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.