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Valley commuters to see Amtrak changes

July 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The newly formed San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority appointed a group to manage operations as local leaders take over control of the commuter trains through Central California.

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, made up of different representatives from all over San Joaquin Valley counties says it can better manage some trains at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

The Amtrak trains riding along the San Joaquin route from Bakersfield to Sacramento and Oakland rank as the 5th busiest in the U.S.

"They just don't have enough trains and when they do they're packed," Said Phyllis Thompson and Amtrak passenger.

Thompson rides the rails a lot between Fresno and her home in Southern California.

"I think if they would give more options, time wise, people would use them a lot more for work, too," Thompson said.

More options are what the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority wants to bring to Valley riders. Control over passenger trains will soon hop the track from Caltrans offices in Sacramento, into the hands of Valley and Bay Area city and county leaders.

"One of the goals we're attaching to it and why the authority is going to have focused on the Valley is to expand service. We're looking at where it's going to make sense to first start connecting to other systems," said Henry Perea San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority Vice Chair.

Part of that connectivity will likely be to San Jose. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority appointed the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to manage operations for local tracks.

The new managing group is a division of Altamont commuter express, or Ace. That system runs from San Jose to Stockton, and will probably connect to the Valley system in the future.

Amtrak will remain the primary train operator throughout the Valley.

"I think what the customer will notice eventually down the road is an improvement in customer service and a service that's more relevant to the traveling public," Said Ray Lang with Amtrak.

In addition to offering more train service, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority is also looking at connecting the Amtrak trains with the high speed rail, once it is built.

The Joint Powers Authority new managing operator will come up with a business model to help in its expansion as it takes over the rail from Caltrans.


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