Todd's Railfan Guide to the
Altamont Commuter Express - ACE
San Jose CA to Stockton

Station by Station
ACE Shuttle Service


Area Stuff:
     San Jose Light Rail
Altamont Commuter Express - This page
     Railfanning around San Jose

The Altamont Commuter Express is a service that operates between San Jose CA and Stockton to the north east.

As a railfan, you will have a great time in the San Jose and Santa Clara area's because of the diversity of things to take pictures of.  You have the two commuter railroads, ACE and CalTrain, the VTA Light Rail, and the Union Pacific.

ACE is named for the Altamont Pass, through which it travels.  The service started on October 19, 1998, with two trains daily in each direction (weekdays only), and as of November 2009 runs three trains daily in each direction.  There are ten stops along its 86 miles (138 km) route - travel time is about 2 hours and 10 minutes end-to-end.  The tracks ACE rides on are owned by the Union Pacific railroad. 

The ACE fleet consists of 24 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches and  6 MPI F40PH-2C locomotives, #3101 to #3106 (#3106 is a F40PH-3C).  It is managed by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and operations are contracted to Herzog Transit Services.  The shops are located in Stockton, and can be found in one of Union Pacific's yards.  They are however in the process of building their own maintenance facility that will help to speed up service.

An artists rendering of the new maintenance facility from ACE's website.

Typical of regional commuter lines, revenue generated from fares runs about 1/3 or operating costs as the following snippet from Wikipedia illustrates:  In Fiscal Year 2006-7 the 675 thousand ACE trips generated fare-box revenues of some $4 million, about 30% of the $13.3 million operating and administrative cost. Most of the annual operating costs are underwritten by San Joaquin, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties in proportion to the boardings and alightings in each county.

Fares are zoned based, and hit a max of $11.75 for a one way from Stockton to San Jose (as of 11/2011), which is a great deal considering it is a 2 hour + ride thru some pretty country!  They also offer round trip, weekly, 20 trip, and monthly tickets.

ACE also runs a series of 8 shuttles in the Santa Clara area, all of which are connect at the Great America station.  The shuttles hit just about every business in the area.

TGV like service may come to ACE!  More info is available on their website.


In 1989, passenger rail service across the Altamont was considered only a pipe dream that might be worth discussing in twenty years. However, that same year, the San Joaquin Council of Governments, the Stockton Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association of the Delta began the development of a 20-year transportation plan for a future sales tax vote in San Joaquin County. Measure K, the half-cent sales tax for transportation was strongly supported by voters in 1990, and the number one project identified for funding was Altamont passenger rail service.

In 1995, the seven cities and the county of San Joaquin formed a joint powers agreement that created the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to implement the rail plan, and to explore agreements with the counties of Santa Clara and Alameda. This created a five-member board of directors appointed by the San Joaquin Council of Governments. To date, through Measure K, the taxpayers of San Joaquin County have contributed over $50 million in funding for this nationally acclaimed commuter rail service.

In May 1997, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC), the Alameda Congestion Management Agency (ACCMA), and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) executed an agreement to create the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The Agreement stipulated the JPA membership and powers, specifies financial commitments of each member agency, and details other administrative procedures. Three members represent each member agency on the JPA Board of Directors.

On June 30, 2003 the ACE JPA was dissolved and a Cooperative Services Agreement was entered into between SJRRC, ACCMA and VTA. The Cooperative Services Agreement identified SJRRC as the owner/operator of the ACE Service and identified how the operations and capital projects for the ACE service would be funded by the three parties. At that time the SJRRC Board was reconfigured to and eight member board consisting of six elected officials from San Joaquin County and two elected officials from Alameda County who are voting members on issues relating to the ACE Service.

The Cooperative Services stipulates the SJRRC as the owner/operator for the ACE service, overseeing the day-to-day management, planning and support services necessary to operate the trains. SJRRC issued a contract for operations and maintenance of equipment to Herzog Transit Services, Inc. Service became operational on October 19, 1998. Service was initially two westbound morning trains and two eastbound evening trains.

On March 5th, 2001, a third roundtrip for ACE passengers was launched to provide a third commute trip in the mornings and evenings.  A fourth ACE train was initiated on August 28, 2006 in coordination with Caltrans Division of Rail and Caltrans District 10 to provide midday service between Stockton and San Jose as part of the Caltrans/Amtrak San Joaquin intercity service and as a mitigation measure for the construction of Interstate 205 in the Tracy area.

For more information on ACE, their website is at http://www.acerail.com/Home.aspx


a PDF of the above map is here.

Station by Station






Altamont Pass

Altamont Pass road is easy to get to from I-880, by taking exit 57.If you're NB on 880, take a left at the end of the ramp onto Southfront Road, and take another left when it ends at Greenville Road.   When Greenville ends at Altamont Pass Road, take a right.  SB drivers only need to take a right at the end of the exit ramp onto Altamont Pass Road.

Train crossing the bridge over the Altamont Pass Road while climbing Altamont Pass, probably taken from where the "X" is below.
Photo by
David Gubler on June 29th, 2010.... from Wikipedia.

Vasco Road

This area is on the edge of good Bing birds eye view coverage :-(





Photo by Jay Slupeskyby on March 22, 2005 using a Canon EOS 350D... from Wikipedia

Train leaving Pleasanton, photo by Nate Beal, taken 11/2/2007... from Wikipedia



The passenger/commuter trains snake thru this interlocking, shown by the colored dots... looks like an interesting place to take pictures.

Train crossing the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, between Freemont and Great America.
Photo by
David Gubler on June 29th, 2010.... from Wikipedia.


Great America (Santa Clara)


Santa Clara

San Jose


ACE Shuttle Service

These are all bus lines radiating from ACE's Great America Station.






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New 12/08/2011
last Modified: 08 Oct 2013