and coordinate with Amtrak and air travel via Fresno Yosemite International Airport currently and/or high-speed rail, which, incidentally, is on track to arrive in the Central Valley’s largest city in the not-too-distant future. So, Reynolds raises a very valid point here, a point that should not be dismissed.
Some have argued and some may argue still that Amtrak San Joaquin service in the Central Valley will be unneeded if HSR gets built. Which, if true, is all the more reason why feeder rail systems should be worth their weight in gold and then some.
By the time HSR does arrive, people traveling between the central city core and outlying communities should by all means have this mode available to them. Lightly used rail lines radiating out from central Fresno to the southeast, east and northwest would be ideal corridors with which to move potential scores of travelers to and from Fresno’s HSR station, not to mention to other city-based locations. People may not want to drive their own vehicles due to congestion and/or parking issues and may choose instead to use alternative means to get in and out of the city. Over time, these issues in the Valley may become much more pronounced than what exists right now. So, planning for the future is important. And in that planning, it’s important to take a look at all available modes. As such, rail feeder service is certainly a valid option. The Bay Area, Sacramento and Southern California have incorporated either intercity or intracity rail or both into their transportation networks. These too are projected to get bigger.
That people support high-speed train service for California is not surprising and laudable. But rail service should not end there. Coordinated, integrated feeder rail service has its place too. And Fresno should itself be a place where feeder rail thrives.
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