Tag: bus

New Bill Allows Amtrak California to Sell Bus Tickets Without Restrictions

A new bill, ” SB 742, Intercity passenger rail services: motor carrier transportation of passengers.” has been signed into law by the Governor that will allow Amtrak to sell bus tickets without a rail component.

Amtrak California Map. Light green are bus routes.

Amtrak California operates an extensive “thruway” bus network that provides vital links to cities that don’t have regular rail service. Bakersfield-LA is the most important link, but there are lines all over the state hitting medium and smaller cities without train service.

The catch is, you can only buy a ticket as part of a rail trip. For example, you can buy Fresno-Bakersfield-LA, but you cannot ONLY buy Bakersfield-LA on the bus. Click to read more!

New Amtrak Thruway Bus, Madera to San Jose, to Debut in 2020

The Amtrak California network map has a gap. The system is made up of three state-supported rail lines, some long-distance rail lines, and a network of buses to connect cities that do not get rail (thruway buses). Many years ago (at least a decade) you could take an Amtrak bus from the Central Valley to San Jose, via Los Banos and Gilroy. Once that bus line was cancelled, Amtrak riders had to take the train all the way up and around the Bay Area.

Current Amtrak California system map. The thruway bus lines are in green.

Greyhound used to provide buses across to San Jose, but they have continued to cut their routes and no longer do so. BoltBus never provided a route like that, but instead of expanding, they cancelled their entire California network. Flixbus only connects Fresno to LA, and Megabus doesn’t serve the Central Valley at all. 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!

Live bus arrival times now available in Fresno (FAX)!

Paris got real-time bus tracking in 1996. In the United States, NextBus launched in Emeryville in 1999. In the Central Valley, tiny Visalia adopted the technology in 2011.

And now in 2018, finally, Fresno’s bus system has real-time bus tracking!

This is incredibly important because it makes riding the bus predictable. No more standing in the heat wondering if your bus is late…or if it came early and you missed it!

As far as I can tell, they haven’t advertised this feature. No press release, nothing on the website. I didn’t even notice it myself, but it was pointed out to me by Joe in the comments. Thanks Joe!

The new Q line, set to open on February 19, 2018, was advertised as having the tech, and fortunately, it appears that the entire system has been outfitted with it.

Right now, the primary way to see the data is on Google Maps. You can check it out on both desktop and mobile. Let’s take a look!

Zoom in to a bus stop and click the bus icon. Then click on any of the buses listed.

bustime2

It will then open up the bus lines that serve that stop, along with the times for the next buses.

Times in green are live! Times in black are from the schedule.

bustime1

Compare with these other bus services that stop downtown. They’re all in black, so not live times.

bustime5

When you set it as part of your route, you will be informed of any delays. As an aside, 51 minutes in bus vs 15 in car. Hm, I wonder why bus ridership is down…

Screenshot_20180130-234952

On the phone the screens look a little different, but it’s the same concept to see all the bus times. Find the bus stop, click it, and then this opens up.

Screenshot_20180130-234720

You can then click the bus line you want and actually see where the bus currently is. This screen shows the scheduled time and the actual time.

Screenshot_20180130-234757

As an aside, note that many other transit agencies are available to help you plan your transit trips. However, not all have their real-time info coordinated with Google. For example, you can find real-time status of Amtrak trains on the Amtrak website (including a map showing current speed), but the times on Google are just the scheduled ones.

bustime4

Boltbus (and Greyhound) are available too, but the same issue – you have to go to their websites to see if they’re on time or not.

bustime3

Additionally, the Fresno website mentions a dedicated transit app. Well sadly, the app mentioned on the website is complete garbage. If there were smartphone apps in 1996, they’d probably look like this:

Screenshot_20180131-000624

Screenshot_20180131-000607

This is insulting.

Screenshot_20180131-000550

HOWEVER, upon browsing the store, it appears that a second app was developed, which recently launched! The one with the higher rating is the newer one.

Screenshot_20180131-001417

Super confusing, right?

Supposedly, this new app has modern features, including the real-time tracking info.

Unfortunately, it greats you with this:

Screenshot_20180131-001441

No thanks.Why do I need to create an account to view the bus schedule? Ridiculous.

The Google Play store does have a screen shot showing that the app supposedly looks like this:

Screenshot_20180131-001535

So more like 2010 instead of 1996.

Just stick with Google Maps.

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. =&0=&

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. =&0=&

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.=&0=&

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.  =&0=&

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.

I’ll look into the details in a later post, but you can check out the presentation from this page.

Note: Fresno was recently awarded $8 million in cap and trade funds to improve transit.

“In combination with the opening of the initial BRT service, which has received significant federal and state funding, these investments are expected to support additional improvements to the BRT corridor, as well as supporting near-BRT improvements to the Shaw and Cedar corridors. Overall ridership improvements are expected to exceed 50% 12 months after implementation, and 90% by the final year of the project.” 

It is not clear if this workshop uses any of that funding, or was an independent effort which the funding will complement.

There’s some more exciting news at this meeting. The council is being asked to approve an agreement that will allow the city to receive $4,600,000 in Measure C money to build the new Midtown Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail. The good news is that this will allow construction to start quickly. The bad news is that it eats up all trail funding until 2021.

That’s right, we can spend hundreds of millions on highway expansions but less than $1m a year on trails. Sigh.

Anyway, here is the project. I am unsure if this funding covers all the sections shown.



More details here.