Tag: fresno area express

COVID-19 Impacts to Fresno Area Transportation as of March 29, 2020

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last few weeks reading a LOT of news about COVID-19 (coronavirus). All the bad news has taken away most of my motivation to write blog articles, and not just because “regular” news is on pause, but because it’s been pretty exhausting. I also figured that because the news has been changing so quickly, there was little reason for me to write. This isn’t like a new trail, where posting two weeks late is still timely. By the time I get around to posting any news, it has likely changed.

That being said, I’m thinking there may be some value in having a static record looking backwards. Because of the volume of news, six months from now, it will be pretty difficult to do a Google search to find exactly what the transportation impacts were. So the goal of this post (and a probable follow up), is to have one place summarizing what the impacts of the virus were on Fresno-area transportation. Here is what the impacts looked like as of March 29, 2020. Click to read more!

FAX considering changes to several bus routes

For the first time in forever, Fresno Area Express (FAX) is seriously considering some pretty major changes to bus routes. This could include the much-needed Herndon route, and a bus line to the new Amazon and Ulta warehouses built in southwest Fresno. However, the new service comes at the expense of existing lines. In this post, I take a look at how FAX is getting the word out, and what those changes are.

Public Outreach

FAX has started holding public events and workshops on the proposed changed. This looks to be an extensive outreach effort, with the following pop-up events at bus stops throughout the system: Click to read more!

It’s taken Fresno over 3 years to rebuild a bus stop

On January 9, 2017. the Manchester Transit Center closed for renovations. It has been over three years and it is still closed for remodeling.

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The Manchester Transit Center is one of three spots in Fresno where multiple bus lines meet, allowing seamless transfers. Or at least that was the case, as those buses were rerouted for the “temporary” construction project.

It’s not a particularly challenging project. It’s a surface level bus stop with 6 spaces for buses to stop. There are benches. There is a light canopy. There’s a trashcan or two. The FAX office is there, which sells passes, but that was never touched, and looks hilariously outdated. Click to read more!

Fresno Eliminates All-Door Boarding on “BRT” Route

A small announcement appeared on the FAX website last week: fareboxes are being added to buses on Route 1 (Q) and all-door boarding is being eliminated.

Fareboxes will soon be installed on Route 1 – BRT buses.  Once installed, passengers must board through the front door and use the farebox to: Pay in cash, Validate ride cards, or Activate passes 

FAX

On Twitter, I confirmed with the agency that all-door boarding will end, even for those who choose to pay at the machines.

Pre-payment and all-door boarding was one of the only “BRT” features that hadn’t yet been eliminated. As a reminder: Click to read more!

Fresno gets $2.2m for bus stop ADA upgrades

FAX, Fresno’s transit system, received a $2.2 million grant to build ADA upgrades at several stops around town. According to FAX:

The funding will provide an accessible location to wait for the bus and an accessible pathway for passengers to get to and from the sidewalk to a median bus island bus stop.  Improvements include:  adding or enlarging concrete bus stop landings, construction curb cuts, and adding new bus stop amenities such as shelters, benches and trash receptacles.

Fresno Area Express

The agency created a hilariously basic render of what these improvements could look like, which you can see at the top of this post. Click to read more!

Fresno Saturday night bus service has launched

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:

1

9

28

32

38

Saturday night service is noted by a shaded area on the weekend page. Looks like they might need to fix the PDF though, as there is overlapping text. Click to read more!

Fresno night bus service expands to Saturdays

Two and a half years ago, Fresno Area Express (FAX) created a “night bus” network by extending bus service past 9pm on the five busiest bus routes. This new service came with a major asterisk:

  • Only Monday to Friday
  • 1 hour wait between buses after 9pm
  • Only 5 routes offering “night” service 
  • ….and only on select portions of those 5 routes

Starting November 16, at least one of those issues will be improved: service will be extended to include Saturday nights as well.

The bus routes affected include routes 1, 9, 28, 32, and 38, which are the same routes that saw a previous service expansion. Handy Ride, the on-demand paratransit service, will also follow the new extended hours.

Current weekend service in Fresno is abysmal, with even the “BRT” route (Route 1) starting the final runs around 6pm. This reality stands in contrast to the claims that Fresno government is invested in revitalizing downtown and attracting night life. Unfortunately, this news may have come too late for the Fresno Foxes. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

12 years of FAX ridership – the decline in riders (and service) is real

With the recent launch of the new “Q” bus service in Fresno, many articles have been asking if this will stop the decline in bus ridership. However, I have yet to see any article actually talk about numbers. What has the decline been? How long has it been happening? Well, let’s solve that mystery and dive right in!

I last looked at ridership in July 2015. That post was titled “7 years of decline.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten better.

We begin with the big picture: Ridership by month on Fresno’s bus system, FAX, from July 2005 to December 2017. These numbers are for regular buses only, not including para-transit. Clovis, which operates its own system, is also not included.

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Peak month is not a surprise. Ridership peaked in October 2008 with 1,390,745 bus rides.

That makes a lot of sense: the housing market was crashing, there was major turmoil in Wall Street, unemployment was on its way up (11.1% in October, on its way to 15.4% in February), and gas prices were skyrocketing ($4.64 a gallon in July 2008). People were desperate to save money, and riding the bus was a way to do so. This was true around the country. Additionally, FAX had recently implemented 15-minute service on major lines, thanks to a federal grant.

And then things started heading south. Even though people needed the bus, the city was slashing services left and right because they were broke. They eliminated the highway express routes, decreased service frequency, and eliminated routes 4, 12, 18, and 56. On top of that, they hiked fares.

As the economy started to very, very slowly pick up, ridership continued to fall.

Ridership fell to 803,866 in July 2011, an astonishing decrease of 42% from peak. (Unemployment was 16.2% in Fresno that month)

This past July, unemployment reached 8.6%, similar to the “good old days” of 2006.

FAX ridership July 2017: 570,395. A decline of 59% since the peak. October 2017, the annual high point, was 866,634, below even 2005/

I had no idea it had gotten this bad. Here is what almost 10 years of decline looks like:

ride8

Incidentally, Fresno population in 2008 was 472,949, which increased to 522,053 for 2016.

These next charts show how Fresno cut service. The first is ridership compared with Vehicle Revenue Miles, or distances the buses travel when picking up customers. A smaller number means less buses and/or less routes. The cuts in 1010 are very clear.

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This one is similar, but with Vehicle Hours Traveled, compared with ridership. Same idea, less service, less hours the buses are rolling.

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Neither measure is perfect. For example, if FAX were to send a single bus on a route to San Francisco every day, and it carried one person, the charts would show a huge increase in service hours and miles, but that wouldn’t really be an improvement.

However, it is useful data. You can clearly see the cuts in service Recently, you can see an increase in 2017. This is because the Q route was supposed to be open by 2017, so Fresno started using some of the operating grants to increase service.

Passengers on two of the busiest Fresno transit routes to and from Fresno State will start seeing more frequent weekday bus service starting Monday, just a week before the start of spring-semester classes at the university.

FAX15 is the brand for the city’s new service, on which new buses will run every 15 minutes on portions of Shaw and Cedar avenues from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. FAX stands for Fresno Area Express, the city’s public bus system.

More buses will mean that passengers on the prime sections of two routes won’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for the next bus to come along.

On FAX’s north-south Route 38 along Cedar Avenue, the FAX 15 buses will run between Jensen Avenue and Shaw Avenue, said Brian Marshall, the city’s transportation director. Click to read more!

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.

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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This is insulting.

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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.

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Super confusing, right?

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

Unfortunately, it greats you with this:

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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.