Tag: fresno

A Look at BRT Construction in Fresno

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. Click to read more!

Fresno’s new night bus service comes with some big asterisks

Fresno’s bus system (FAX) recently launched “night” service on May 1st. When I wrote about this news, details were quite sparse. Indeed, the FAX website didn’t update with the new schedules until the first day of the extended service. Unfortunately, some of those details have been disappointing.

Here are the issues which really only became clear AFTER service launched.

  • Only Monday to Friday
  • 1 hour wait between buses after 6pm 
  • Only 5 routes offering “night” service 
  • ….and only on select portions of those 5 routes

What is night service? 

The reason I am putting quotation marks around “night” is because in most cities, the announcement of night service tends to mean buses running at 2am, 3am or 4am. In Fresno, “night” means new service between 9pm and midnight. Critically important, yes, but a reflection of how poor service used to be. 

Only Monday to Friday 

I had guessed the first point, based off the newsletter announcement, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise. However, it is still ridiculous that bus service on Saturdays, across all of Fresno, ends at around 7pm. To be fair, service was not reduced on weekends, so there has not been a decline in service. That being said, the new “night” service highlights how poor weekend service is. That is something that should be addressed.

Long headways 

Another concern is that nothing pre-launch talked about frequencies at all. Earlier this year, FAX launched “FAX-15,” or buses running every 15 minutes (vs every 20 or 30) on select lines. However, that service level ends early, before 7pm. On route 38 for example, one of the busiest lines in the system, buses arrive every 15 minutes from start of service (6:15am) until 7pm. Then there is a 35 minute wait, followed by a 57 minute wait, and the last 4 runs are an hour apart. Line 30, the busiest route, and the future fake BRT line, is actually less impressive. 6am – 5:30pm – every 15 minutes Then 20 minutes, then 35 for 3 runs, then 45 minutes, and finally once an hour from 9pm to midnight.

It’s also important to note that FAX STILL lacks a bus tracker. So an uneven schedule is even worse for riders, since you can’t memorize the times.

Limited routes 

The biggest asterisk came with the reveal of the new map. Mind you, it’s a nice looking map.  FAX night map That’s missing huge chunks of Fresno West Fresno isn’t even invited to the map. Riverpark, apparently, is the northern border of the city. East-west travel is not advised. On the other hand, the routes they chose are decent. With the exception of route 32 (which I would guess was political), the highest ridership lines received new service. However, does a downtown transfer hub make sense at 11pm? That’s not where the jobs are. That’s not where the residents are. And frankly, that’s not where people want to be standing around waiting for their connections. Downtown obviously needs service, but running both 30 and 28 so close together south of Shields seems unnecessary. A Shields crosstown bus would probably impact more people. 

Limited sections

Aside from only covering 5 routes, the chosen routes will not run their entire length during the “night” service. The reason seems to be to keep the entire night operation running with a grand total of 9 buses.  Route 32, for example, usually runs all the way up to Riverpark, as does 38, which actually terminates downtown via south Fresno. Route 28 usually ends at Fresno State. I’m not saying the 5 chosen routes shouldn’t be shortened – making modifications absolutely makes sense. I’m just saying it’s a surprise.  Well, except in the case of Route 32. Here is the normal run.

FaxRoute32-1_Page_1

The problem, is that the (extremely) shortened route is scheduled as follows:

Aerial Shots of California High Speed Rail Construction Released!

The California High Speed Rail Authority have recently posted aerial shots of the various construction sites that are well underway in the California Central Valley, primarily around Fresno. They tend to post updates on their official Flickr account once or twice a month, but most are taken at ground level. Since the Google Earth satellite images are unfortunately over 2-year old at this point, these new photos, taken last week, provide a unique vantage point. Seeing the action from above, you can really understand the scale of the various bridges, and make sense of how they fit in.

The Cedar Viaduct is probably the most important construction area right now because of the impact it will have. The bridge will take trains over CA-99, which sees around 95,000 vehicles passing by every day. Many people are still unaware that HSR is actually happening, so seeing the bridge take shape will have a large impact. Click to read more!

United brings mainline service back to Fresno

fat1
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. Click to read more!

Fresno will finally expand bus service past midnight on weekdays!

With a population of 520,000, Fresno is not a small town. And yet until now, the bus system, FAX, has acted like it serves a population of 50,000. Currently, service ends before 10pm on weekdays – all trips depart their last run around 9pm. On weekends it’s even worse – the buses are in their garages by 7pm.

This will finally change in 3 weeks. 

A FAX bus downtown

On May 1, weekday service until approximately 1 a.m. will be launched. Weekend service bus frequencies will improve — most routes will deliver
service every 30 minutes.
FAX Newsletter

The new schedules haven’t been released yet, so I am interpreting “until approximately 1 a.m” as the buses will start their final runs around midnight, concluding service at around 1am. Click to read more!

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. Click to read more!

A Look at Construction on Fresno’s Fake BRT, and New FAX15 service

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.

FAX15

Oddly enough, none of the marketing for the new service mentioned what routes were affected. The new webpage said “Shaw and Cedar.” fax15 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.

So why is this happening? 
You might remember recently I posted about how Fresno held a workshop on emphasizing frequency over bus coverage. In that plan, the idea was to keep the FAX budget constant, while increasing frequency on key routes. The cost came from pulling buses on other routes, along with savings from route changes and finding efficiencies. 
None of that happened this month however. The FAX network continues to look almost identical to the system designed in the early 1970’s.
So where did the money come from?
Well, you might remember that about a decade ago, Fresno already had 15-minute frequencies. Indeed that lasted for three years.
In both cases, then and now, the answer comes from Federal Grants. Grants for funding operations are incredibly rare, and yet Fresno has benefited twice. Of course, last time, once the grant ended, Fresno didn’t add a single dollar into the budget, so frequencies fell back to 30-minutes. However, this caused immediate overcrowding, as the 15-minute “trial” was a success. By moving buses around, FAX compromised on 20-minute rush hour frequencies on the main 3 lines, at the expense of other routes which have since vanished. Click to read more!

Fresno Fulton Mall January 2017 Deconstruction Photo Tour

It’s been eight months since I last looked at the Fulton Mall. Back then, major construction had started in most parts, with fences everywhere. Concrete had already been poured on the parking areas at the southern end. I assumed it would be mostly done by now, but not even close. Let’s take a look at the current status (current as of last week).

Note: Pictures taken on New Years Day, so most businesses closed for the holiday, but if you look closely you’ll note many have been run out of business thanks to the abysmal construction staging. Also, please let me know if you have trouble viewing the image. As google has killed Picassa, which was integrated with Blogger, I have moved to Flickr.  Click to read more!

Can Manchester Center Mall be saved?

Built in 1955, Manchester Center Mall was Fresno’s first foray into the suburban enclosed mall template*. Three and a half miles north of downtown, the Mall promised ample parking and an escape from the weather. The concept was indeed successful, and the mall expanded as the decades went by.

Well, for awhile anyway. Fresno kept expanding north (Fashion Fair opened in 1970), and Manchester Center was left behind. What was once the edge of the city became the inner city. As popularity waned, so did the investment. By the mid-90s, the mall was in serious trouble. And in 2009, when Gottschalks (139,500 square feet) closed, it was left with only Sears (186,000 square feet) as an anchor and a handful of stores catering to lower incomes. Click to read more!

Fresno Mayoral Election – What will it mean for sprawl?

If you support investment in a strong downtown, curtailing sprawl, focusing on infill, fighting slumlords, and supporting high speed rail, which candidate should you support in the upcoming Fresno mayoral election?

Downtown Fresno, before the removal of the Fulton Mall

The good news is that fortunately for Fresno, neither candidate is a disaster. Neither candidate has declared that downtown should be abandoned, or that bike lanes are part of a secret international agenda, for example. Unfortunately, that means that voting tomorrow becomes a little harder, because one has to conduct a little research.

The candidates are Democrat Henry Perea and Republican Lee Brand. If you only follow national politics, the choice seems simple. For whatever reason, over the last decades, the Republican Party has taken stances against sustainable transportation, High Speed Rail, and investment in infill. But we’re talking about Fresno, and it’s not so clear cut. Click to read more!