If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last few weeks reading a LOT of news about COVID-19 (coronavirus). All the bad news has taken away most of my motivation to write blog articles, and not just because “regular” news is on pause, but because it’s been pretty exhausting. I also figured that because the news has been changing so quickly, there was little reason for me to write. This isn’t like a new trail, where posting two weeks late is still timely. By the time I get around to posting any news, it has likely changed.
That being said, I’m thinking there may be some value in having a static record looking backwards. Because of the volume of news, six months from now, it will be pretty difficult to do a Google search to find exactly what the transportation impacts were. So the goal of this post (and a probable follow up), is to have one place summarizing what the impacts of the virus were on Fresno-area transportation. Here is what the impacts looked like as of March 29, 2020.
Fresno Area Express (FAX)
- Regular schedule maintained
- Starting March 17th:
- Limit of 10 passengers per bus (exceptions possible on hourly route)
- Onboard hand sanitizer dispensers
- Handy Ride service ends at 9pm, unless request is made in advance
As an aside, I want to say that FAX is doing a great job in running regular service. Some agencies, like WMATA, repeatedly cut, and cut, and cut their system, citing “lowered ridership.” Problem is, the people still riding clearly have no other choice, and they’re needed in hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential areas. Abandoning them in the time of need is shameful.
Of course some cuts will eventually be necessary. New York’s MTA kept running full service until last week, when they had to start making minor cuts due to a lack of staff. Workers were calling out to take care of family, to self-quarantine, or because they were infected. In this case, the agency had no other choice.
- Starting March 23, holiday schedule
Fresno County Rural Transit Agency
- No changes that I could find
V-Line (Visalia to Fresno)
- Full service
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
- Starting March 25, limited service between Merced and El Portal (Yosemite is closed).
VTA (San Jose)
- As of March 30, all light rail routes suspended
- Except for one bus line, no service after 9pm
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
- Starting March 23, Monday-Friday service from 5am-9pm (instead of 5am-midnight).
- Starting March 28, Saturday and Sunday service from 8am-9pm (instead of 6am-midnight).
Sacramento Regional Transit
- Starting March 23, Sunday schedule on all routes, plus some regular express routes
Amtrak San Joaquin
- Starting March 26, 3 daily trains to Sacramento suspended and replaced by bus connections
- Cafe car closed
- Indoor waiting areas at Hanford (HNF), Fresno (FNO), Merced (MCD), and Modesto (MOD) closed
- Many modifications to thruway bus service
This leaves 4 daily trains in the Central Valley. Departing Bakersfield at 4:12am, 8:12am, 12:12pm, and 4:12pm. Departing Oakland at 7:36am, 9:36am, 1:36pm, and 5:36pm
Amtrak Capitol Corridor
- Starting March 21, a reduction from 15 daily trains between Sacramento to Oakland to just 5. From Oakland to San Jose, a reduction from 7 to just 1 daily train. No service beyond Sacramento.
- Cafe car closed
- Many bus connection modifications, including the elimination of bus service to Monterey
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
- Starting March 19, only 6 trains a day between Los Angeles and San Diego – down from 14 daily.
- Service north of Goleta suspended
Altamont Corridor Express (ACE)
- Starting March 23, weekday service reduced from 4 to 3 round trips
- Saturday service suspended
- Starting March 30, 42 trains per day, rather than the usual 92
- Normal weekend service
Greyhound schedules have never been transparent. Their website pushes you to book a direct trip, and the timetables are hidden and horribly designed. That makes it hard to see what the changes are.
San Francisco/Oakland to Fresno is down to 2 a day, which is certainly less than it used to be, but I couldn’t tell you if that changed due to the virus or if it’s been that way for months, since the schedule is impossible to read.
Los Angeles to Fresno is down from 10 a day to 5.
Fresno-Vegas bus is gone, and that at least existed in January (you can now get there via LA).
One of the two daily buses to Seattle is still going, in case you want to spend 12 hours on Greyhound and pay $105 for the pleasure.
Domestic airlines have been…weird. While they all made major (90%+) cuts to their international services with very little notice (as little as 36 hours for American Airlines), they have maintained the illusion of full domestic service.
I say illusion, because instead of officially adjusting the schedule, they instead have been waiting for day of departure to cancel flights.
And yet even with these cuts, US airlines have been filling the skies with many unneeded planes, even while most flights are going out with less than 15% of passengers on board. As you can see below, the rest of the world has quieter skies.
This odd situation has led to incredibly cheap flights. You can get from Fresno to the most of east coast for $90 on all the major airlines ($50 on Frontier with an 18 hour layover in Denver). LAX to NYC for $21 on Spirit, and Los Angeles to Florida for just $13 on Jetblue. (Hospital bill is extra).
That looks to be changing in April, with Alaska first to detail what a 70% cut in domestic capacity looks like, with specific changes loaded into the travel systems. There are many theories as to why the airlines waited so long (bailout related? union rules?), and I don’t know what is correct. However, from what I understand, if an airline is to receive government aid, they cannot exit a market. I am not clear if that means they must maintain all their routes, or just one.
Most of these changes officially start in April, although as I noted above, the airlines have been unofficially canceling departures. Also note that all the airlines have modified their in-flight service, to mostly just water and maybe a pre-packaged snack, but not much else. Of course, more cuts are likely to come in the future.
- Guadalajara down to 2 or 3 weekly. This flight is sometimes daily, sometimes 9 times a week, sometimes 4 times a week…hard to track
- San Diego, from 3 daily to 1 daily
- Seattle, from 3 daily to 2 daily
- Portland, from 2 daily to 1 daily
- No scheduled change (but see above, they are cancelling some flights to Vegas)
- Dallas from 2/3 daily to 1 daily
- Los Angeles, from 4 daily to 6 weekly (was 5 daily last year). Apparently AA is looking to move all regional flights out of Phoenix instead of LAX
- Phoenix, from 4 to 3 daily (was 5 daily last year)
- Salt Lake City from 3 daily to 2 daily
- Denver is 4 times a week (for $15), which I believe is the same as what they’ve been doing anyway
- Daily flight to Chicago eliminated
- Denver to 3 daily
- Los Angeles to 2 daily
- San Francisco from 3 daily to 2 daily (was 4 last year)
- No change
So only Chicago has been cut as a destination, for now.