Community advocates have rallied at the Antioch Amtrak train station calling for officials to reverse their decision to close it. 

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, the body that oversees intercity passenger rail service, voted in March 2023 to close the train station amid concerns of vandalism, safety issues, fare evasion and unhoused individuals using the area for shelter. When the new station in Oakley opens in August 2025, the Antioch station is simultaneously set to close. 

S.L. Floyd, housing board commissioner for the city of Pittsburg, showed his support during the rally, noting that many of his city’s residents also depend on Amtrak, which connects Antioch to not only workplace destinations in the west but also locations throughout the nation.

Amtrak’s local train connects riders from Stockton to Oakland, Stockton to Sacramento, and Stockton to Bakersfield — all places out of reach of direct BART service. The company also has routes from the Bay Area to all across the nation, including one that runs from Washington state through Oregon and down to Southern California; riders can catch that train in Oakland. 

“This is a much-needed measure because we’re encouraging people to get out of their cars to take public transportation,” Floyd said. “Even though they’re building a new station in Oakley, we still need the resources and the public support here because many people cannot afford a personal automobile, so they really lean on public transportation.” 

Members of local advocacy groups Reimagine Antioch, Rising Juntos and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action say the decision to close the Antioch station was made quietly and will impact access to travel for people of color, low-income residents and those with disabilities.

ACCE Action secretary Camilla Miller raised the point that Black people have historically been denied public resources and services. 

“We have to organize, come together, make noise to make sure that we get and receive things even similar to neighbors,” she said.  

Also in attendance at the Wednesday rally was Antioch Vice Mayor Monica Wilson, who said the decision to shutter the station came as a surprise to her. Wilson expressed the desire to see an Antioch or Pittsburg representative on the SJJPA, which currently only has representatives from the east Bay Area and Central Valley.

“It’s just unfortunate how the process happened,” Wilson said. “And fare evasion, I can’t say that’s unique to Antioch.”

Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker, also present for the event, expressed skepticism that the decision was made without local dialogue, but said that things could have been handled better.  

“I think someone needs to own up to this. I think somewhere the ball was dropped. And I have hope that the advocacy of the community could re-establish this station, but the train left the station years ago with the lack of advocacy from leadership here,” she said, highlighting leaders at the county and state level. “Somebody in a leadership role should have stepped up for Antioch and for our train station, and now the community is stepping up, and it might be too late.” 

I think someone needs to own up to this. ... Somebody in a leadership role should have stepped up for Antioch and for our train station, and now the community is stepping up, and it might be too late.

Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker

David Lipari of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which works in collaboration with SJJPA, said discussions regarding the challenges in Antioch began in 2017. And while the train company does have an Amtrak Police Department, he noted it does not have the jurisdiction to handle encampments of people experiencing homelessness on city property. 

With the Oakley station set to begin construction in October, the likelihood of reversing the decision appears low.

“The current service plan, railroad agreement and infrastructure available does not allow for both stations to remain open,” Lipari said.

However, he hinted at a future possibility.

“In SJJPA’s longer-term service plans for the San Joaquins, it continues to plan for the reintroduction of the Antioch Station with anticipation of a solution being found to operate both stations,” Lipari said. “SJJPA will continue to partner with other transportation providers like BART, Tri-Delta Transit, and County Connection to help plan for connections to/from the new and existing stations.” 

A ‘segregation’

Despite the reasons cited for decommissioning the station, community protestors likened the closure in the diverse city of Antioch to a form of thinly veiled segregation.

“There’s always been segregation,” said Eddie Gums, ACCE Antioch Co-chair. “They’ve used freeways. They’ve used trains and train tracks to separate us. This is a new day and age, and we want our train to unite us.” 

Antioch Poet Laureate and community organizer, Jose Cordon, speaks during a rally at the Antioch-Pittsburg Amtrak station on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 opposing the closure of the Antioch, Calif., train stop. (Aly Brown/Pagransen)

Antioch poet laureate Jose Cordon recited one of his poems at the rally, highlighting the historic and present racial issues facing the city.

“Welcome to Antioch, home of coordinated attacks by those in blue on brown and black. Now there’s ample proof that they collude or hurt and hold us back,” he said. “Now this, they want to drop the Pittsburg-Antioch Amtrak stop. Well, know this, we won’t stop, until our voices go and our bodies drop. We’ll show up, and we’ll show out. Welcome to Antioch.”