"It seems the owner/operator of the lot is getting serious about enforcing this anti-carpool policy because they recently had a small army of parking lot attendants handing out fliers reiterating this policy," said Pleasanton resident Brian Ishaug. "The Pleasanton ACE train parking lot is popular for carpoolers because the train can be used as a back-up. This alleviates one big problem of carpooling, being stranded because the person driving can't drive back for some reason."
"It's also a convenient meeting place because the train can be used as an alternative to carpooling if not enough people show up to carpool," he added.
John Giovannoni, ACE operations manager, said he and his staff have been monitoring the parking lot after requests from the Fairgrounds.
"We've had situations lately where the lot has been getting more full," Giovannoni said. "The Fairgrounds asked for our assistance. We've watched people, asked for ACE passes, and advised them that it's not reserved for commuters."
The lot is owned by Alameda County and managed by the Alameda County Fair. When the Altamont Commuter Express began to stop in Pleasanton 14 years ago, some hoped a parking lot would be built on the city-owned property just south of Bernal Avenue, and use of the Fairgrounds lot was supposed to be temporary.
"That parking lot has quite a history," said Janet Lockhart, Alameda County Fair board president and interim CEO. "Recently there was an agreement between the Alameda County Supervisors, the city of Pleasanton and the Fairgrounds that that will serve as the permanent location for the ACE train parking lot. We finally resolved the issue."
The city of Pleasanton has agreed to help with paving and restriping the lot every 15 years.
A small portion of the parking lot is reserved year-round for ACE travelers, Lockhart said. During the annual County Fair, which runs this year from June 19-July 7, additional parking for train riders is provided near the Satellite Wagering Facility on Valley Avenue and a shuttle provides a ride to the ACE platform. At that time the lot becomes preferred parking for the Fair.
But Lockhart pointed out that parking is important year-round for the Fairgrounds, which is used continually for events that often draw large crowds.
"The Fair tries to be a good neighbor to everybody but when there's an event, there's an event," Lockhart said. "Sometimes people don't stop and think about the Fair being a business."
"It's the only place ACE people can park," she added. "They need to have it available to them. We also need spaces available -- we don't know what we are going to book, a big luncheon or dinner. Sometimes it's problematic when they have a lot of participants."
Three Silicon Valley companies, including Google, rent parking spaces at the Satellite Wagering Facility for their employees who then ride their buses to work, she noted.
"I can understand residents getting tense about it being in the middle of their community and not being able to use it," Lockhart said, "but it's owned by the county, not the city."
"If this no carpool parking policy is strictly enforced, it could force carpoolers that want to use the train as a back-up to park on nearby city streets instead of the ACE train lot," Ishaug said. "I am frustrated that public money is paying for that lot, but it's not being used in the best public interest: to promote train riding and carpooling."
Giovannoni said some drivers park in the lot then take the passenger shuttle to Bishop Ranch, or to BART to avoid paying BART parking fees.
"We will be putting in security cameras with license plate readers so when someone goes into lot after hours -- the last train leaves at 10 -- it will set off a trigger," Giovannoni said. "At first we will put a flier on the car saying, 'Please don't do it again.'"
"It's safe where we are, we understand that," he added. "But they should be using a Park 'n' Ride."