Category: Transit

COVID-19 Impacts to Fresno Area Transportation as of March 29, 2020

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. Click to read more!

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: Click to read more!

It’s taken Fresno over 3 years to rebuild a bus stop

On January 9, 2017. the Manchester Transit Center closed for renovations. It has been over three years and it is still closed for remodeling.

20191228_150010

The Manchester Transit Center is one of three spots in Fresno where multiple bus lines meet, allowing seamless transfers. Or at least that was the case, as those buses were rerouted for the “temporary” construction project.

It’s not a particularly challenging project. It’s a surface level bus stop with 6 spaces for buses to stop. There are benches. There is a light canopy. There’s a trashcan or two. The FAX office is there, which sells passes, but that was never touched, and looks hilariously outdated. Click to read more!

Fresno City College Axes Free Bus Passes, Celebrates $18m Parking Garage

Last week, at the bottom of a newsletter, FAX dropped the bombshell that students at Fresno City College would no longer enjoy free rides on local bus routes.

In 2017, when the program was initiated, officials boasted that it would ease parking concerns, help students save money, and decrease emissions.

Apparently, those concerns no longer matter. According to State Center Community College District Vice Chancellor Christine Miktarian:

“Parking revenue is supposed to be paying for the maintenance of our parking lots, and so since we’ve been using bus passes, we have been not doing the maintenance we should have been for the last couple years,” says Click to read more!

Fresno Eliminates All-Door Boarding on “BRT” Route

A small announcement appeared on the FAX website last week: fareboxes are being added to buses on Route 1 (Q) and all-door boarding is being eliminated.

Fareboxes will soon be installed on Route 1 – BRT buses.  Once installed, passengers must board through the front door and use the farebox to: Pay in cash, Validate ride cards, or Activate passes 

FAX

On Twitter, I confirmed with the agency that all-door boarding will end, even for those who choose to pay at the machines.

Pre-payment and all-door boarding was one of the only “BRT” features that hadn’t yet been eliminated. As a reminder: Click to read more!

Fresno gets $2.2m for bus stop ADA upgrades

FAX, Fresno’s transit system, received a $2.2 million grant to build ADA upgrades at several stops around town. According to FAX:

The funding will provide an accessible location to wait for the bus and an accessible pathway for passengers to get to and from the sidewalk to a median bus island bus stop.  Improvements include:  adding or enlarging concrete bus stop landings, construction curb cuts, and adding new bus stop amenities such as shelters, benches and trash receptacles.

Fresno Area Express

The agency created a hilariously basic render of what these improvements could look like, which you can see at the top of this post. Click to read more!

Fresno Saturday night bus service has launched

This weekend, FAX, Fresno’s transit agency, added Saturday night service to five lines, with “night” meaning bus runs between 6pm and midnight.

When I posted about it a few weeks ago, the schedules were not posted. I asked FAX about it, and they said they would be uploaded “when the schedules go into effect” which seems like a poor way to get the word out.

Well, the schedules are now in effect, and they can be downloaded at the following links:

1

9

28

32

38

Saturday night service is noted by a shaded area on the weekend page. Looks like they might need to fix the PDF though, as there is overlapping text. Click to read more!

Fresno night bus service expands to Saturdays

Two and a half years ago, Fresno Area Express (FAX) created a “night bus” network by extending bus service past 9pm on the five busiest bus routes. This new service came with a major asterisk:

  • Only Monday to Friday
  • 1 hour wait between buses after 9pm
  • Only 5 routes offering “night” service 
  • ….and only on select portions of those 5 routes

Starting November 16, at least one of those issues will be improved: service will be extended to include Saturday nights as well.

The bus routes affected include routes 1, 9, 28, 32, and 38, which are the same routes that saw a previous service expansion. Handy Ride, the on-demand paratransit service, will also follow the new extended hours.

Current weekend service in Fresno is abysmal, with even the “BRT” route (Route 1) starting the final runs around 6pm. This reality stands in contrast to the claims that Fresno government is invested in revitalizing downtown and attracting night life. Unfortunately, this news may have come too late for the Fresno Foxes. Click to read more!

CA-99 Widening Defunded – Where is the Money Going?

Two weeks ago, CBS47 lobbed the following headline: Gov. Newsom redirects gas tax money to fund railway systems, not highways.

Unfortunately, the reporting was pretty light on details. Where is the money going? Where did the money even come from? CBS got the following statement from Caltrans:

The state is confronting the climate crisis head on. In doing so, Caltrans will use available transportation dollars to prioritize projects that manage congestion and reduce vehicle miles traveled in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Those who claim the state is canceling projects funded by gas tax dollars are incorrect. Aligning climate goals with transportation goals requires new thinking, not obstructionism. Click to read more!

Fresno added bus service, and riders appear to be responding

In February of this year, Fresno finally launched the “Q,” a new express bus line with increased peak service along the two busies transit corridors in the city. In addition, the system expanded service hours past 9pm and added live bus arrival times. While it is way too early to make any definitive statements about how Q has impacted FAX (Fresno Area Express), the early data looks promising. We now have data showing three full months under the new service plan, and the initial results are good.

First a reminder. Here is what Fresno bus ridership looked like for ten years, from July 2008 to October 2017. Pretty scary. You can read my full analysis here.

ride1

Now let us zoom in to the last 2 years. I have highlighted April and May of 2016, 2017, and 2018 to make an easier year-over-year comparison.

rider1

Since the status quo was a continuous decline, even stopping that decrease would be a positive. Instead, the system has done better and shows ridership ticking up a notch compared to previous years.

This next chart shows ridership plotted against Vehicle Revenue Hours (VRH) since 2005. The higher the VRH, the more time the buses are spending on the road serving customers. You can see that began to increase in 2017 when FAX introduced later hours and increased service on Shaw Avenue in advance of the Q rollout.

rider2

This next graph shows ridership plotted against the maximum number of buses FAX runs at a given time (rush hour peak). I like it because it helps highlight how stagnant the system was for so many years. Once again, you can see when the initial FAX-15 rolled out on Shaw and Blackstone in advance of the Q service. This one also helps to show that even with this expansion, FAX used to operate more peak service in the past. Essentially, they cut 3 routes and re-allocated the money to run those buses on other lines during other times of the day, which is why the previous graph does not show a marked decrease.

rider3

Of course, I look forward to seeing this data again once we have a few more months to look at. People do not respond immediately to transit improvements. If you bought a car because FAX service wasn’t getting you to work, it is hard to come back, for example. However, as people move and start new jobs, they might take a new look at FAX and realize that the improvements help get them to where they’re going, and at least for the near future, these improvements in service are guaranteed by federal funds.

One question that will surely be brought up: What about gas prices? They have indeed been rising. However, that increase hasn’t yet resulted in improved ridership in the peer cities I track. Modesto and Visalia are pretty flat, and Bakersfield is hard to compare with because they started counting their ridership in a new way in 2017. Across the country, I continue to read stories about how transit ridership is still falling as well.

In conclusion, congratulations FAX, you have discovered that people like better service!