CANDIDATES PONDER DOWNTOWN ACE SERVICE
Every Monday through Oct. 29, the Manteca Bulletin is posing a question for the candidates in the Manteca municipal election on Nov. 6 election running for mayor and the two council seats. This week’s question: “Manteca is scheduled to have ACE train ser
ACE provides a wonderful opportunity for commuters to travel to the Bay Area. As opposed to sitting in gridlocked traffic, commuters can work or even catch up on needed sleep. Service to our downtown transit center is a goal fulfilled and will give Manteca commuters greater convenience.
Train service will spur the downtown economy and should be a great boost to downtown revitalization. However, infrastructure needs that increased parking and traffic will demand, must be addressed now. Federal and state grants are available to help subsidize the inevitable costs of ACE service and commercial expansion downtown, we need to take advantage of them.
Double tracking will also require long-term planning. We must explore every possible avenue to eliminate at grade crossings and create “quiet zones” to protect our quality of life. Many of these train issues are regional in nature. I intend to work with federal, state and county representatives to ensure Manteca is not disproportionately burdened and we have the resources to sustain our quality of life.
While I welcome ACE service to Manteca’s downtown, I believe as a city our goal must be to provide better paying jobs here, not send our residents and tax dollars to the Bay Area. San Joaquin County and Manteca in particular have many advantages for Silicon Valley companies, including distance from the earthquake fault zone and close proximity to a large body of water via the Delta. We must be aggressive in attracting new better-paying jobs and ensure our students have the education Bay Area companies are seeking.
As a father I know the value of time with my family. It is unfortunate that the cost of living in California means many family members have to work further from home, for longer hours. This added sacrifice steals quality time from our loved ones. As your representative, I will work hard to shorten and simplify your daily commute while working to bring more satisfying career jobs to Manteca.
This is a familiar matter because I am a longtime railroad enthusiast, so I understand the operation of trains; and, unlike the incumbent candidate, I have lived in this community for well over sixty years, so I was a resident when trains were an active part of our downtown. There were several packing sheds within downtown that processed thousands of tons of local fruits and vegetables for shipment across this country and the world. And, of course, can’t go without saying, this community was born from a railroad milk stop located at Yosemite Avenue and the railroad tracks.
As for the ACE trains matter, the truth is without some extensive and comprehensive revitalization of downtown over the next four years, the coming of ACE trains to downtown will have no appreciable affect to downtown’s current level of commerce. It will however generate vehicle traffic by commuters in search of the limited parking available at the transit station; and will likely impact the parking availability of those businesses located near the transit station. Keep in mind, once the commuters find a parking space, their vehicle or bicycle will sit parked all day with no human to be found until late in day when it is time to go home. (Perhaps the nearby businesses can charge a weekly fee to allow commuter parking on their customer parking lots.)
In order to entice any potential customers venturing to the downtown either before or after a pleasant train ride, downtown needs to be easily accessible and contain businesses that service commuters. My research tells me that the following types of businesses “fit”, small boutique shops, small retail, grocery stores, movie theatres, banks, restaurants, offices, childcare centers, entertainment and cultural space, Civic or community meeting space, etc. What is not likely to “fit” are strip malls, car dealerships, washes, or storage, big-box retailers, equipment sales or rental, commercial parking garages, gas stations, drive thru’s, etc.
Yes, I have a comprehensive step-by-step plan “on how the city can leverage downtown train service to its advantage to spur development or investment nearby”. The first step (not the only step) is to move city hall to downtown to create and sustain a large number customer base from which an expanded customer base will grow thus beginning a transition over time to an active pedestrian oriented commercial district.
As for the double tracking, that is likely why ACE trains will be allowed at all on the Valley main line. With the growing freight train traffic we are currently experiencing daily, the ACE trains would be a hindrance if it were not for double tracking; double tracking will allow the freight trains to pass unencumbered by stopped passenger trains.
It is also important for the community to understand, there will be more train horn noise due to the additional trains, and vehicle traffic will be required to stop at the Main Street crossing when ACE trains are stopped at the transit station. And, more importantly, pedestrians will have to learn that even if the train is stopped, there may be another train coming on the adjacent track (This will be a new experience in Manteca, so extensive re-education of the community should be undertaken now.)
Please contact me at cantu4mayor.com, on Facebook at “Ben Cantu for Manteca Mayor,” and on Twitter @bcantu1951.
Rail service is a growing business in the world in which we live today — whether it be goods movement or people movement - every aspect is important to our existence. Here in Manteca, goods movement and rail service is expanding with more trains and longer trains to service goods to and from the Western region of the United States.
Now, while ACE has been a formative part of our community, expansion will occur to serve the Manteca Transit Center, Ripon, Modesto, and Ceres. In the future, service will eventually make its way to Merced to serve the region. ACE service will continue at the Lathrop/Manteca site in addition to the new site being scheduled for Lathrop at Sharpe Army Depot for transfers to San Jose and Sacramento.
The Environmental Impact Report for Lathrop to Ceres is complete, yet more work is left to do for the project to move forward. The Lathrop Wye, a place where the Fresno and Oakland lines come together, and bridge design work for both the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers must be completed prior to the placement of the second set of tracks.
In terms of Manteca, no additional work will be required for laying the new single track required to run the new ACE service to Modesto/Ceres. The work will occur in the Union Pacific Rail Road right of way. The platform will on the east side of the tracks adjacent to Transit Center serving the commuters.
The one question I have is about the impact on parking. Is there enough parking available to service needs of our commuters? Will additional parking be required? If so, whose responsibility does it become to provide additional parking — Manteca or ACE Rail? In my opinion, the ACE Extension should build the new transfer station and Lathrop and new platform at the Manteca Downtown Transit Center. Manteca must plan for additional parking for the future as ridership is likely to grow. The current ridership boarding the four ACE trains stopping at the Lathrop/Manteca Station is 750-850 per day Monday through Friday. When the service starts at the Manteca Downtown Transit Center and North Lathrop Transfer Station, it is likely riders currently catching the ACE trains at the existing Lathrop/Manteca station will be dispersed between the two new locations.
Regarding the transit station and the passengers who will use this facility daily, the city should collaborate with a third-party vendor where that business will provide consumables such as beverages, snacks, reading material and other amenities for the riders of this public conveyance.
With respect to serving downtown business core, the opportunity exists to help grow our downtown community. We should work with the Downtown Business Alliance, the property owners and the business owners to make downtown a destination point where our citizens and guests will frequent and congregate where travelers dine in our restaurants and patronize our businesses. I envision this happening which will help to re-invigorate our city’s downtown.
My time spent on the San Joaquin Council of Governments has been rewarding dealing with transit and transportation issues for both Manteca and the Region with leaders from both our state and federal governments. We’ve experienced a great deal of success while realizing there’s still much left to accomplish. Today, our question deals with transit - specifically ACE Rail, yet I earlier commented increased train traffic. In my humble opinion, this is a critical area for future consideration. We must continue to work to find ways to the mitigate the safety issues surrounding stopped trains in our community so Manteca can continue to move forward and our residents prosper.
ACE train has been a very efficient way for Manteca residents to commute to the Bay Area from the Lathrop/Manteca station. I have talked to many riders over the years and they have told me it is much better and more convenient than driving their cars or taking BART to their jobs over the Altamont pass.
Manteca has a great opportunity to have new downtown train station service for ACE by 2023 located in the heart of our city. The State of California has fully funded the 300-milliondollar expansion of a double-track system from the Manteca Transit location south to Ceres and West to the Bay Area. The Central Valley commuters will finally be able to connect to the Bay Area via a safe, reliable and affordable alternative instead of driving hours to and from their jobs. What this will do for our downtown Manteca station is increase economic growth for surrounding businesses and residents.
The Manteca Transit Station will increase the number of RTD buses that currently have routes that arrive and depart more frequently to accommodate the new ACE train service. The City Council has already begun planning for additional parking east of the station with the anticipation of this new ACE service. As a Councilmember, I feel that we must find the most convenient methods of transporting riders from their homes via public transportation to the ACE station. This must be a priority. Additionally, riders who prefer to drive can park their cars in a safe location and in reasonable proximity to the train station. The surrounding area which incorporates downtown Manteca will need to have more restaurants and entertainment for riders who travel through our city. The city has an Economic Development committee which will be tasked with finding new opportunities with the new ridership to maximize the benefit to our community with this new Ace service.
I would anticipate that surrounding vacant land would be desirable for additional new multi-family residential housing to accommodate those that would use the ACE train to commute to their jobs as well. Our current and future residents are looking for solutions to improve their quality of life which include increased public transportation. In turn, they could spend more time with their family and friends and not on the roadways. The newly added ACE service from our downtown loca- tion creates a more desirable Manteca for all.
Trains, it’s common to hear them around town and being stopped at the tracks is a common occurrence shared by many. But when the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train extends its service to the Transit Center Downtown, I see it as a win for the city of Manteca. Specifically, in the following ways: An opportunity for smart growth, economic development via tourism and commercial business, and an avenue to create a state of the art system for public transportation.
First, a transportation hub spurs growth so we can plan for housing for persons that want to live in a downtown setting but also want to have quick access to public transportation to surrounding communities, specifically the bay area. The type of housing development I envision would be built around the transit center, a mixed development consisting of condos and apartments buildings two to three stories in height with some buildings having the first floor as commercial space.
This would be the catalyst to bring much needed business and public improvements to Manteca’s Downtown that would attract new businesses to make downtown their home and spruce up existing businesses. These businesses would then be able to serve a new clientele created by these improvements in close proximity to the cities core.
Second, economic development would be spurred by downtown businesses to complement the Bass Pro Shops, AMC Showplace Manteca 16 Movie Theatre, Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley and tourism to the future family attractions like Great Wolf Lodge. Due to our city’s accessible location we are able to attract persons from surrounding communities. Having the ACE train will only make it easier for individuals and families to come to Manteca to shop retail stores and for entertainment thus increasing the cities sales tax revenue and creating job growth. This could lead to perhaps sparking a reverse commute for working individuals to our city. I know persons who have done this precisely, commuting from Fremont to Manteca, for example. So this is not a farfetched idea.
Third, state of the art system public transportation system: Our current freeways including Highway 120 are congested, creating high wear and tear on the roads and vehicles. ACE train would assist with the thousands of individuals that commute on a daily basis to neighboring communities and the bay area. Connectivity to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) would be accomplished by riding the ACE train directly from Manteca and avoiding the only options of taking ACE train from Lathrop or driving to the nearest BART station in Dublin. In line with creating a state of the art system we must start now to take into account land for under and overpasses for vehicles and pedestrians. Currently roads are narrow with people walking on the edge of the road. We are growing as a city, our infrastructure and transportation system must grow with it to make sure it is safe, compliant to current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) code and safe for our children to walk from one side of town to another.
Manteca is in the core of San Joaquin County that many have begun to call the Greater Silicon Valley due to a large number of individuals that make up the workforce for companies based in Silicon Valley/Bay Area. As a city council we need to start seeing the ways to grow in a smart, sustainable way that takes into account many factors that will be affecting us, our children and grandchildren into the future. www.NunoforManteca.com Facebook: /mantecafornuno
The ACE train has already shown itself to be a huge benefit for commuters to and from Lathrop. Its extension to Manteca will certainly be a welcome benefit to our many residents that commute to work each day.
However, we must be careful these commuter trains do not become a method of inexpensive travel for vagrants as has happened for some lines and stations of the BART system. A public safety presence will be necessary to ensure passengers remain safe and comfortable during their travels.
As your councilman, I would seek to maximize any federal and state funds available in improving Manteca’s transportation infrastructure. Any cost burden for Mantecans should be approved through a ballot measure in order to prevent stresses on other budget priorities such as police, fire, parks and roads.
With proper accountability, the expansion of ACE has the potential to benefit not just Mantecans, but residents from the surrounding communities. I look forward to riding with you in 2023.