An official with the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission informed the Lodi City Council of plans to expand commuter rail service to Sacramento during Tuesday’s shirtsleeve session.
Currently, Amtrak San Joaquin service runs from Bakersfield to Sacramento, with two daily round trips up to Sacramento. One train arrives in Sacramento at 11:20 a.m. and the other arrives at 11:30 p.m.
According to Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for the rail commission, the goal is to change the schedule so that one of the trains can arrive in Sacramento by 8 a.m.
“We think that if we can get it there by 8 a.m. ... that is going to be very attractive for people who might have business in Sacramento,” Leavitt said.
The reason why the trains are arriving in Sacramento so late is because they are traveling all the way from Bakersfield. The solution proposed is to start one of the trains in Fresno so that it could arrive in Sacramento by 8 a.m.
Leavitt said a survey is being conducted to determine if people would be interested in taking an early train to Sacramento and, if so, what time would be best for them.
“We’re looking for input from the public to help us determine if this is something that they would be excited about and what time would make the most sense for them in terms of getting into Sacramento and getting home,” Leavitt said.
The goal is to be able to provide hourly service 10 to 15 years from now.
In addition to possibly starting a train in Fresno, Leavitt said ACE is also trying to add more service.
“We’re trying to add more service because two daily round trips is not enough in terms of being able to really serve the market throughout the state and particularly between the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt said the rail commission is partnering with the California High Speed Rail Authority, CalSTA, Caltrans and the Central Valley Rail Working Group to expand its services.
In addition to adding more service and an earlier train, the commission is also looking at extending the Altamont Corridor Express service to Lodi and Sacramento. ACE currently goes from Stockton to San Jose, serving those who commute to the Bay Area.
“Lodi has very minimal train service, just a couple trains stay on just one line,” Leavitt said. “ What we’re looking to do is trying to bring a lot more service, hopefully starting within the next few years,” Leavitt said.
In order to provide more service the commission would have to decide on an additional route because passenger services run on freight lines, limiting how many trains the freight operator can accommodate.
“We’re like a tenant on their line, “ Leavitt said. “They own it and so we can only run as many trains as they allow us to run. On the line we’re currently on, that’s the main line where they run most of their freight and they’re very protective of that line. They have another line to the west that they’ve asked us to take a look at.”
The San Joaquin Joint Powers Association is currently looking at two routes for getting more service to Sacramento. One option is the existing route that goes through Downtown Lodi and the other is outside of town to the west. Either route would have a station that would serve the Lodi area.