Tag: funding

How much service will Amtrak be cutting this fall?

Like all travel providers, Amtrak has been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19, as the vast majority of people have cut down on their travel. However, unlike airlines that received huge sums of bailout money, Amtrak is less posed to get government assistance. That is because Republicans for years (decades?) have been trying to eliminate Amtrak, so they’re not rushing to save the organization now.

In the short term, Amtrak cut service in order to match reduced demand. For example the San Joaquin line cut three daily round trips on March 26th, and the Capitol Corridor went from 15 to just 5 trips a day. Other Amtrak lines, like the Downeastern (in Maine) and Keystone (in Pennsylvania) completely shut down for a couple of months. Click to read more!

Last chance to comment on plan to remove the Fresno Fulton Mall – act now!

On December 3rd, at 1:30pm, the Fresno City Council will be presented with the last step of the process to eliminate the Fulton Mall and turn it into a street. They will vote on whether to award the contract or not to begin the destruction of the pedestrian mall.

At this point, the project is 11 months late and, more importantly, $3 million dollars over budget.

At $23.05 million, American Paving had the lowest of three bids for
the project. The other two bidders were Lewis C. Nelson at $23.3 million
and Granite Construction at $27.68 million. Right off , the city
is eliminating a bid alternative that will save around $600,000. That
takes American Paving’s bid to $22.4 million. The cash on hand for the
project – around $20 million – means City Hall now needs to either cut
around $2.4 million from the proposal or find some additional revenue.
It looks like the city isn’t counting on the latter.

“We have to do it with the resources we have available,” Swearengin said.
Fresno Bee

While the mayor is pushing through, the final decision to sign the cheque is up to the City Council – a council which is wary about projects that are late and over budget.

That means, if you are interested in saving the Fulton Mall, you have one last opportunity to contact your council member and tell them why you don’t think they should approve the plan.

You can find who your representative is here:

Their emails are formatted as firstname.lastname@fresno.gov 

Remember, you can see my analysis of the construction diagrams here

I’ve written a letter addressing the following points:

  • The project is already over-cost and delayed, can we trust the other promises the city has made?
  • The mayor is promising to bring a list of changes to cut the budget – shouldn’t the vote be delayed so the people of Fresno can review those changes? Details matter. We should know what’s being chopped and have a time to comment.
  • The plan should be modified into a phased approach, so the cost and time of the conversion of one block (the northern-most) can be analyzed to see if it will hold true for the entire project. For these types of projects they always fund buried power-lines and sewer lines that weren’t mapped – adding millions in costs and months of delays.
  • Click to read more!

    What developer Darius Assemi forgot in his editorial on how to fund road construction

    Darius Assemi is the president of Granville Homes, one of the most prolific residential developers in the Fresno area (one which oddly doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry). According to his LinkedIn profile, he has been president for 6 years, and served as vice president for 25 years before that. The guy knows the Fresno market well, especially when it comes to selling single-family homes.

    But how much does he know about funding our infrastructure? Let’s take a look at his Fresno Bee editorial on the subject. Here are his main points:

  • Deteriorating roads cost Californians $44 billion a year in repairs, accidents, time and fuel
  • Deferred repair costs exceeding $57 billion
  • Caused by diminishing purchasing power of gas tax
  • Federal budget includes more money for Fresno BRT

    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.

    Regardless of the fact that the project isn’t really a good one, the feds are so happy to see Fresno propose any kind of transit improvement they’re ready to fund almost all of it.

    This shows the previously allocated funds, the 2014 allocation, and Fresno’s peer cities for this kind of project.

     photo brtfunds1_zpse60371ca.jpg

    While that section is for small starts, the budget also includes money for San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Sacramento. $130 million for LA alone in 2014.

    Fresno is trying to get the maximum possible from the feds – 80%. The rest would come from the state.

     photo brtfunds2_zpse5bf594a.jpg
    The numbers come from this PDF. This second PDF has a route map.

    Planning began in 2008 (PDF) and the project was originally supposed to begin construction in 2012. Now, the plan is for 2014, with service in 2015. It’s just new buses and bus stops with actual benches, but don’t be surprised to see the project delayed until 2016. That is, if it does go through. This past January, city council members were talking about pulling the plug.

    In Fresno, is lack of spending on transit keeping unemployment high?

    Over at The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark recently wrote an excellent article looking at per capital funding across the nation for transit. A large focus of his report was the inequality present in funding, and how low income areas, the ones which most need better transit, are the ones with the lowest amount of support for their systems. He draws the conclusion that the shift to local funding, instead of federal, can lead to big problems.

    Naturally, Fresno is a prime example of an area that desperately needs more transit, but doesn’t allocate sufficient funding for it. Later on in this post, I will use his charts to show that Fresno predictably ranks near last in the 65 cities he looked at.

    He even calls out the city in an example:

    In sum, this evidence suggests that states and local governments,
    left to their own devices, will restrict funding on transit operations
    based on the income of their inhabitants, not based on need. It is not
    rational that the state and local funding for transit in San Jose is
    more than six times higher than that in Fresno, just 150 miles apart,
    much because of the latter’s significantly lower household incomes and
    more Republican voting tendencies. Fresno, after all, has more than
    double the poverty rate of San Jose and thus has a significant
    transit-dependent population that is not being appropriately served. Click to read more!