I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last roundup of how COVID-19 (coronavirus) has affected transportation providers in Fresno and the surrounding areas. Time is really moving in strange ways these days. At this point, it’s clear we’ve reached the bottom in terms of service cuts, short of an airline declaring bankruptcy (cough, AA, cough). How quickly service is restored is an open question. Some transit agencies have already said they don’t expect to return to full service until the end of the year. Agencies that rely heavily on rush-hour commuters are going to be the most affected, as some jobs (such as Twitter) may remain remote forever. It will be interesting to see if those agencies restore more off-peak service than peak-service, which would create a flatter utilization of their fleet, and that may end up being a good thing in the long run.
Last November, I reported that Fresno Area Express (FAX) received funds to update various bus stops. The upgrades include making them ADA accessible, so they can be used by those in wheelchairs, and adding new amenities like seating and shelters. Unlike the three-plus year odyssey that has been the reconstruction of the Manchester Transit Center, FAX has moved very quickly with these updates, and they’re almost all done.
For reference, here was the render they shared:
And here is what they look like in real life. Remember, they were previously just a sign planted on dirt.
You can see the new crosswalk and accessible ramps from the sidewalk to the island.
A transit agency can lose ridership extremely quickly and it can take years to build it back up again. When a bus route is cut, or service is decreased, riders are immediately affected and have to change how they get around. In some cases, that might mean getting a car and never looking back. But when service is added or increased, it can take people months or years to notice. Ask yourself, how often do you look up the schedule for buses you don’t normally ride?
In July 2015, I posted about how Fresno Area Express (FAX) had seen seven full years of ridership declines. Those declines weren’t unexpected, as the city kept cutting routes and service. In March 2018, I followed up by looking at twelve years of data, and the results weren’t pretty. Fortunately, Fresno started adding back some service. Three buses routes received more frequent (15-minute) service. “Night” buses were launched (until 10pm). Service on weekends was improved as well. In July 2018, it looked like these additions were helping FAX turn the corner.
Ten days ago, I decided to make a record of how COVID-19 (coronavirus) has affected transportation providers in Fresno and the surrounding areas – including the Bay Area and LA region. This post is a follow-up, to chronicle what has changed since. I have also added a few agencies I missed last week. It is sort of lucky I waited until today to make this, instead of last Sunday, as a bunch of changes go into effect today!
Fresno Area Express (FAX)
Officially, no changes to the schedule, but the system has been struggling with drivers calling out, as seen in this tweet:
This makes Fresno one of the only transit systems to continue running full service.
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.
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.
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:
On January 9, 2017. the Manchester Transit Center closed for renovations. It has been over three years and it is still closed for remodeling.
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.
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 passesFAX
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:
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.
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:
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.