Category: Transit

A Final Look at Construction on Fresno’s New Fake BRT Line “Q”

Fresno’s new fake “BRT” (bus rapid transit) line, branded as “Q” is set to open Fall of 2017. Well, that’s what the website says.

Key Dates
Construction Kickoff: June 2016
Construction: 2016-2017
Testing: 2017
Launch: Fall 2017

In reality, the bus line was delayed yet again to February or March of this year (originally, it was expected way back in 2012).

And this time they really mean it, so they’re hosting public meetings to educate people on what the bus line is. The first one is this week:


Shaw & Blackstone Corridor
January 17, 2018 | 5:30 pm–7:00 pm
Tornino’s
5080 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93710  Click to read more!

A Look at BRT Construction in Fresno

Construction should not take this long.

We last looked at BRT (“bus rapid transit”) construction in Fresno back in January. Eight months later, the thing still isn’t done. We’re not talking about a new tunnel, a new corridor, or anything of significance; just sidewalk extensions and shelters. And apparently that’s just too much for Fresno to manage in a timely manner. It is embarrassing how little is being built and how long that is taking.

This is a project that has been in the works since around 2008. The city council finally signed off on it in 2014. It was supposed to be done, this time for real, in 2016. Now it is supposed to be done in 2018. Maybe. Click to read more!

Fresno’s new night bus service comes with some big asterisks

Fresno’s bus system (FAX) recently launched “night” service on May 1st. When I wrote about this news, details were quite sparse. Indeed, the FAX website didn’t update with the new schedules until the first day of the extended service. Unfortunately, some of those details have been disappointing.

Here are the issues which really only became clear AFTER service launched.

  • Only Monday to Friday
  • 1 hour wait between buses after 6pm 
  • Only 5 routes offering “night” service 
  • ….and only on select portions of those 5 routes

What is night service? 

The reason I am putting quotation marks around “night” is because in most cities, the announcement of night service tends to mean buses running at 2am, 3am or 4am. In Fresno, “night” means new service between 9pm and midnight. Critically important, yes, but a reflection of how poor service used to be. 

Only Monday to Friday 

I had guessed the first point, based off the newsletter announcement, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise. However, it is still ridiculous that bus service on Saturdays, across all of Fresno, ends at around 7pm. To be fair, service was not reduced on weekends, so there has not been a decline in service. That being said, the new “night” service highlights how poor weekend service is. That is something that should be addressed.

Long headways 

Another concern is that nothing pre-launch talked about frequencies at all. Earlier this year, FAX launched “FAX-15,” or buses running every 15 minutes (vs every 20 or 30) on select lines. However, that service level ends early, before 7pm. On route 38 for example, one of the busiest lines in the system, buses arrive every 15 minutes from start of service (6:15am) until 7pm. Then there is a 35 minute wait, followed by a 57 minute wait, and the last 4 runs are an hour apart. Line 30, the busiest route, and the future fake BRT line, is actually less impressive. 6am – 5:30pm – every 15 minutes Then 20 minutes, then 35 for 3 runs, then 45 minutes, and finally once an hour from 9pm to midnight.

It’s also important to note that FAX STILL lacks a bus tracker. So an uneven schedule is even worse for riders, since you can’t memorize the times.

Limited routes 

The biggest asterisk came with the reveal of the new map. Mind you, it’s a nice looking map.  FAX night map That’s missing huge chunks of Fresno West Fresno isn’t even invited to the map. Riverpark, apparently, is the northern border of the city. East-west travel is not advised. On the other hand, the routes they chose are decent. With the exception of route 32 (which I would guess was political), the highest ridership lines received new service. However, does a downtown transfer hub make sense at 11pm? That’s not where the jobs are. That’s not where the residents are. And frankly, that’s not where people want to be standing around waiting for their connections. Downtown obviously needs service, but running both 30 and 28 so close together south of Shields seems unnecessary. A Shields crosstown bus would probably impact more people. 

Limited sections

Aside from only covering 5 routes, the chosen routes will not run their entire length during the “night” service. The reason seems to be to keep the entire night operation running with a grand total of 9 buses.  Route 32, for example, usually runs all the way up to Riverpark, as does 38, which actually terminates downtown via south Fresno. Route 28 usually ends at Fresno State. I’m not saying the 5 chosen routes shouldn’t be shortened – making modifications absolutely makes sense. I’m just saying it’s a surprise.  Well, except in the case of Route 32. Here is the normal run.

FaxRoute32-1_Page_1

The problem, is that the (extremely) shortened route is scheduled as follows:

Fresno will finally expand bus service past midnight on weekdays!

With a population of 520,000, Fresno is not a small town. And yet until now, the bus system, FAX, has acted like it serves a population of 50,000. Currently, service ends before 10pm on weekdays – all trips depart their last run around 9pm. On weekends it’s even worse – the buses are in their garages by 7pm.

This will finally change in 3 weeks. 

A FAX bus downtown

On May 1, weekday service until approximately 1 a.m. will be launched. Weekend service bus frequencies will improve — most routes will deliver
service every 30 minutes.
FAX Newsletter

The new schedules haven’t been released yet, so I am interpreting “until approximately 1 a.m” as the buses will start their final runs around midnight, concluding service at around 1am. Click to read more!

A Look at Construction on Fresno’s Fake BRT, and New FAX15 service

Improvements have arrived to Fresno’s bus system (FAX). The most impactful, for riders, was the introduction of FAX15 on January 9th. The initiative saw the return of 15-minute frequencies on portions of route 9 and 38, from 6am to 6pm. What most cities consider “standard service” is a luxury Fresno riders will be happy to have.

FAX15

Oddly enough, none of the marketing for the new service mentioned what routes were affected. The new webpage said “Shaw and Cedar.” fax15 ABC-30, the Fresno Bee, and all other reported the same: =&0=& The route maps, and the system map, indicate the enhanced service area with a dash system.A PDF was also created that sort of shows it.

So why is this happening? 
You might remember recently I posted about how Fresno held a workshop on emphasizing frequency over bus coverage. In that plan, the idea was to keep the FAX budget constant, while increasing frequency on key routes. The cost came from pulling buses on other routes, along with savings from route changes and finding efficiencies. 
None of that happened this month however. The FAX network continues to look almost identical to the system designed in the early 1970’s.
So where did the money come from?
Well, you might remember that about a decade ago, Fresno already had 15-minute frequencies. Indeed that lasted for three years.
In both cases, then and now, the answer comes from Federal Grants. Grants for funding operations are incredibly rare, and yet Fresno has benefited twice. Of course, last time, once the grant ended, Fresno didn’t add a single dollar into the budget, so frequencies fell back to 30-minutes. However, this caused immediate overcrowding, as the 15-minute “trial” was a success. By moving buses around, FAX compromised on 20-minute rush hour frequencies on the main 3 lines, at the expense of other routes which have since vanished. Click to read more!

Discussion begins in Fresno about prioritizing frequency over coverage on the bus network

Last month, the Fresno City Council heard a workshop on a proposed restructuring of the Fresno bus system (FAX), one that would allow for improved service on trunk routes, creating 15-minute headways in the corridors with the most transit demand. 

This type of restructuring is the bread and butter of Jarrett Walker over at Human Transit. You can read about a project he worked on in Houston here. Mr. Walker has been involved with FAX on and off for a few years now. He first gave a presentation at Fresno State in October of 2010, and was then brought in by the city to create the “Metropolitan Area Public Transportation Strategic Service Evaluation (PDF)” in early 2014. You can find more on that process here. The evaluation is in fact the foundation for this new restructuring project. Mr. Walker’s team was also involved in the current proposals, which offer specific and concrete recommendations, rather than an overview of possibilities. Click to read more!

FAX to hold workshop on proposed restructuring

Tomorrow, Thursday September 1st, there will be a workshop on major changes proposed for the FAX bus system, which serves Fresno into adjacent communities. Thanks to James Sponsler who left a comment on my last post with this important tip.

This appears to be a major change by FAX standards, which runs a system that has effectively remained stagnant for 40 (yes forty) years.

The core components are:

  • Frequency
  • Grids
  • More weekend and evening service 

Effectively, the new plan reduces coverage in order to increase service. Fresno has not spent a dime in actually improving service in decades. In the past 15 years, 4 lines have been eliminated, and one was added – paid for by the Childrens Hospital. The last increase in service (to 15 minutes on core lines) was funded by a federal grant, and those improves were reveresed when the federal money dried up. While higher frequencies are fantastic, it is a shame it comes at the expense of certain neighborhoods. Click to read more!

Amtrak California gets new funding, trainsets (thanks Wisconsin!)

Early this week, the California State Transportation Agency sprinkled $390 million in grants around the state, courtesy of the successful Cap and Trade program. Streetsblog California highlighted the projects, but I would like to give special attention to the Amtrak funding. 


California has shown the strongest support for intercity rail in the country. Aside from developing High Speed Rail, three of Amtrak’s busiest routes exist entirely within California, and are funded by the state. Earlier this year, the San Joaquin saw a new 7th daily train, and now the other lines will get some love.


Particularly poetic is the lease of Talgo train-sets to run between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. What makes these trains special is that they were purchased by Wisconsin for their High Speed Rail Project. That project was cancelled by Scott Walker, but not before the trains were built, and the state was put on the hook for not following through. Click to read more!

Help Bring National Attention to Central California Transportation Issues

If you’re reading this blog, you know that Central California is not all sunshine when it comes to planning, development, and transportation. You also probably have a strong desire to see improvement.

For example, Fresno’s half-cent transportation tax has been devoted almost entirely to highway expansions and roadway widening. Road diet projects have been halted due to right-wing elected officials. Fresno’s pedestrian mall is being ripped up, and the BRT project is no longer BRT. Sprawl, of course, continued unabated. This pattern is true across the valley. Sure, there are bright spots and individual wins, but since I started this blog over five years ago I’ve seen much more bad than good. Click to read more!

7th daily San Joaquin train launches on June 20 – a look at the new schedule!

Amtrak’s new 7th daily San Joaquin train will launch on June 20!

A few months ago, I reported that final touches were being put on a new 7th daily train between Bakersfield and the Bay Area. Although they missed the predicted launch date of June 6, you can now purchase tickets reflecting the new schedule that kicks off on the 20th.

That’s how I was able to see what the new times look like, because the full version has not been posted on Amtrak’s page, Let’s take a look!

We start by looking at northbound trips from Bakersfield to Oakland. The blue trains in the image go to Sacramento. That means that in Stockton you transfer to an Amtrak bus if you want to reach Oakland or San Francisco. The red “train” in this image is actually a bus. It is intended for folks coming from Southern California, and terminates in Fresno. It requires purchase of a connecting rail ticket, due to lobbying by Greyhound. Click to read more!