FAX considering changes to several bus routes

For the first time in forever, Fresno Area Express (FAX) is seriously considering some pretty major changes to bus routes. This could include the much-needed Herndon route, and a bus line to the new Amazon and Ulta warehouses built in southwest Fresno. However, the new service comes at the expense of existing lines. In this post, I take a look at how FAX is getting the word out, and what those changes are.

Public Outreach

FAX has started holding public events and workshops on the proposed changed. This looks to be an extensive outreach effort, with the following pop-up events at bus stops throughout the system:

  • Monday, February 10; starting at 10 a.m. – Blackstone and El Paso
  • Monday, February 10; starting at 1 p.m. – El Paseo Shopping Center
  • Tuesday, February 11; starting at 1 p.m. – Shaw and Brawley
  • Wednesday, February 12; starting at 8 a.m. – Blackstone and Shaw
  • Wednesday, February 12; starting at 11 a.m. – Manchester Transit Center
  • Thursday, February 13; starting at 1:30 p.m. – Fresno City College – Weldon BRT Station
  • Wednesday, February 19; starting at 8 a.m. – Cedar and Shaw
  • Thursday, February 20; starting at 9 a.m. – Courthouse Park, A and B Shelters
  • Thursday, February 20; starting at 10:30 a.m. – Courthouse Park, L Shelter and Van Ness BRT Stations
  • Monday, February 24; starting at 2 p.m. – Fresno Yosemite International Airport
  • Thursday, February 27; starting at 11:30 a.m. – Fresno and Pottle
  • Tuesday, March 3; starting at 10 a.m. – Kings Canyon and Cedar
  • Wednesday, March 4; starting at 2:30 p.m. – Kings Canyon and Chestnut
  • Thursday, March 5; starting at 1:30 p.m. – Kings Canyon and Clovis

And the following workshops:

Workshop #1: Fresno State University – Vintage Room
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 12 noon – 1 p.m.

Workshop #2: Central Learning Adult School
Saturday, February 29, 2020, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Workshop #3: Maxie L. Parks Community Center
Monday, March 2, 2020

In addition, there is an online survey open until March 6. You can also send emails to FaxOutreach@fresno.gov .

I am particularly impressed to see them do the pop-up events at the bus stops, which is a much more effective outreach strategy than a midday workshop that no one has the time to get to. Of course, even a midday workshop is better than waiting until the day of to tell people about changes. That being said, all these events are still within the standard 8am-4:30pm government workday on weekdays, so they aren’t reaching off-peak riders.

History of Changes

This isn’t the first time FAX has talked about changes. You might remember back in 2016, when FAX started talking about the trade-off between frequency and coverage (see their PDF here). That process built on some surveying done in 2014. Before that, FAX was looking at changes in 2012, which mostly rolled out when Q launched.

That being said, very little has changed in terms of the overall network. Night service was launched, as was improved frequency on three routes. But coverage? Not since 1999 when Children’s Hospital opened and got a short route. This post summarizes many of those older changes.

For reference, here’s FAX in 1977, which is 97% of what the network looks like today:

The proposed changes

Northern end of Route 28: Currently, 28 passes the Manchester Transit Center going north, (LOL), turns right onto Dakota, then left on 1st, then right to reach Shaw to Willow. It terminates at Fresno State. The proposal is to simply remain on Dakota until Peach. Service would remain every 20 minutes. As seen below in green, this would add an east-west route where none currently exist.

This would not result in a loss in coverage, as routes 34 and 9 currently serve 1st and Shaw. This would result in new service on Dakota, which has not had bus service before. However, customers used to a one-seat ride may have to transfer. This might have a potential impact to many Fresno State students. I want to add a better map but the FAX website won’t give me one. This change is proposed for August 2020.

Most of Route 45. Route 45 is sort of dumb. Just look at this bad boy. It tries so offer some Herndon coverage, some north-south coverage, and also some east-west coverage, but not in a way that a single rider would ever want to actually ride.

Most of it would be cut. Instead, 45 would just run east-west along Ashlan all the way to Polk. This would be a big increase for Ashlan, which does not have any bus service, but a loss for Fruit, which has no substitute line. Ashlan should absolutely have a bus line, and the fact that it doesn’t is a product of the system being designed in the 70’s when Shaw was the end of Fresno. Does Fruit need a bus line? Well, it’s like 95% low-density residential, so it only has one-way trip demand. That being said, maybe it’s time to bring back the road diet?

This is what the new route would be. Note that service would still be every 60 minutes. The route looks shorter, so it means one of the buses is going to another route. The southern parts of the route have other bus lines, but the Tower will lose frequency and a direct connection. Keep reading for Herndon… This change is proposed for August 2020.

New route 3! There used to be this fantastic document online that cataloged every FAX change since the system had horse-drawn trolleys. I can’t find it online right now (anyone have a link?). Presumably, there was a route 3 somewhere downtown. Well, now FAX wants to bring back Route 3 but on Herndon.

As you can see above, Route 45 currently runs along parts of Herndon, but that will go away. Enter Route 3! It would run from El Paseo shopping center to Willow and Herndon at 40 minute frequencies. Here it is in green, filling an important service gap:

Of course it SHOULD keep going into Clovis at least to the Walmart Center at Herndon and Clovis. Add that to your feedback folks! This change is proposed for August 2020.

Route 20 would migrate north (just like Fresno!). Currently, Route 20 starts downtown, runs up Blackstone to McKinley, and then cuts west to Hughes. It eventually ends up at Shaw and Brawley. It’s clearly a route designed to bring people from Fresno’s “northern” suburbs to the jobs downtown. It runs every 30 minutes.

The new Route 20 would not go downtown at all. Instead, it would stay on McKinley and run all the way to the airport. This would provide new service to FAT, along with existing routes 39 and 26. Folks going downtown would have to transfer, likely at Blackstone.

Service would also increase to the north. From Shaw and Marks it would run up Marks to Bullard, and then around Fig Garden Loop. This would be new service for an area with decent residential density. HOWEVER, the bus would run every 40 minutes instead of every 30. This change is proposed for January 2021.

New fig garden loop:

Gap filled along McKinley (recall that Dakota would also have new service above the airport)

Merge routes 12 and 35. Route 12 is a bit of an odd one. It’s all alone up here:

The plan here is just to eliminate the little loops the 12 and 35 do at the ends of their runs and combine them as one single through-running route. They didn’t say if they’ll call it the 12, the 35, or something new.

Each route runs every 30 minutes and that wouldn’t change. Seems like a no-brainer. No one loses service, and people have a new way to go further without a transfer. This change is proposed for January 2021.

New Route 29. You know those giant warehouses the city of Fresno has been funding via massive tax subsidies? Well, they’re all in the middle of nowhere. And while the city said there would be bus service when they opened….that never happened. Under this plan, route 32 would end downtown, and the new route 29 would take over southwest duties with an extension to the warehouses. This change is proposed for Spring/Summer 2021.

“Pending grant funds, convert southern portion of existing Route 32 to new Route 29 from Courthouse Park to Amazon and Ulta”

I don’t know guys, maybe you wouldn’t need grant funds if you collected the taxes up front?

Overall changes

Best as I can tell, this is what the changes are. Green is new service, red is removed service.

I’ve probably made mistakes. If it helps, this is what FAX is providing, which I found a tad confusing. The PDF is here. They also use green for new, red for removed, but routes affected also keep their original colors.

Remember, all these changes essentially cost FAX zero. They’re not adding service – they’re just moving service around. The exception is Route 29 with the proposed grant funding.

Overall, I think these are good. Merging 12 and 35 seems like common sense. Herndon has been crying for service for years. The missing east-west routes stuck out like a sore thumb. A new bus to the airport makes sense.

The one thing I’m iffy about is where they’re taking Route 28. The current terminus, Fresno State, is an obvious ridership generator. The new terminus, looks like this:

Are there plans to redevelop that abandoned golf course? If so, it makes sense. If not, this doesn’t. Additionally, students who live in Southwest Fresno would lose a direct trip to Fresno State and might even have to transfer twice.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, Route 3 should go to Clovis Ave. “But that’s Clovis!”. Well, Clovis already pays for service on Shaw, they should throw in some cash for Herndon. Did anybody call them? I’d also like to note that the survey mentions Clovis Community College, but no bus service is proposed there.

Anyone else have thoughts on stuff I surely missed?

10 Replies to “FAX considering changes to several bus routes”

  1. Something I really don’t pay attention to because I never take the bus. You should do a sequence on the new breweries and eateries opening up in DTF or Brewery District.

  2. Side-note on the 28 route, you forgot to mention that the 28’s new terminus is by the County Dept. of social service’s new campus.

    Also, Central High School is going to have bus service for possibly the first time ever. That’s a win for Central Unified Students, especially if FAX decides to cover them with free passes eventually.

    I’m ok with all of the changes they implement. In the meantime, I hope that if we get a new Democrat in the white house, we’ll at some point get a long term funding boost to increase coverage, frequency, and to add another or upgrade a BRT route.

    On top of that, Fresno west of 99 still needs more service and Fruit Ave not having any will be hard for some people.

    1. I completely forgot about the county offices moving there. That makes a bit more sense.

      Yes west of 99 is still abandoned.

  3. Clovis route 10 currently operates between the Walmart center at Clovis/Herndon and the Target center at Willow/Herndon. So a transfer is at least possible.

    But I think there needs to be a direct way to go from Willow/Herndon to Clovis Community Hospital, either continuing a single route on Herndon covering both Fresno and Clovis or a single transfer between systems.

    With Fresno’s new route 3, a passenger would need to transfer to Clovis route 10 at Willow/Herndon and ride to Old Town Clovis then transfer to Clovis route 50 to the hospital. Even extending the new Fresno Herndon route to the Walmart Center would still require 2 connections to the hospital.

    1. I don’t really count the Clovis buses since theyre so infrequent and have horrible routes. Less than useless.

      Youre right that Clovis Community Hospital makes a natural endpoint.

  4. “The one thing I’m iffy about is where they’re taking Route 28. The current terminus, Fresno State, is an obvious ridership generator.”

    Exactly. I’m biased because the 28 at Shaw and Cedar is my primary bus and this would be a significant inconvenience for me personally, but it also just seems like a bad idea to take away a popular service to a major university in such a dense area of the city. The 28 buses on Shaw between First and Willow are always pretty full, which is understandable since the area is mostly made up of large apartment complexes. If I’m not mistaken I think El Dorado Park also has one of the lower rates of car ownership in the city. And it’s not just Fresno State; I always see a lot of FCC students using this bus too. I feel especially bad for them that not only will they lose their free bus program but they’re going to lose their bus as well. The Northbound 28 on weekdays between 3-5pm from Fresno City to the student housing around Fresno State is always packed.

    If anything, I thought the 28 might be upgraded to a FAX15 route since it has high ridership and already runs every 20 minutes. A one-seat connection between the Fresno State community to Tower, Downtown, and Manchester seems like a big selling point in convincing more young people to ride the bus. Technically you can still get from Fresno State to Downtown without transferring so long as you’re willing to wait 30 minutes for the 38 and then go all the way down to Calwa and then over to Walnut and Jensen before getting there—but the direct route through the middle of the city is a lot faster.

    I sent a message to FAX’s dedicated “outreach” email address expressing all these same thoughts, but naturally I didn’t get any type of response so who knows if my email was received or if the address is even operational. Apparently they’re going to make me track down one of their pop-up tents or sit through a workshop about their app in order to give feedback that would be much easier just to email. I really hope they make it clear to 28 riders that they’re about to lose this stretch of the route, because I think they’d receive a lot more pushback if more people knew about it. This change is likely to add 45-60 minutes to peoples’ commutes and it’s not realistic to expect them to learn about it only by deciphering a poorly-designed PDF buried on their website. I took their online survey and it doesn’t mention anything about this or ask if we would be affected by it. There should be signs at every stop along the proposed deleted sections announcing, “This bus is about to go away. Submit your feedback here:”

    1. Very good point that outreach should include signage at the bus stops, and not just random events.

      If youre a student, make sure to try and get the word out to your fellow classmates.

    2. I’d try meeting someone in person first. Like you said there are pop-up events still happening. When I went to the one at Blackstone and Weldon last week I met Carolina, the planning manager at FAX. She had the same map on hand and was willing to go through the routes changes individually as well as the rationale behind each change. And that was before I mentioned to her that I just changed my major to City and Regional Planning.

      My point is, you’re going to get a more nuanced response in person than from an email, as inconvenient it can be to track down one of their pop-ups. I hope if you do , it’s as good of an interaction that I had. I talked with Carolina for about 20 minutes about BRT, growth, sprawl, and density along Blackstone.

      Theses are the remaining pop-up tents that are happening:

      Wednesday, February 19; starting at 8 a.m. – Cedar and Shaw
      Thursday, February 20; starting at 9 a.m. – Courthouse Park, A and B Shelters
      Thursday, February 20; starting at 10:30 a.m. – Courthouse Park, L Shelter and Van Ness BRT Stations
      Monday, February 24; starting at 2 p.m. – Fresno Yosemite International Airport
      Thursday, February 27; starting at 11:30 a.m. – Fresno and Pottle
      Tuesday, March 3; starting at 10 a.m. – Kings Canyon and Cedar
      Wednesday, March 4; starting at 2:30 p.m. – Kings Canyon and Chestnut
      Thursday, March 5; starting at 1:30 p.m. – Kings Canyon and Clovis

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