Tag: expansion

Fresno is asking for public comments on the “Trail Network Expansion Feasibility Plan”

The City of Fresno recently published their draft (PDF) of the “Trail Network Expansion Feasibility Plan,” and they are looking for public comments until November 12, 2019.

According to the city:

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!

Fresno is getting direct air service to Chicago!

I’ve always though the next domestic airline destination from Fresno would be to Houston, via United, but today we get a surprise: it will be Chicago….with United! 

United Airlines in 2018 continues its domestic routes expansion, as the airline opened reservation for a total of 12 routes in 2018. Following routes opened for booking since Friday night (Pacific Time) 17NOV17.
Chicago O’Hare – El Paso eff 09APR18 2 daily Embraer E170 (Republic Airlines)
Chicago O’Hare – Fresno eff 07JUN18 1 daily Embraer E175 (Skywest)
Denver – Jacksonville FL eff 09APR18 1 daily Embraer E175 (Skywest)
Denver – Liberal eff 06FEB18 6 weekly CRJ200 (Skywest)
Denver – North Platte eff 01FEB18 2 daily CRJ200 (Skywest; weekends frequency varies)
Denver – Pueblo – Liberal eff 06FEB18 6 weekly CRJ200 (Skywest)
Denver – Scottsbluff eff 30JAN18 2 daily CRJ200 by Skywest (weekends frequency varies)
Los Angeles – Kalispell eff 07JUN18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Medford eff 09APR18 2 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Missoula eff 07JUN18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Redmond eff 09APR18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Newark – Elmira eff 09APR18 2 daily ERJ145 (Commutair) Click to read more!

United brings mainline service back to Fresno

Passengers boarding a flight in Fresno

About a year ago, I took a look at air service available from Fresno Air Terminal (FAT). In that post, the news wasn’t good. Fresno had lost service to Las Vegas by US Airways and United, leaving only Allegiant. Allegiant dropped Honolulu, but added Mesa (Pheonix), which they apparently are no longer selling tickets for (as of last week!). Frontier left, again. Bakersfield lost Houston, and Visalia lost all service. The switch away from propeller airplanes meant Fresno got larger planes – but less frequency.=&0=&

Amtrak San Joaquin on Track for 8th Daily Train

It was just last June that the Amtrak San Joaquin line received a 7th daily train, and now planning for an 8th daily is well underway. The current target, according to the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, is January, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that slip a month or two.

The plan is to offer a “morning express,” with service between Fresno and Sacramento. Currently, all trains originate in Bakersfield, with 5 going to Oakland, and 2 to Sacramento. Riders can reach either location the full 7 times thanks to bus transfers.

Currently, to reach Sacramento, Fresno customers can board a 6:18am train, and transfer to a bus in Stockton, arriving in Sacramento at 9:45am. OR, they can board a train at 7:53am, with direct service into Sacramento arriving at 11:20am.

By offering a train that originates in Fresno, the Authority can better accommodate those aiming to reach Sacramento for a morning meeting. While there wouldn’t be ridership south of Fresno, an optimized schedule could pump up ridership in the northern half of the valley. The plan is to eventually have trains arriving in both Oakland and Sacramento around 8am. The Oakland early train would be the next phase, a 9th daily train.

This is the current schedule between Bakersfield and Oakland (blue trains continue to Sacramento, passengers arrive in Oakland via bus connection). As you can see, an 8am arrival in Sacramento or Oakland simply doesn’t make sense for anyone coming from Bakersfield, as it would require a 2am departure. The full PDF is here.

To add a train from Fresno, they need to spend money to create a place where trains can be stored. The location has been identified as Annadale Avenue, between Chestnut and Willow (Google Maps). This would store two trains, and cost $1.5m.

Additionally, they plan on generating ridership (or accommodating ridership), by expanding the parking areas at various stations.

  • For Fresno, this would mean leasing 50 existing spaces from the city, across from the train station.
  • In Merced, a bus loop would be moved, adding 20 spaces.
  • Turlock would see the existing parking lot expanded into a dirt lot, for 50 new spaces.
  • Modesto would get 77 new spaces in a lot expansion, with the possibility of 124 new spaces to the south.
  • Stockton would get 42 new spaces, followed by 229 new spaces. 

It makes sense that Modesto and Stockton would get the most parking additions. They are closest to Sacramento, so they could see the most commuter use. This model has been successful for the Capitol Corridor line, which runs from Sacramento to San Jose, offering 15 daily trains from Sacramento to Oakland, and 7 from Sacramento to San Jose.

New parking also makes sense because many of the stations are far from residential areas. For example, here is where the new parking would go in Modesto:

modesto amtrak

Additionally, the stations are budgeted for minor enhancements, like new landscaping, way-findings, and lighting. Combined, this would be a little under $2.5m in new expenditures.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed is where the return trip will be slotted. Current trains leave Sacramento at 6:15am and 5:10pm. I could see the 5:10pm train moved slightly earlier (4:45pm?) with a new departure at 6:15pm to best serve commuters. The alternative would be a late train, around 9pm, to best serve tourists making the most of their day. A later train would also benefit those in the bay area. Right now, the last train out of Oakland is at 5:55pm. A 9pm Sacramento departure would allow an Oakland bus departure at 6:30pm, so they can meet in Stockton. Of course, a complete overhaul of the schedule would be an option as well.

For reference, I looked into the history of this train line in this post. Here is how service has slowly grown:

Before 1971 – Two daily trains (one by each freight railroad)
1971-1974 – No service
1974 – One daily Amtrak train
1979 – Amtrak proposes elimination, state steps in to fund a single train
1980 – Second daily train
1989 – Third daily train
1992 – Fourth daily train
1999 – Fifth train, first to serve Sacramento
2002 – Sixth train, second to serve Sacramento
2016 – Seventh train, fifth to Oakland
2018 (predicted) – Eight train, third to Sacramento

I last looked at ridership a year ago. I’ll do a post soon seeing if the 7th daily train has resulted in more riders. I’ll also take a look at improvements made in Stockton.

Thoughts on Chaffee Zoo Expansion and Roeding Park (with pictures)

I haven’t been a huge fan of the expansion of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Not because I hate zoos, but because the expansion required taking a huge portion of a public park and fencing it off. What used to be free public space now requires a ticket, and is only open during business hours (until 4pm for most of the year).

Unfortunately, Fresno has one of the worst park systems in the country, and the expansion reduced the size of the system further. It makes sense to expand the zoo in a contiguous fashion – you can’t
have half the zoo located three blocks away. Also, it’s cheaper to
replace grass and benches then it is to replace an elephant habitat. However, no mitigation was put in place. No effort was made to replace the park space anywhere else, including across the street, in a lot that has sat empty for decades.

That being said, I did visit the zoo a couple of months ago to see how the expansion fit into the park. I also looked around the park to see what other changes were made, especially the new dog park.

Let’s take a look.

This image shows the zoo expansion. The area in red was converted from public park space to private zoo space. 

I visited on a crowded day. Parking was extended into an “overflow” lot, which also happens to sit in the middle of the park. I believe the zoo should consolidate all parking into a garage across the street, leaving the park as a park.

The new expansion is the African Adventure.

The first set of pictures are the trail to the left. Then you return to the large brown area, which is the cafe and seating area, to go to the trail on the right.

One aspect of the expansion that I was very happy to see was the preservation of many, if not most of the mature trees.

The old trees make it seem like the expansion has been there forever (because the park has been).

 Most animals in the new area have giant habitats. Unfortunately, the cheetahs do not.

One of the problems with zoos, especially the Fresno Zoo, was the use of very small enclosures. The new expansion rectifies it. While the expansion added a dozen or more animals, they all share one massive habitat.

Sometimes that means you can’t find your favorite animal, but it is great for them. It reminds me of the San Diego Zoo.


When I visited, some temporary barriers had been put in place because all the animals weren’t comfortable sharing a large space yet. I am not sure if that barrier has been removed yet.

The preserved trees really add to the experience. Roeding Park has some of the largest trees in the city.

 The animals in the new expansion area.

Aside from a new habitat, the facility added some lovely spaces for people, including this cafe area overlooking the new enclosure. 

The view from the eating area.

Some “indoor” spaces.

An animal bridge.

This portion of the park has been enclosed as the zoo but has no animal habitats. I believe it is for future expansion. However, I think it was poor form to close this area off many years before they need to use it.

The green fence in the back is the line between the zoo and the park. There is no reason why they couldn’t have placed that fence where the wooden one is, leaving that area as free park land for the pubic.

This area has a dirt walking path. Exhibit on left, nothing on right.

More well preserved park area – just on the wrong side of the fence.

The nice grove and surrounding grass is useless to zoo visitors but would still be used by area residents if it hadn’t been sealed off.

 Still clearly Roeding Park.

This area is even worse. Inside the zoo boundary but fenced off from the zoo area.  So no one gets to go here.

The trail ends at a dead-end, so you walk back the way you came to the cafe lounge. (The jackets date these photos!)

That’s it for the new expansion. For reference, this is the bear exhibit in the older area, which highlights one of the major problems at the zoo: tiny, tiny habitats. While the new expansion fixes that, the old area remains the same.

Now we exit the zoo and take a look at what improvements have been made around the park as part of the project.

On old loop road now ends awkwardly at the zoo boundary.

The zoo expansion was built in an area that used to house a number of lovely lakes. To replace them, a new, larger lake was built. When I visited, it wasn’t quite done.

It was built where the dog parks used to be – my prime reason for visiting Roeding in the past.

I assume there is grass now, as it has been a couple of months since these photos were taken.

I hope they’re adding stuff in the middle.

Another awkward transition.

The old dog park bench is still there.

 For reference, the old lakes:

Moving on, the zoo boundary doesn’t interact with the park in the best way.  I don’t know why the dog park wasn’t placed here on the left.

 Now my mission was to find the relocated dog parks. Unfortunately, there was no signage.

No maps either.

 And there they are.

They can’t be serious.

So they literally picked up the dog park, and placed it in a grassy area, without trees. And didn’t bother to maybe spruce up the grass. Can you tell this is brand new?

 The budget for this relocation must have been in the hundreds of dollars.

I get being on a budget, but they really couldn’t even wash the ancient water fountains when they relocated them?

 Wow, look how much fun. This place will be a blast in the Fresno summer heat.

 For reference, the old dog park:

As was the case in the original area, there is a big dog and small dog area.

Sadly, both are smaller than they were before.

 Even though the surrounding area is empty, they still made the dog park smaller.

The bench made the big move.

The absolute worst part is the location. See the background? That’s Highway 99. 24/7 traffic, thousands of trucks. That means constant noise and enormous amounts of exhaust.

Look how close the highway is!

I’m extremely disappointed at this part of the project.

You commandeer a public park and can’t be bothered to at least improve what you displaced?

Was planting a few trees, adding some amenities, and picking a decent location too much trouble?

 These nearby trees are nice, but they’re in a roadway median.

Overall, the zoo expansion looks great. The habitat is nice, and they did a wonderful job at preserving the park setting. It really makes the zoo a prime attraction.

However, the project clearly didn’t give a damn about the neighborhood, taking over more park space than they needed, and replacing what they destroyed with something much worse. They did not appear to have replaced the horseshoe area, the new lake is boring, and the dog park is a disgrace.

It’s a shame the councilor who represents the neighborhood did not demand his constituents be respected.

Amtrak San Joaquin finally getting 7th daily train!

=&0=&is the planned date for when a 7th daily train will begin service on the Amtrak San Joaquin route which serves California’s Central Valley. Currently, 4 trains a day run from Bakersfield to Oakland, with two running from Bakersfield to Sacramento. Additional thruway bus service offers connections to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and a dozen other cities. The new train will run between Bakersfield and Oakland.

Final preparations for this addition to the schedule have been underway for about 6 months now. Although the service is run and branded by Amtrak, it is funded by California and currently managed by the “San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority” which took over from Caltrans in 2015. Since they took over, they have pushed to make the new 7th trip a reality. The new service will cost $7.4 million a year.

A new train, 709, will leave Bakersfield bright and early at 4am. Currently, the earliest train leaves at 4:45am. It will arrive in Fresno at 5:53am and Oakland at 9:53am. This schedule is designed to allow those in the Valley to enjoy a full day in the Bay Area.

Presumably, there will be a bus from Los Angeles which will meet the train. Currently the bus meeting the 4:45am train leaves LA at 1:30am. The new bus would leave LA at a more comfortable 12:45am, which allows bus riders to arrive at Union Station using the subway.

A new return train, 708, will leave Oakland at 3:55pm, arriving in Bakersfield at 10:04pm. This schedule closely mimics an existing bus connection that ties in with a Sacramento train.

I assume other train times, including the Sacramento departure, will be adjusted, but the full schedule is not online yet. The current schedule can be seen here (PDF). I will post when the new one is ready. The new schedule will show us if the goal of this service was to expand the coverage or to lower headways.

Caltrans, the previous boss, had been talking about adding a 7th daily train for well over a decade. Unfortunately, the start date kept being pushed back.

In 2002, the state predicted: 


In 2004, as that goal was obviously missed, it became:


In 2006,  the goal for the 7th train remained the same, but the goal for the 8th slipped two years…

  And in 2008, as that goal was becoming unreasonable, it was pushed back again:

 Well, it is finally here, and better late than never. Oddly enough, while every report called for a Sacramento train to be added first, followed by an Oakland train, the reverse has happened.

The last time the route got an upgrade was in 2002, when it attained its current level of service.

History of route:

Before 1971 – Two daily trains (one by each freight railroad)
1971-1974 – No service
1974 – One daily Amtrak train
1979 – Amtrak proposes elimination, state steps in to fund a single train
1980 – Second daily train
1989 – Third daily train
1992 – Fourth daily train
1999 – Fifth train, first to serve Sacramento
2002 – Sixth train, second to serve Sacramento
2016 – Seventh train, fifth to Oakland
2018 (predicted) – Eight train, third to Sacramento
Late 2020’s – High Speed Rail begins, San Joaquin future unknown (although service to Sacramento is almost guaranteed, from at least Fresno)

An 8th daily train is also being planned, however, there are significant roadblocks. New bi-level equipment that was scheduled to arrive this summer has been delayed a year, and the line cannot add more service without additional equipment. In 2013, Amtrak California purchased 40-year old New Jersey Transit trains to support demand on the route until the new trains arrived.At that time, the new trains were expected in 2015.

In addition, because the rail is owned by freight companies, they force the taxpayers to build capital improvements in exchange for a train slot. A layover facility and additional double-tracked segments are required for more trains to run. As with the new 7th daily train, these capacity improvements have been in the work for over a decade. Some have received funding from the initial HSR bond, while others are looking to Cap and Trade money. Still others are unfunded.

That is, don’t expect the 8th train before 2018, even if the 7th is a runaway success. 

The committee will also be using Cap and Trade funding to optimize current schedules and make plans for future growth. The committee also realizes that low gas prices have hurt ridership, and this May they plan on launching new discounts aimed at groups, along with a new advertising campaign.

All this information was gained from the March board meeting presentation.
You can view the full packet here (PDF)
The November board meeting presentation is here (PDF

You can find the PDFs of the various State Rail Reports here.

Fresno area trails to get a little bit longer

The Fresno area trail system is growing slowly, but every few months a new contract goes out to bid for a half mile or so here and another mile there.

A quick refresher on some recent construction:
Old Town Clovis Trail Gap Filled
New Clovis Trailhead 
Enterprise Trail Section

Here’s what has been approved this summer:


Veteran’s Boulevard Trail, between Hayes and Polk, approved 7/16/2015.

Here’s an interesting one. Veteran’s Boulevard is a long-planned 6 lane highway to cut diagonally across the west side of Fresno. It is currently scheduled to begin construction in 2020, but it looks like a small trail section, which will parallel the highway, will open sooner.

On the north end, it will terminate at Herndon and Polk. It will then follow the curving line of homes and reach Hayes, where a tiny segment has existed for at least a decade. The trail will be 12 feet wide and include lighting.

The dashed section is what will be built this fall. Solid green are existing sections.

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Here is the southern end, connecting to the existing road

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Clovis has also just hired a consultant (Fehr and Peers) to develop an Active Transportation Plan to help increase walking and bicycling. The Clovis Bicycle master plan was last updated in 2011, so this would be published 5 years later. There will be two public meetings, dates to be announced. Hopefully the new plan is a bit more progressive than the last one, which  as focused only on recreation. (But to be fair, many miles of it has been built).


This last bit of news is from May, but I did not post about it previously.

Swearengin’s 2016 budget aims to keep the momentum going. Among the budget’s highlights:

Construction of more than three miles of new trails, including two grant-funded projects to build the first segment of the Bankside Trail on Shields Avenue between First and Fresno streets.
Fresno Bee

Shields has sub-standard sidewalks and inconsistent bike lanes which only exist at random intervals. The trail is proposed to run adjacent to the canal. Here the canal is dry, although it usually carries water. I am not sure on what side of the canal it will run, but I would guess closest to the road.

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When finished in many years, it will make for a good crosstown options, and also a recreational opportunity for a section of the city with limited park space.

My big question is, do they have plans for crossing 41 and 168? It was criminal to build these highways with onramps that make walking and bicycling in the area extremely dangerous.

And on a random note, a friendly comment let me know that Caltrans has released their bicycle guide for the Central Valley.

Did you know that you can bike on I-5 over the Grapevine? I did not! In fact all of I-5 is open to bikes in the valley.

The guide is 99% about where you can and cannot bike on state highways, and you can download it here: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist6/planning/docs/BicycleGuide.pdf

A look at the construction of the Chaffee Zoo expansion (picture tour)

It’s been just over a year since I posted a picture tour of the construction ongoing at Roeding Park. The construction is removing a significant amount of public park space to create an expanded zoo, with more parking.

Let’s take a look at how that’s going.

What I considered the main entrance, on Belmont, is closed off to vehicles. In red, is the fenced off area, where construction is onoging. The yellow line is the walking tour I took, along the fence. You can still park on Belmont and walk in via small entrances. The Ps are future parking, in what is parkland today.  Note the massive dirt lot across the street on the bottom, with the blue x. That could have made a perfect parking lot, while saving park space. But no.

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So in we go. This is how you get in. Super inviting right?

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I arrived at the end of the work day

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To the right of the construction fence, there’s still some park available… but it’s really inaccessible. You cannot park on Golden State and access the park.

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 As an aside, I believe the Belmont Rotary seen here will be disappearing soon, with High Speed Rail construction. I’d assume they’d turn it into a standard intersection.

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The highlight of this trip is the number of mature trees left standing. I can only hope they will remain.

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Looking backwards

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Construction on some buildings

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Ok, continuing with many more pictures after the jump here…

 These are really tall

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One of the most disagreeable parts of the zoo expansion, to me, is the removal of the dog parks. Roeding Park has the largest dog parks in Fresno, and they have significantly more grass and trees than the ones at Woodward Park. Fortunately, they still exist – for now. I’ve seen no information as to when they will be closed.

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Not much of a crowd

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This fountain does not work

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Looking into the construction area again, from the corner of the dog parks and the existing zoo

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 Golden State, no pedestrian access

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Walking back to Belmont

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In some sections, theres not much space to walk. Not inviting at all

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By the way, from Belmont it looks like the park is closed

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That’s it for Roeding Park and the zoo.

Bonus…I’d never been to Kearney Park. It looks a lot like Roeding Park.

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Just as well cared for

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Just as crowded

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 Just as confusing

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But it works

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Mexico’s Ecobici Bike Share Expanding Again, and Opening to Tourists

Another year, another major expansion for Mexico City’s 4-year old Ecobici bike share system. =&0=& new stations, and 2,600 new bikes. Of those new stations, 12 will be added in areas that currently have service, to meet high demand. 

To put that number in perspective, the system currently has 275 stations. With the expansion, the system will become the largest in the Americas, beating out New York’s Citibike which has 330 stations. The system would still be smaller than the ones in Paris and London, as well as various enormous systems in China.

You can see the current station map here. A map of new stations has yet to be released. Mexico City is a huge place, and the stations are (rightfully) being compactly spaced out. That means we could be reading about sizable expansions for years to come.

The planners expect this year’s expansion to attract an additional 60,000 new subscribers, which would add to the 120,000 subscribers today. Again as a comparison, Citibik had 90,000 as of last October, which is the last data I could find. Last September, Ecobici was nearing 100,000.

There’s also good news for tourists.

Unlike the many US bike share systems, Ecobici has operated on a closed subscription model, as they use ClearChannel as a provider.  What that means is that the system was ONLY open to residents of Mexico City, who had to fill out an application for a membership. The system also had a user cap, based on the number of bikes.

Last year, the system become available to non-annual subscribers who were willing to trudge to a central office, and have their passport scanned to open a temporary membership.

That silly system is coming to an end. Like most world bikeshare systems, Ecobici will soon allow people – including tourists – to buy a short-term membership straight from the station kiosk with a credit card. Pricing has not been announced, but as the annual membership is around 30USD, I would expect a day pass to be significantly less than the $10 common in the US.

Worried about biking in Mexico? The city has been adding protected bike lanes to encourage cycling. Last year, the city announced that all future public transit projects would include a bicycle component,, including the newest BRT line.

History of the system:

2010 – launched with 70 stations
2011-  expanded to 85
2012/2013 – expanded to 275
2014 – will expand to 446

Expansion is expected to begin by June. Addition of credit card readers to current kiosks may begin earlier. Both projects are scheduled to be implemented through summer. 

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 Image Source

Source: Milenio.com (Spanish)
Source: El Financiero (Spanish)