The Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Northern California Megaregion study identified Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and Amtrak San Joaquins services as key to helping ease congestion in the San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area. The NorCal megaregion features 21 counties and 164 cities, and has over 12 million residents, almost one third of California’s population – encompassing the Bay Area, Sacramento and Northern San Joaquin Valley (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties), and the Monterey Bay Area.
The NorCal megaregion is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the United States, but the rapid speed and scale at which it is taking shape is creating “megaproblems” that highlight the urgent need for greater collaboration, investment and planning in the areas of housing, transportation, education and economic development, and goods movement, according to the new report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released in late June.
While the megaregion’s workforce increased by 17 percent between 1990 and 2013, commuting increased by 78 percent to nearly 175,000 employees daily, due to housing shortages and rising real estate costs in the Bay Area.
The study recommends supporting expanded investment in rail service in the region, including the Stockton based ACE and Amtrak San Joaquins, while prioritizing megaregional rail hubs in Livermore, San Jose, and Oakland. These steps would help expand ridership easing roadway congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as strengthening competiveness and economic growth in the NorCal megaregion.
“The blurring lines among these four regions means we need to sharpen our focus on megaregional collaboration,” said Dr. Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “The Northern California megaregion is like an engine powered by multiple cylinders. You get the most power and the most efficiency when all the cylinders are finely tuned and firing together. Increasing the connections and coordination among the different parts of the megaregion will create an unstoppable economic powerhouse and ensure a high quality of life.”
“There are thousands of commuters traveling daily from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the Bay Area – most of which are coming over the Altamont Pass,” added Lodi City Councilmember Bob Johnson, Chair of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. “We are very pleased this study of the Northern California Megaregion highlights the importance of improving and expanding the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service to help meet the growing transportation demands between the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the Tri-Valley, and the Silicon Valley.”
“As the communities within the Northern California Megaregion continue to grow, we must meet their needs by striving to offer additional train service throughout the megaregion,” said Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo, Chair of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. “Riders need frequent, convenient scheduling options to choose from in order to incorporate train travel into their business or leisure trips. Increasing the frequency of Amtrak San Joaquins will greatly improve the connectivity between the San Joaquin Valley, the Bay Area, and Sacramento.”
ACE, started in 1998, runs four round trips starting at the Cabral Station in Downtown Stockton and running through Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara and San Jose’s Diridon station.
For more information on ACE Rail, visit www.acerail.com.
The San Joaquins is Amtrak’s fifth busiest route with 365 miles of track, 18 stations, 1.1 million annual riders and provides a safe, comfortable, reliable way to travel throughout California. The San Joaquins has five daily trips through the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Oakland and two daily round-trips between Bakersfield and Sacramento.
For more information on Amtrak San Joaquins, visit www.AmtrakSanJoaquins.com.