Month: February 2012

Amtrak California ends 2011 with continued high ridership

It may almost be March, but Amtrak has just released their December report, meaning we can take a look at Amtrak California ridership for the end of the year. When I last wrote about Amtrak ridership the August and September reports had just been released. My lack of posting hasn’t been because ridership has been poor. Quite the contrary, ridership continues to exceed previous highs, and the year ended quite well.

For the October-December period, ridership is up over 2010 on two of the lines.
Year on year ridership changes
San Joaquin : +8.6%
Capitol Corridor : +6.9%
Pacific Surfliner : -6.1% Click to read more!

Supermarket Blight

Many urban areas have to deal with a problem of not enough supermarkets, especially in poorer areas. I’ve heard, but don’t know if it’s true, that Detroit doesn’t have a single national supermarket retailer. In Boston, the North End (not poor by any measure) has been searching for a major supermarket for years. In DC, large portions of the center have no access to large grocers. This phenomenon is called a “food desert” and a lot of time is put into trying to lure retailers into under-served areas. Click to read more!

Photos from Downtown Open House

I said I would attend the “downtown open house” event, and so I did. I didn’t have enough time to hit all 5 locations, but I did visit what I thought would be the two coolest. Sorry Granville, but while I like your work, old tops new when it comes to things like this.

And so, here are my pictures.

The Bee also has a small write-up of the event, and ABC 30 has its own report.

We start with the building that is frequently used to highlight Fresno. The Pacific Southwest Building is sort of the tallest in the land (depends if you count the antenna, which I do). It’s quite prominent, and it looks good to boot. Built in 1923, it has defined Fresno for almost 90 years. Click to read more!

Downtown Fresno Open House

There’s an interesting, unique event happening downtown this weekend, a downtown-wide open house.

How does it work? Well, it’s really something that could only work in Fresno. Basically, 5 new residential developments downtown (aka, the majority) will open their doors for viewings. That’s not something that could ever happen in Miami, Boston or LA, but because Fresno has so little housing downtown, something like this can be coordinated.

I’m excited. The open house includes a mixture of places, such as brand new development (Fulton Village), industrial/commercial that has been rehabbed into lofts, and even one of the cities tallest buildings, being converted into residential. That last project, has been ongoing for years, and it’s exciting to finally see something come of it. Click to read more!

The market approach to the Union Pacific problem

Union Pacific is the largest railroad in the US, and they are also strongly against passenger rail. Concerning Amtrak, UP has been a pain in the ass when it comes to requests to allow for more service. For example, when Amtrak sought to increase service on the Sunset Limited (New Orleans to LA) from 3 times a week to daily, UP demanded $750 million in ransom money. This ludicrous amount was simply their way of telling Amtrak to bugger off. The reason behind the astronomical amount is less to do with logical business planning and probably more of political/ideological grandstanding. Click to read more!

Corporate feedback experiment about bike racks

The other day, I was running some errands on my bike. On the way home, I realized my fridge was quite lacking in food, and as I had just passed a Taco Bell, I decided to turn back and have a snack, a drink, and a use of their facilities.

I biked into their parking lot, and then all the way around their store, but not a single bike rack was in sight. This doesn’t make sense. Like all Taco Bell’s, the store isn’t that old (really, is there such thing as an old Taco Bell? They all look brand new). The store is in a residential area, not isolated off a highway offramp somewhere. So I think it’s reasonable to expect that there is a good amount of people living close enough that biking is an option. Click to read more!

Parking in the rear can be a failed policy

When talking about what is wrong with suburban planning, many (including myself) will tell you about how damaging the enormous (and enormously underused) parking lots that front strip malls can be. Many urbanists will tell you that a great way to fix ugly sprawl is to mandate that parking being forced to the rear of new and redeveloped retail. That way, customers get their ample free parking, but it’s not as detrimental to the landscape, because it’s hiding out back. But what if suburban cities decide to half-ass it, and send only some parking to the rear? Apparently, that’s what’s mandated in commercial development here, and it’s a failed policy. Click to read more!

FAX service change proposals taken off website

So those posts I made about FAX (Fresno Area Express) proposing big changes to some of the main routes? I guess that was a waste of time as all maps and mentions of changes have mysteriously been taken off the website.

Why did FAX spend money on Fresno Bee newspaper ads if the proposed changes would be stricken so quickly? No idea. I’d ask the Bee, but they generally don’t write about the city’s public transit, which is odd, because they advertise how discounted copies are available on board the buses. Click to read more!

A further look at FAX route changes

Last week I talked about how FAX is proposing route changes. Still no info on a timeline, public comment etc, but here are some maps showing the rest of the existing routes and the proposed changes. While mapping out these changes, it really hit me how incompetent the FAX routes are at serving destinations and balancing the routes.

The FAX route system seems to have been designed in the 1950’s, and yet here we are, with proposals that do nothing to address some of the major failings.

In the last post, I highlighted the changes coming to routes 26 and 39, which would switch off on areas covered. I noted that these changes would probably help balance operations, but not necessarily help out riders. The changes would not include an increase or decrease in area served, time of service of frequency. Click to read more!

Confused about HSR routing through Fresno

I’m a big supporter of the planned High Speed Rail (HSR) line in California, but one thing I was thinking of recently was the curious lack of options given for the routing through Fresno. The only real question was station location, but beyond that, it seemed to be set in stone that the line would run alongside 99….and require hundreds of millions in costs associated with running the length of an urbanized area.

At first, it makes sense. When it comes to transportation corridors, 99 is pretty much the biggest one here. On top of that, it runs next to a very wide Union Pacific line. The problem is, UP is not friendly to passenger rail, and won’t allow any of their space, even the portion the is empty, to be used by anyone else. Click to read more!