For a city bordered by crowded freeways and corporate centers here and in nearby San Ramon that draw tens of thousands of out-of-area employees, the Altamont Corridor Express -- or ACE train -- is a Pleasanton asset.
And ACE has big plans, including extending service to Modesto in five years and to Sacramento by 2025.
Located midway between its end-of-line stations in Stockton and San Jose, the Pleasanton station across from the Fairgrounds is the busiest in between where many of the line's more than 4,000 daily passengers board and disembark morning and night.
In remarks to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton last week, Roxanne Lindsay, the outreach representative for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission that governs the ACE system, said a recent survey showed that 80% of passengers formerly drove to their destinations until "discovering" ACE.
The majority live in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond and work on the Peninsula, passing through Pleasanton at a more leisurely pace than when they faced the daily drive of the Altamont Pass and Sunol Grade.
They leave and board the train at Great America, catching shuttles and local transit lines to travel to work. Many carry their bicycles on the train to ride to the office at one end of the line and back home at the other.
High-speed rail is scheduled to travel through Merced on one of its first statewide stops, and ACE plans to be there. It will be the main transit provider to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
If and when BART extends its service to Greenville Road in Livermore as planned, ACE will build a direct connection to its station there. In the meantime, shuttles provide a 10-minute ride from ACE's Pleasanton station to the two BART stations serving Pleasanton and Dublin.
With the trains equipped with tables and offering WiFi in at least one car on each train, ACE serves those who need to continue laptop work. In other cars, the tables are a favorite with the hundreds of regular riders who play cards. The survey showed that the main activities of commuters are playing cards, talking on their cell phones, reading and sleeping.
ACE has one car on each train that is positioned far from the engine, is dimly lit and where cellphone talk is banned so passengers can sleep for their two-hour ride.
For passengers who just want to enjoy the trip on their own, ACE offers three levels of viewing the passing scenery, including a dome car. The corridor is perhaps the best of any commuter rail service as the train passes over Altamont Pass, through rural farmland and along the scenic Niles Canyon route.