Month: April 2013

Fresno to get a couple new bike lanes

Two bike lane projects are going forward this year in Fresno, one of which is a road diet.

The first is the “Shields Ave Bike Lane Improvement” Project which

will infill gaps in existing bike lane paths along Shields Avenue between West Ave. and Chestnut Ave. The Shields Avenue Bike Lane Improvements project will also install parking bays to accommodate on-street parking, therefore providing for a safer bicycle route along a major east/west corridor along Shields Avenue.

 Shields currently has some bike lanes, but the project will apparently make them continuous. It was scheduled for this spring, but due to a problem with a contractor, it’s been delayed a few months. In all, its a 4.5 mile project. Click to read more!

Next GV Urban project revealed

Earlier this year, GV Urban proposed their newest residential project downtown, around the site of the former Met museum. This week they go before the planning commission with their next project, this time on Broadway.

The company has focused almost exclusively on Fulton, so it’s nice to see them branch out a block over to Broadway, which has been neglected. For those not familiar with the area, Fulton is the main street, and has Broadway on one side and Van Ness on the other as other major streets in the area. Today, Broadway is mostly auto-focused businesses, and most of them are closed. Click to read more!

Renovating a historic downtown building

The Bee ran an article the other day about some great renovation work going on in a 90 year old building on the Fulton Mall. With a 72% office lease rate, which is actually good for Fresno, this story proves that businesses aren’t scared to locate downtown – as long as the building isn’t falling apart.I believe the ground floor retail is fully occupied.

Over the last two decades, a Fresno financial adviser and his
family have poured nearly $3 million into repairing and renovating the
historic T.W. Patterson Building on the Fulton Mall hoping to attract
more businesses to the city’s central core. Click to read more!

Chipping away at the Clovis trail system – again.

A few years ago, Clovis developed master plans for future residential areas of the city, namely the Harlan Ranch and Loma Vista areas. Both of these master plans required that all new development include a new trail system, and provide the necessary connections so that cyclists and pedestrians can use the trails for recreation and commuting.  Most developers comply with the requirements and build the trails. They realize that it’s an important asset that will increase the value of their property and make their new homes easier to sell. Residents who move in expect that the planned trails will materialize. Some developers, however, disagree. They care only about the shortest of terms, and request that the trail requirement be removed so that they can fit in one extra lot, or a larger backyard somewhere. Sadly, the city is usually quick to agree to these changes, even when the developer wants to block existing trail connections with a masonry wall..  This month, another developer is at it again, and is requesting that their new subdivision not include any trail at all. Like usual, the city is ok with it, even though once these homes are built, the missing trail will be all but impossible to build in the future.This type of policy not only hurts future residents, but current residents who bought their homes with expectations that the master plan will be followed.  Map showing the proposed trail link being eliminated, in the red bubble

 photo paseo1_zps39aa9086.jpg

Image showing the existing trail was planned to continue straight….now it will just end. Existing homes to the north will lose a planned amenity.  photo paseo2_zps0b8761b0.jpg That’s not all – in the master plan, this property was zoned for high density residential (15.1-25 units per acre) and the developer asked for the city to change the zoning to medium density (4.1-7 units per acre). Of course, they got that change. So the developer wants to build suburban housing instead of apartments, AND they want to eliminate the path requirement?  The item being discussed (PDF) goes before the planning commission on April 25th, which is open to the public if you want to speak against the change. Incidentally, if you look at the previous image, notice something….even though everything you see here, the roads, houses, sidewalks etc were all built within the past 8 years, it was done wrong. The crosswalks don’t connect. Three curb ramps point diagonally and one only points in one direction. In all cases, pedestrians and cyclists must leave the crosswalk and enter the center of the intersection to cross the road.

 photo paseo3_zpsc3448d05.jpg

Federal budget includes more money for Fresno BRT

Part of the recent release of the 2014 federal budget included a list of what the FTA will fund as part of their “small starts” program. That budget includes another piece of the Fresno BRT (bus rapid transit) funding puzzle – another $10 million. The Fresno Bee last reported on the initial $17.8m grant over two years ago. No money was handed out in the 2013 budget.

BRT in Fresno is supposed to improve bus service along Blackstone and Kings Canyon, via downtown (and eventually the high speed rail station). Those are currently the corridors with highest bus ridership. Click to read more!

Walmart and McDonalds – the Clovis way of life?

Clovis is Fresno’s smaller, richer and more suburban neighbor. It plays a role common in metropolitan areas around the country – the Pasadena to Los Angeles, or the Cambridge to Boston for example. The cities share a common border but the demographics and income levels don’t quite match up.

To differentiate itself, Clovis positions itself as the more traditional and rural alternative to “big city Fresno.”  Downtown Clovis is called “Old Town”, and two decades ago the entire district was re-themed in an old-west motif that works quite well on the single or two-story century-old buildings. Along with the annual rodeo, the farmer’s markets and other activities, Clovis tries to preserve what they tout is their “way of life”. The recent centennial for example was branded as “Celebrating the Clovis Way of Life for 100 Years.” Click to read more!

Off-ramp “improvements”, terrible for pedestrians

If you thought all the CA-41 on-ramp widening projects were finally finished, there’s more work planned for this year. This time, it’s an off-ramp that’s getting widened.

This project will widen the off ramp of northbound SR41 at the intersection of Shaw Avenue from three lanes to four to provide dual left and right turns. Existing equipment affected by this project will be updated and this project will also upgrade the existing curb ramps to meet ADA standards. The project will improve traffic flow and relieve congestion at the off-ramp intersection with Shaw Avenue.
Council Documents (PDF) Click to read more!

EV buses, not cars, will be the real urban revolution

For the past two, maybe three decades, the arrival and widespread adoption of the electric vehicle (EV) has been seen as some kind holy grail for transportation, cities, and well, the world. The benefits are obvious; the replacement of gasoline with electricity would mean a massive decrease in pollution, from global-warming causing carbon dioxide to those pesky particulates which make their way into lungs.

Sadly, the development and adoption has been excruciatingly slow. The EV-lite, also known as the hybrid, hit the roads well over a decade ago (the Prius is turning 15!). The two major mainstream EV’s, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, have been rolling around for over two years with anemic sales. And that’s without even mentioning the false starts, like the electric Toyota of a decade ago. Even though the technology exists, is somewhat affordable, and is no longer new, the sales aren’t there. Today, in the US, hybrids and EVs combined together make up a tiny 3% of monthly sales. The most optimistic projections? 8% of new cars sold by 2020 (LAtimes) Click to read more!

In Fresno, is lack of spending on transit keeping unemployment high?

Over at The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark recently wrote an excellent article looking at per capital funding across the nation for transit. A large focus of his report was the inequality present in funding, and how low income areas, the ones which most need better transit, are the ones with the lowest amount of support for their systems. He draws the conclusion that the shift to local funding, instead of federal, can lead to big problems.

Naturally, Fresno is a prime example of an area that desperately needs more transit, but doesn’t allocate sufficient funding for it. Later on in this post, I will use his charts to show that Fresno predictably ranks near last in the 65 cities he looked at. Click to read more!