Riders railed against tight quarters, and ACE officials listened
January 13, 2010
STOCKTON - San Joaquin County rail commuters got back some breathing room on their ride to the Silicon Valley, with the Altamont Commuter Express adding to its trains a sixth car that had been removed last year because of a drop in passengers.
With ridership dipping during the recession, ACE officials had cut back to five-car trains. It didn't work.
The remaining riders felt crowded. They weren't happy. Using e-mails, comments to on-board staff and passenger surveys, they let officials with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission know it. The commission owns and operates ACE, which began service in 1998.
"We heard it loud and clear from passengers," spokesman Thomas Reeves said. "We wanted to show passengers we're being progressive with feedback."
The number of riders had fallen as jobs became more scarce. 2009 also saw the number of trains making the daily round trip from Stockton to San Jose reduced from four to three. Trains that head west during the morning commute come back east when the workday is done.
But ridership hit a benchmark figure last week that showed riders could be coming back, Reeves said. On Jan. 4, the number of passengers heading in one direction reached 1,500 for the first time since October.
Prior to that date and one day in October, the last time ACE reached that figure was in June.
Adding a sixth car to each train will cost about $20,000 a year per train. The increase in labor, fees and storage from the additional car is minimal, with the cost coming from fuel and maintenance