Yesterday’s City Council meeting included a presentation from the “City of Fresno Transit Rates and Service Committee” which issued a report outlining short, medium and long term goals for FAX (Fresno Area Express). The committee was formed in 2010 during steep city budget shortfalls, and recommended a fare hike of 25 cents, which was put into effect January 2011, resulting in fares of $1.25. That would be to correct the “problem” that was the political decision of keeping mass transit affordable, and on par with peer systems.
In another example of the city of Fresno not realizing the importance of a functional bus network, the council today made a move that looks to push FAX closer to a strike….a strike that will jeopardize thousands of jobs as people have to miss work and may get fired.
The city fails to understand that buses connect people with jobs, and so fails to fund a network for the city of 2012. FAX hasn’t grown since 2000, and has actually cut routes since then. Bus service ends at 9:30pm, making commutes to evening jobs impossible. And now, the city doesn’t want to pay the drivers.
Recently I noted how LA expanded the hours of their subway system to run past 2am on weekends. The city of LA already ran 24 hour bus service. I think it’s fair to say that LA is reasonably meeting the needs of its community.
Meanwhile in Clovis…..
Staff requested that the Route 9 proposal by FAX for FY 2012-201 3 contract be for the same service hours as FY 2011-2012, which includes weekend service from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and weekday service from 6:15 a.m. to 8:25 p.m.
Staff has analyzed the recommendation for the regional fixed-route transit services operated by FAX for FY 12-1 3 and have concluded that maintaining the same hours for service as FY 11-12 would reasonably meet the needs of the community.
Once again, a Fresno Area Express (FAX) ad in the Fresno Bee newspaper caught my eye. The ad was absurd, almost comical really. It was an ad about the transit agency putting up new signs at bus stops.
I found many things about the ad to be absurd. Simply the idea of spending money to tell Bee readers that bus stops will have new signs is odd. I’m all for giving the Bee advertising revenue, but this doesn’t exactly seem like a good use of transit money. Also, if you’re going to be spending money on something like this, I’d hope that the signs would be amazing. On the contrary, the new signs appear to be quite poor, and the three bullet points explaining the virtues of the new signs are pretty bad. Super bad. Finally, the last time FAX ran an ad in the Bee, it was for service changes that never happened.
The New York Times reported yesterday that transit ridership in the US has increased drastically in the past year.
Americans took 200 million more rides last year on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses than they did the year before, according to a new report by a leading transit association.
Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transportation in 2011 — a billion more than they took in 2000, and the second most since 1957, according to a report being released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association.
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.
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.
GPS tracking on buses hit the scene a few years ago in America in major cities like San Francisco and DC, courtesy of a company called Nextbus. The technology had already been wildly deployed in Europe for many years.
Now Visalia has joined the party, but Fresno, with the largest bus agency in the central valley, hasn’t given its customers the tools they need to have a better bus experience.
So why is GPS tracking important for riders? In cities like Fresno, where buses are infrequent at best (the two most popular bus lines have the best service at a bus every 20 minutes), missing a bus can lead to a very long wait. Some buses come just once an hour, and missing the bus can mean losing a job. This means passengers must arrive extra early and waste their time with no idea of where the bus is, when it is coming, and if the journey will be completed on time.
FAX = Fresno Area Express
So a few days ago I said I would be talking about the not-so-great bus system in Fresno. Apparently, whenever I say “tomorrow” I get delayed, so I will no longer be saying that.
Anyway, let’s begin by looking at the way a new rider might approach riding the system: Online.
What are the routes? How do I get to work? What is the fare? How does one pay? Can I get home?
The rider expects to find all these answers quickly online.
So the first interesting note (and, well, fail), is that FAX does not have its own website. It’s a department in the city website, alongside trash collection, parks and council meetings.