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.
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.
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.
FAX15Oddly enough, none of the marketing for the new service mentioned what routes were affected. The new webpage said “Shaw and Cedar.” 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.
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.
An article from Portland earlier this week caught my eye.
As firms pile into downtown — it’s the most crowded commercial real estate area in the city (PDF) — researcher Patricia Raicht of Jones Lang LaSalle
has stumbled on a surprising trend. Downtown office buildings, she
says, consistently fill up faster when they’re close to food carts.
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
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.
Last week, the Fresno City Council voted to support a proposal for a new medical college. The problem is, the proposed campus isn’t actually in Fresno, or even really near it – it’s 20 miles away from downtown, in an area currently used for farming and recreation.
Granville, the housing development company behind the medical college, owns large tracts of land by the lake, and wants to use it to build thousands and thousands of new suburban homes. They plan on using the medical university as an anchor, and what I see as bait to get public opinion to support the plan.
Many in the community have naturally been outraged. The area is home to beautiful natural scenery, and thousands of new cookie-cutter homes will destroy that. Worse, the area will be 100% auto-dependent. There are no services, stores, or jobs there. Meaning every time a home is built, multiple car trips will be added as people drive 10-25 miles to get to jobs in Fresno. Of course, the area already has some of the worst air pollution in the country, and this will just make things much worse.
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.
Last week the Bee ran an interesting graphic showing office vacancies around the city. One would expect that with all the doom-and-gloom surrounding downtown, that the vacancies there would be much higher than elsewhere.
Surprisingly, that is not the case.
For the entire city:
The vacancy rate at the end of the year was 13.01% compared
to 13.03% at the end of 2011, the report said. That means about 2.7
million square feet of office space out of the 25 million square feet of
office space in the market, which includes government-owned offices, is
Downtown, the vacancy was 11.66% – or below the city average. East Shaw had the absolute worse vacancy rate, at 20.48%, with West Shaw not far behind.
It’s relevant to note that while the city wants to destroy the Fulton Mall to “bring back business”, the very auto-focused Shaw has the highest vacancies in the area, well above the pedestrian oriented downtown. It’s no surprise that Clovis got a grant to attempt to revitalize their portion of Shaw, and that the feedback given was to make the area friendlier to non-automobile users.
Streetsblog recently ran an interesting series of articles about Oklahoma City and the changes implemented by their current mayor to make the city a more attractive, more liveable and healthier place. The lessons for Fresno are extremely relevant.
Cornett’s zeal to make Oklahoma City a healthier city led him to take
a hard look at the built environment. He realized that car-centric,
pedestrian-unfriendly streets weren’t just costing residents their
health, they were costing brainpower — too many of Oklahoma City’s
talented young people were leaving. Businesses didn’t want to locate
there because their employees didn’t want to live there.