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:
The Fresno Trail Network Expansion Feasibility Plan (Plan) builds on the City of Fresno’s efforts to develop the Class I bikeway (trails) network proposed in the adopted 2016 Fresno Active Transportation Plan. The goal of the project is to prioritize all planned but currently unfunded trails, to select five corridors, roughly five miles in length, and to develop concept designs and analyze the feasibility for the five selected corridors. The resulting recommendations will help the City begin to build out its trail network. Click to read more!
Sad news came Tuesday that Fresno’s professional soccer team, Fresno Football Club (FC), would be shutting down or relocating. Late Wednesday, the team owner confirmed he was moving the team to Monterey. The first part didn’t come as an immediate surprise: rumors have been swirling for weeks, which sent the team into a losing streak. The team was just two years old.
Fresno FC played in the “USL Championship,” which is one level down from Major League Soccer. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of AAA baseball, like the Grizzlies. Fresno played in the western conference, along with teams like the Las Vegas Lights, Phoenix Rising, Reno 1868, and Sacramento Republic.Click to read more!
I’m not a fan of flashy “silver bullet” projects that promise to revitalize depressed areas. Most recently, Fresno promised that removing the Fulton Mall and turning it into Fulton Street would revitalize the area. That hasn’t happened. Fifteen years ago, Chukchansi Park was sold with the same promise. Build a new stadium,, and people will come downtown to watch AAA baseball!
Well, sort of. People do go to the stadium to attend events and Grizzlies games. But they drive in, park across the street, watch the event, and then drive away ASAP.
That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, for a number of reasons.
For one, baseball is a pretty self-contained event. The whole tradition is to spend a few hours in the ballpark, eating hot-dogs, drinking beer, and chatting. The team in turn encourages this by selling ticket packages that include concessions, or advertising cheap beer. That doesn’t lend itself to supporting local business.
Secondly, baseball fans are old. According to this, the average MLB viewer in 2016 was 57, older than typical NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS fans. Those older fans are also going to be less likely to give downtown Fresno a chance, and be less interested in engaging in some kind of pub-crawl and such. Walking around downtown at 9pm? Heavens no!
And on top of that, losing affiliation with San Francisco hasn’t helped. Grizzly attendance is down since that happened. In 2017, they averaged 6,208 fans per game, down from 7,430 a decade earlier.
So what about the new professional soccer team, Fresno FC? Will it revitalize downtown?
No, but I think it will be more helpful in moving the dial than the Grizzlies were. As a bonus, it’s good to see that the expensive stadium will get more use.
If your not familiar with how professional soccer is structured in the US, here’s a quick primer:
Major League Soccer (MLS), is the top league, or division one. They’re the one you can watch on ESPN, and they pay big bucks to famous players.
United Soccer League (USL) is 2nd division, sort of like AAA baseball, which is where the Grizzlies sit. There’s a couple of differences though. In baseball, AAA teams are closely tied to a major league team, and act as a training ground. That’s pretty much their purpose, prepare players for their MLB affiliate team. Players come and go depending on what the MLB team needs.
In soccer, that’s not really the case. Around the world, teams can move between divisions via promotion and relegation. Do badly in division 1, and down you go. Do well in division 2, and up you go. Not so in the US. In the US, you buy your way up, like in the NFL and the other pro-leagues.
Essentially, in the US, USL exists so secondary cities, like Fresno, can have professional soccer. Now, while USL teams do affiliate with MLS teams, they don’t act as a training ground at all.
On top of that, there is USl2, which sits below USL in the third division. In the US, this is sort of a dumb level. Not much going on here. If Visalia got a team, it would probably be USL2.
PDL (and a few other leagues) are fourth division, where the Fresno Fuego played. These folks are semi-pro. They’re pretty different because they mostly just play their games in the summer, and the teams are primarily staffed by college players who need to stay fresh while they are on vacation. The rest of the team is filled in by players who do get paid, but just barely. There are tons of fourth division teams all over the country. They’re not very stable, and the Fresno Fuego were one of the most successful teams, both in performance and attendance. That team will continue to live on as the Fresno FC Under 23s. (Which I’m not a fan of, Fresno Fuego was a good name and brand).
I know in Fresno, a lot of people were disappointed when they read that we were getting a professional team…but not MLS. The expectation was that the team would be a lot like the Grizzlies. However, there’s one key difference between AAA Baseball and USL Soccer:
The Grizzlies will never play the SF Giants.
But Fresno FC will most likely play real competitive games against MLS teams like the LA Galaxy.
In soccer, teams play their regular season against teams in their division. So Fresno will play other USL teams like Las Vegas, Sacramento, Reno, Phoenix, and Orange County on a consistent basis.
But on top of that, there is the “US Open Cup.” This is a tournament open to ALL soccer teams in the US. Really, all of them. If you and your buddies want to get a team together, you could potentially qualify (but it’s a long road!).
In fact, Fresno Fuego qualified for the tournament in 2003, 2012, 2014, and 2017.
And in 2003, Fresno Fuego played against the LA Galaxy (and lost 1-3).
For the Fuego, qualifying was tough. Qualification rules varied by year, but essentially they had to win their PDL division to qualify. Once in, they had to play a few rounds with lower level teams before matching with an MLS team.
For Fresno FC, qualification to the US Open Cup will be automatic, every year. And USL teams skip the lower levels.
For reference, in 2003, Fresno beat the Chico Rooks (an amateur team), the Utah Blitz (3rd division), El Paso Patriots (USL), and then matched with the LA Galaxy.
In 2014 and 2012, Fresno beat amateur teams before losing to USL teams.
Fresno FC will likely start off against a PDL team, and then get matched with a MLS team. If they win, likely another MLS team.
That’s real competition against teams with big names. And if Fresno FC manages to win the cup, they get entered into the CONCACAF Champions League, which includes the best teams from all over North America. I’m not saying that’s likely…but in 2009, the USL team Montreal Impact reached the quarter finals, and attracted 55,000 people to their match against Santos Laguna from Mexico.
Aside from the US Open Cup, USL teams do attract MLS teams for pre-season friendly matches, and can also book international teams. Fuego had some success setting up matches against teams from Mexico, and it will be a lot easier for Fresno FC, as a professional team, to keep doing that. Fuego also hosted a couple of games against MLS teams, but I think it was really just twice. For Fresno FC, expect it every year.
Basically, more important games against bigger name teams mean that MORE people will be coming downtown to the games. I think Fresno FC will easily start beating the Grizzlies in attendance.
If you want to learn more about the US Open Cup, this website is a great resource. 108 amateur teams entered qualifying, with 94 teams playing the main tournament.
The First Round will feature all 52 amateur clubs with the 26 winners advancing to Round 2 (May 16) where they will be joined by all 22 United Soccer League clubs. Defending champion Sporting Kansas City and the rest of the Major League Soccer clubs will join the competition in the Fourth Round (June 4-5), where they will be joined by 12 Third Round winners.Click to read more!
Posting updates about Google Maps satellite imagery in the Fresno region used to be a frequent topic on this blog. Thanks to the lack of clouds for half the year, Fresno was lucky in that new images were posted about twice a year, compared to some more populated area that only got an update every other year – or even less frequently. Basically, to provide the images, a satellite has to take hundreds of pictures, and then they are all blended together automatically to reveal a seamless image without clouds in the way. Since Fresno has so many clear days, it’s much easier to get the shots.=&0=&(it takes them a couple of months to process and update – that’s normal). There was also an update taken on =&1=&, which I noticed around July, but never got around to posting about.=&2=&
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.
High Speed Rail is also plagued by delays. The Central Valley segment was supposed to be finished up by the end of this month. In that case though, the delays are a little bit more understandable. It is a brand new corridor, full of tunnels and viaducts. Republican lawmakers have thrown every bit of obstruction that they could muster at it. Property owners took up lawsuit after lawsuit. Out-of-state interests poured in money to kill it.
So more understandable, but certainly still disappointing.
Anyway, this post will look at BRT construction, next one will be HSR.
We start with a typical “station” on Blackstone Avenue. All along the route, sidewalks have been bumped out to provide space for these stops. This one is located adjacent to a delicious Ethiopian Restaurant.
There is nothing about this that screams “two year construction project.”
Some of the branding is in place with the ticket machines.
The placement of this station, as is the case with many of them, is pure garbage.
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=&
I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that as part of the High Speed Rail (HSR) project, Gryehound has moved from their old location to the Amtrak station. For a couple of years, the old station will be used by HSR personnel, and then it will be demolished when it is time to build the new rail station in that very spot. Presumably, Greyhound will then move back.
Let’s start by taking a look at the old station.
Here we see the station with the baseball stadium in the background.
The iconic bus signs.
The portion on the right used to be a cafeteria I have no idea how many years that side of the complex has been abandoned.
A close up look at the old cafeteria…
And a peak inside the station. Unfortunately, I never took pictures when the station was active. Woops.
And here’s a look at the back of the station, which featured a very large parking lot for the buses. I guess the company will still be using that area for now.
Back out front, we see the station from the stadium
Ok, so that’s the old station. Now let’s explore the new (much smaller) station. And by new, well, it’s over 100 years old, but it looks nice.
Here we approach the Amtrak station. The new 7-11 is across the street from it.
The new sign.
The front of the building has not been modified at all, although this door leads to the Greyhound waiting area, which is separate from the Amtrak waiting area.
Looks pretty nice!
Much, much smaller than the old station, but I doubt crowds get much larger than this. Also, there are now bathrooms here and also in the Amtrak area, which is good if one of them ever breaks down.
One of the doors leads to the Amtrak side, with the outdoor Amtrak waiting area in the distance.
The other side pops us out here, with the 7-11 in the back.
Turning left we see some bicycle parkin.
And then some more waiting space, outside, but well sheltered.
Their boarding system.
This loop is now bus only. It fits 3 buses, barely.
Here’s another bus coming in!
The station has parking…but now it’s only for Amtrak customers. If you are riding on Amtrak, you show the ticket agent your ticket and they give you a permit for your car. I believe the permit allows unlimited free parking.
Amtrak and Greyhound customers still have access to a car roundabout for pickups and dropoffs.
Unfortunately fitting three buses requires the first bus to encroach into the crosswalk. You can see the bus stopped in a permanent wheel grab thing, which I assume was installed so the three buses fit perfectly. The drivers need to be careful of pedestrians when leaving.
This bus has quite the trip ahead of it.
Across the street, another bus area was carved out for YARTS. The Amtrak station has finally become a multi-modal terminal!
Station visitors have access to one of Fresno’s famous restaurants, just across the street.
And here we see a bus leaving to CA-99, in front of the new First Five building.
In the first six months of 2013, Raicht said, 92 percent of net
demand for high-quality downtown Portland office space occurred within
two blocks of a food cart pod.
“When our brokers are out talking to tenants, what they’re hearing
over and over again — and particularly with creative tenants and tenants
that have a younger demographic — is that there are a lot of things
that are really important to them,” Raicht said in a July interview
about the trends in net absorption rates for Class A and Class B office
space. Bike Portland
This past week, I was in Los Angeles and rode the Expo Light Rail Line for the first time, from end to end. I’ve written about the line before, and taken pictures of its construction, but had never been on board since it opened last April. The line runs from downtown LA to Culver City, with an under-construction extension to Santa Monica scheduled to open in 2016.
One thing I’d observed during the construction phase was the seeming lack of attention to how riders actually get to the line. A transit line cannot only focus on the immediate tracks and stations – people need to arrive safely and comfortably. And because we’re talking about rail transit within a city, many passengers will arrive on foot or by bike. Ignoring them doesn’t just depress ridership, but it can be dangerous too.
Sadly, the final version of the Expo line did not correct the mistakes apparent during construction.
One of the biggest failings of the line is that fact that even at-grade stations were built with only one entrance and exit.
The 23rd street station is particularly bad.
Here I’ve marked the station in aqua blue (the line color). Note that while it’s located between two streets, the only way out is north. If you’re heading south, you need to walk two minutes north so you can cross the street and turn-around. Again, because the station is at grade, the costs to build a second exit were minimal.
Even worse, a southern exit exists – but is emergency only. No legal way out.
The above map images don’t show it, but the line has already spurred development – a major apartment building was under construction next door.
The next station is the exact opposite – the only real exit is south. If you live or work between the two, you’ll always have to backtrack, for no real reason.
Once again, an exit actually exists – but it’s emergency only. Instead of painting a crosswalk, Metro decided it would be no problem to send people on a 5 minute walk, just because.
Other stations are in the middle of a major avenue. Passengers are dumped into the middle of an intersection when they leave the train – not even a tiny pedestrian island with a life-saving bollard apparently could fit into the budget. Would you feel comfortable waiting in that crosswalk, which turning vehicles use to cut across?
When I rode, I did notice some bright orange flex posts had been added – but they provide no actual protection from an out-of-control SUV.
Essentially, the system seems to have been designed for trains, and not the actual riders. That is, the system itself was built to operate trains smoothly, but the actual customers were an after-thought.
The poor headways don’t help that impression. 12 minutes during peak hours and an astonishingly poor frequency of twenty minutes as early as 7pm probably scares away many riders.
I did take a walk around the current last station while I was waiting for a friend. Unlike the previously discussed station, Culver City has an elevated station, and there are indeed two exit points, one at each end of the platform.
View from the top. Progress on phase 2 is obvious
The area under the station was very nice as well – ample seating, good lighting, and nice landscaping. Signage was plentiful, but not always useful. One very nice sign advises you of the last departure, but there were no train schedules to be found.
However, like the ground-level stations, there were plenty of signs that no actual transit rider was ever consulted.
For one, the station is quite high up, and no escalators were built. Elevators exist, but nobody likes riding transit elevators as they tend to smell.
Pardon the poor quality, but you can tell this is quite the climb. Now imagine your train is about to leave, and the next one isn’t for twenty minutes…
At first I was impressed by the way-finding and bike facilities.
But as mentioned previously, all amenities transit riders need end as soon as you walk away. I followed the bike trail signs to this intersection, which offers absolutely no clue as to where the bike path actually is.
Walking back towards the station, you can see some of those way-finding signs. Where they exist, they’re great…..but aren’t they sort of important at the actual intersection?
Also note the narrow sidewalks and complete lack of trees
The designers of the Expo Line apparently decided that ample free parking was more important than a sidewalk. You can see the sidewalk narrow to provide for an extra parking space.
The sidewalk narrows yet again as you near the station. And remember, apparently this sidewalk is part of a bike trail, yet it appears to be the federal minimum of 4 feet wide.
Up ahead you see a large crowd waiting for a bus, with no comfortable place to wait.
Another disturbing aspect was the timing of the traffic signals. With my friend, we crossed Venice Ave. A button was required to get the walk signal, and the the timer began almost immediately. We are both quick walkers, and the timer reached zero as we finished crossing – in clear violation of federal standards which require the timing be set to accommodate seniors and those with disabilities.That’s not just bad policy, it’s an easy lawsuit the city can find itself on the losing end of.
I enjoyed my ride on Expo, it was quick, and was within a block of both my origin and destination. I just wish the people designing the line, and those approving the designs actually bothered to ride their system for once. Maybe then they’d see the need to look at the larger picture. One can only hope that Phase 2 will be better, but considering light rail has existed in LA for over 20 years, and this is considered acceptable, I don’t have much hope.