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.
Unfortunately, Fresno isn’t getting real BRT. Very few bus lanes, street-level boarding and really nothing more than you’d find on what other cities might label an express route or special route. Regardless of the lack of features, the project is expensive – almost $50 million. Some of those costs are for new articulated buses. A little more goes towards improving bus stops and shelters. But the meat of the funding will go towards….well, this is Fresno, so you know the answer. Road widening. Even though Blackstone and Kings Canyon already are very wide (6 lanes + parking + turn lanes), that apparently isn’t enough to paint a bus lane. The laughably small 20% of the project that will involve exclusive lanes revolves mostly along wider roads. Oh, and new traffic signals.
Regardless of the fact that the project isn’t really a good one, the feds are so happy to see Fresno propose any kind of transit improvement they’re ready to fund almost all of it.
This shows the previously allocated funds, the 2014 allocation, and Fresno’s peer cities for this kind of project.
While that section is for small starts, the budget also includes money for San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Sacramento. $130 million for LA alone in 2014.
Fresno is trying to get the maximum possible from the feds – 80%. The rest would come from the state.
Planning began in 2008 (PDF) and the project was originally supposed to begin construction in 2012. Now, the plan is for 2014, with service in 2015. It’s just new buses and bus stops with actual benches, but don’t be surprised to see the project delayed until 2016. That is, if it does go through. This past January, city council members were talking about pulling the plug.