For years, Tracy was the fast food stop along Interstate 205 between the Bay Area and all points east. It seemed the exit at Tracy Boulevard was busy all day on Fridays and Sundays with cars going back and forth. We were rarely the destination.

The first Bay Area commuters started moving to Tracy three decades ago and our community found itself trying to meet new demands for housing, shopping and transportation.

Altamont Commuter Express, now Altamont Corridor Express, was born from that need in 1998. It allowed people to get off of an abysmal 580 to 680 commute and get to the south bay and back home with very little fuss.

ACE trains currently make 10 stops on their way from Stockton to downtown San Jose. From Tracy, you will pay $19.50 for a single daily ticket both directions on one of the four daily round trips.

Now the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission that runs ACE wants to not only expand weekday service but offer some weekend trips to the Bay Area. At a public meeting July 30 to show off the plans, Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, told Tracy residents there will be six daily round-trip trains and an extension to Modesto by 2018. ACE is also proposing a route that takes trains through downtown Tracy. (The idea seems to be so popular, I couldn’t throw a pencil across the room without hitting a city, county or state representative.)

Elected support aside, an ACE expansion means a lot more options for Tracy residents and a potential boon for downtown. Increasing service to the south bay gives Tracy residents a lot more options for not only getting to work but taking day trips with their family.

Expanding ACE to downtown Tracy will go a long way to answering a lot of the questions that we have been asking in recent years. How can the city revitalize central city businesses? What sort of shops do Tracy residents want? How can we show off some of the new jewels of Tracy like the Downtown Plaza and Grand Theatre Center for the Arts?

Downtown Tracy isn’t a place where a lot of resident work, so we need alternatives to bring local folks down to Central Avenue, 10th Street and all roads leading to the heart of our city.

Imagine coming off your train, returning from a day in the Bay Area, and asking: What restaurant should we eat at? Which classic movie or musical act is playing at the Grand? Does that table in the window at the antique shop go with anything we have?

We can change the questions from “why” and “how” to “which” and “what” simply by adding regular daily traffic to and from downtown.

ACE expansion will make life easier for a lot of people and bring a lot more business to the shops and attractions downtown.

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