Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Will Fresno council kill infill general plan?

Developers aching for more sprawl versus everybody else. Sound familiar?

Sometimes Fresno feels like a broken record, and this time it's no different. Tomorrow, the City Council may finally vote on the 2035 General Plan Update. The plan supports infill development as an attempt to curtail the ever-expanding city boundary. It won't BAN sprawl, it will just aim to decrease it. But for some, that's too much.

Naturally, the developers of tract homes aren't pleased, and they have the attention of Chief Tea Party Council President Steve Brandau who helped killed the fully funded BRT project, and has also eliminated every road diet proposal that comes his way. In his mind, everybody in Fresno is well-off, everybody drives, and everybody wants to live the suburban dream. After all, that's what he wants, and so naturally, that's all that matters. Throw in some free market voodoo, and you have yourself the developers best friend.

From his recent op-ed:

Our citizens have always preferred bigger homes on lots with a backyard for barbecuing. They like driving cars while listening to music.

This general plan would be more at home in Sacramento or San Francisco. It is now popular in California for public policy to be made on the whimsical notions of the “intellectual elite.” They live off high six-figure salaries and have less common sense than the average Walmart clerk.
...
That said, this general plan is still focused on high-density infill development that is diametrically opposed to the free market. Until that fact changes, I cannot support this 2035 General Plan Update.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/12/14/4283330/steve-brandau-proposed-general.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/12/14/4283330/steve-brandau-proposed-general.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy
The comments section is strongly against this attitude.

The people of Fresno know what the free-market magic has brought. It created blight, abandoned neighborhoods, one of the strongest income divides in the country, sky-high unemployment and a city that ranks near the bottom of a new list every week. Parks? Air quality? Active lifestyles? Bookstores? You name it, Fresno tanks it.

An opposing op-ed ran in the Fresno Bee describing what we see every day. It included the classic picture of Blackstone, a monument to free-market planning.

 photo blackstone_zps35305f42.jpg


We make a game of counting the billboards and signs. You take the billboards, and I’ll take the signs. We go a couple of blocks, fast-food bedlam, before our eyes give out. On the northeast corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues, a white wattage flash startles the night. Billboard or sign, who can say?

One of my old high school buddies, who left years ago, argues that all you need to know about Fresno can be gleaned in a single Blackstone drive. No place with even a modicum of self-worth would allow such a disgrace, much less right down its spine

The rest of the article is well worth reading.


If any of this debate sounds familiar it's because the process has been going on forever.

This was from April 2012.

Now, after the formation of a citizens committee, 12 community workshops and a citywide telephone survey, we're about to see if the City Council has the backbone to stand up to developers seeking more Fresno sprawl.

The test comes 5 p.m. Thursday when the council selects one of five options for the 10-year update to the 2025 General Plan.
Way back then many concessions were made to developers. Of course now some are demanding the vote be delayed a few more months for more input/concessions. And yet, just this week

An estimated 350 people gathered at the Convention Center New Exhibit Hall for the City Council’s hearing on the proposed 2035 general plan update.

All of them didn’t speak. But a lot did. And by all accounts just about everyone was keenly interested in Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s blueprint for growth.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/12/11/4281459/live-blog-fresno-city-council.html#storylink=cpy


We know how Brandau will vote. The question is, will the rest of the council ignore the will of the people who have gone to meeting after meeting and saddle up to developers and their promises of short-term pay-days, or will they vote for a better future?

ead more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/12/11/4281459/live-blog-fresno-city-council.html#storylink=cpy
 
The council this year has voted to rip up the Fulton Mall, neuter BRT and shut down road diets. I can't say I'm hopeful, but maybe this year can end on a good note.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shock! Journalist finally realizes that rail is cheaper and more reliable than flying

One of the most frustrating parts about journalism in California, especially in regards to high speed rail (HSR), has been the inability of reporters to see beyond their personal bubble. Many times, it seems like these journalists take their own experience, and extrapolate it to be the "California experience". For example, if they drive everywhere, then "everybody drives". Or, when it comes to travel within the state, "everybody flies". For a rambling discussion at the bar, that's not an issue, but when these journalists write for major newspapers and get to set the tone, it loses all its amusement.

Recently, journalist Joe Matthews published a piece (which was then published in the SF Chronicle) complaining that air travel has become expensive and unreliable, and maybe high speed rail could be a solution to his recent troubles.  

This thought ran through my head as I stood one morning last week at Gate A3 of Burbank airport, enraged and fully engaged in another of my now-frequent battles with Southwest Airlines.
My morning flight to Oakland, where I was giving an afternoon talk, had been canceled without explanation. But Southwest wouldn’t let me on an earlier flight that had room and was still sitting at the gate. The Southwest agent said he couldn’t get me to Oakland before 3 p.m.—which wasn’t reassuring since my talk started at 4. He could get me to San Jose, but wouldn’t offer me compensation for the extra travel time or car I’d have to rent. 
Sadly, this revelation came about only because his day was almost ruined. Like most journalists, his experience with the state revolved around Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Sacramento. The thing is, reporters for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, or New York Times don't really venture into the valley, unless they need to slap together a cheap report about the drought. Maybe if they'd tried flying into Bakersfield or Fresno within the past decade, they would have changed their tune a little earlier.

I used to think that a $68 billion train project from L.A. to San Francisco didn’t make much sense because the great state of California had Southwest Airlines. For most of my adult life, Southwest has been more reliable in California than any utility. It provided the essential north-south connections in our long, tall state with the downscale charm of a great bus service. It was cheap, on time, and offered constant flights staffed by people who did everything they could to get you to your destination.  As for me, it’s not too great a leap to say that Southwest made it possible for me to do my job. I routinely used it to commute from Southern California to Sacramento or the Bay Area for a day of work–up in the morning, back in the evening, often for less than $100 round-trip.

That's fantastic, if your origin and destination was served by Southwest. Problem is, the Valley has never had Southwest Airlines. Or Jetblue. Or Virgin. Or any low-cost carrier offering flights within the state. There's Allegiant Air (which was actually founded in Fresno!) but that airline does not provide service within the state (only to Vegas and Hawaii on certain days of the week).

The Valley never had cheap flights, and using air service within the state many times cost more than jumping on a flight to Dallas.

For example, say I need to book a short notice trip to Los Angeles from Fresno for next week (Wednesday 12/17), returning the next day. According to Expedia, it would cost me a cool $377.70. San Diego is a little cheaper ($267.20)...even though that itinerary includes a stop in Los Angeles (what?). A direct flight to San Francisco from FAT? $665! It would be cheaper to book a flight to Seattle, via SFO, and not get on the Seattle flight.

Booking in advance doesn't help. Searching for February 17th (Tuesday) direct to San Francisco comes up as $519.60. Not much of a saving. In fact, this is the recommended itinerary if you're willing to make some ludicrous connections:

 photo airfare_zps43264420.png

It's almost hilarious.

What's not hilarious has been reading news article from people complaining that the proposed HSR fare (80% of air) wouldn't be cheap enough to make taking the train worthwhile. Of course, that proposed fare took into account the cheapest of flights (LA area to San Francisco area) and the most expensive of train trips (end point to end point).

That means if the standard airfare at the time was $150 between LA and the Bay, HSR would cost  $120. However, the train fare for Fresno to one of the two would be only a portion of that, because the shorter portion of the trip would mean a lower fare. So lets say $80. For reference, an Amtrak ticket booked today for next Wednesday between Fresno and Los Angeles would run $35 each way. $33 to San Francisco.

Compared to airfare that never goes below $250, that's a damn steal. You can play around with Bakersfield and find the same pricing trends. Visalia and Modesto are good for a laugh. Monterey is nice if you need a heart attack.


The reporter also looked into some service issues:

Southwest’s on-time performance is now among the worst in the airline business, and last month it canceled more flights than any other American carrier. Southwest’s democracy has atrophied as rapidly as California voter turnout; the airline that once treated us all the same now has different classes of entry, tickets, and customers. And its once simple and generous frequent flier program has become less so.

Reliability has always been a serious issue in the Valley. Fog delays are common, if not expected, for 4-5 months of the year. And because most flights into Fresno and Bakersfield are on smaller, regional planes, baggage hassles are plentiful. Indeed, for many years I came to expect that my bag would not make it into Fresno the same day I did.

 Edit: Look what the Bee published the day after I posted this

 Fog creates central San Joaquin Valley air travel headaches
Low visibility forced air traffic controllers to declare a “ground stop” about 10:15 p.m. Monday, bringing all commercial airline movement to a standstill.

“No taxiing, no landings, no takeoffs,” said airport spokeswoman Rhonda Jorn. Even with equipment to accommodate instrument landing for experienced pilots, “if visibility gets down to less than 600 feet, that’s when they call a ground stop.” Private pilots can still try their luck at taking off or landing, but do so at their own risk, Jorn said.

A Volaris flight from Guadalajara that was supposed to arrive in Fresno just after 11 p.m. Monday was instead diverted to San Jose International, Jorn said, and its scheduled 1 a.m. return flight to Guadalajara was delayed until Tuesday afternoon. An Aeromexico flight from Guadalajara with a scheduled arrival time shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday was canceled because of weather and crew availability.

On Tuesday morning, United Airlines flights from San Francisco and Denver were diverted to Los Angeles, and a flight from Los Angeles to Fresno was canceled, Jorn said.



Also, while the high fare might indicate to the airlines that there is demand for more seats, they refuse to add any. If you have a connection, you may never make it to your destination.

Two years ago, a few days before Christmas, I flew into LAX to connect to Fresno. My flight was delayed, so we missed our connection by minutes. Problem: Every flight to Fresno for the next 3 days (leading up to Christmas day) was sold out, if not overbooked. We'd have to wait standby with no guarantee we'd ever arrive in Fresno, and with zero compensation.

We rented a car.

Earlier this year (in May, not exactly peak travel time), in a similar scenario, I arrived in Las Vegas and was told my connecting flight to Fresno was cancelled (due to weather in San Francisco!?). There were about ten of us making that connection, and we were told there was nothing they could do, as it was the last flight of the night, oh and by the way, the next three days were sold out with no guarantee we'd get a seat. And since they blamed weather, we received no compensation. Some of my flight-mates jumped onto the next plane to SFO so they could rent a car and drive to Fresno. Another couple risked a flight to LAX in an attempt to make a connection that was not guaranteed. Two more simply decided to drive from Vegas. I spent the night, and got myself booked into Visalia, via LAX.

I'm sure anyone who has frequently flown through Bakersfield and Fresno could tell a similar tale. Flights have never been cheap or reliable, and flying within the state is never really an option.

It's a shame these reporters had never bothered to ask.


BONUS
Incidentally, this is what the plane to Visalia looks like. I didn't realize commercial flights with open cockpits were still a thing. Good leg room though (picture taken from my seat!)

 photo visalia_zpse1b5dcc7.jpg

Fresno gets significantly larger planes.

 photo DSC09358_zps52805eeb.jpg

 photo DSC09360_zpsd97b775c.jpg

I think the Greyhound station is larger

 photo DSC09361_zpsdf10604a.jpg

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Westlake sprawl project, with artificial lake, is dead!

Yesterday's election news keeping you down? Maybe this surprising development will brighten your day.

This week, the Fresno Bee reported that the massive Westlake sprawl project has been put on hold - for at least a decade. The news came as a great surprise because last December the developer, Granville, began mobilizing bulldozers to flatten the land.

Developer Darius Assemi, president of Granville Homes, said the timing isn’t right for his Westlake development, which lies beyond Fresno’s city limits. The cost to build is too high and he’s waiting to see the city of Fresno’s growth plan for the area before moving ahead with the project.

The decision, made in recent weeks, is disappointing, said Assemi, who in 2004 began assembling more than 400 acres to create Westlake. “We’ve been working on this project for 10 years,” Assemi said. “We want to make sure it’s financially feasible and the right components are in place.”

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/11/02/4212870/assemis-westlake-project-in-fresnos.html#storylink=cpy


The plan first made its way through City Hall in 2005. By the time it was approved, the housing market collapsed, and it was all put on hold. Last October, the project rose from the dead, with the plans going through the Council one more time to make some modifications. Nothing too grand, just swapping some of the proposed plots around.

So what was Westlake? It was a plan to build 2,600 new single-family homes on 430 acres in the far west side of Fresno.
Assemi pulled together land that forms a long rectangular property bounded by Gettysburg, Garfield, Shields and Grantland avenues. Plans are to build about 2,600 single-family homes and apartments. The development could become home to as many as 8,000 people.

There will be a 55-acre lake, nearly three miles of trails, an elementary school (in the Central Unified School District) and 300,000 square feet of commercial space.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/11/02/4212870/assemis-westlake-project-in-fresnos.html#storylink=cpy
 
The plan was for the giant area in the center of this map:



The cherry on top was that this new development was to be centered around a massive artificial lake, hence the name. Another name for it would be "massive evaporation pool."

In regular times, the idea is ludicrous enough. Taking enormous amounts of much needed water and building a hole for it so you can sell waterfront property in the middle of the Central Valley. The water has to be piped in, and then continuously replenished as it evaporates during the scorching summers.

But actually building that, during a drought?

A 55-acre lake, with an average depth of 4 feet, would require 71,687,220 gallons of water on day one (calculator). At 5 feet, the amount would be 90 million gallons, plus the amount needed every day to replace what evaporates.

8,000 new people would also add to water use. According to the city, the average resident uses 240 gallons a day, which would result in 700,800,000 a year.

 photo westlake_zpsdb802c9c.jpg
What the site looks like on an average day. Source: Fresno Bee



The developer isn't saying it, but it looks like that reality finally hit them in the head - or at least the PR problems the development would create.

The official excuse is this:

“We need to develop Westlake at the beginning of an economic recovery cycle,” Assemi said. “Once we break ground it takes two years to get it off the ground. We want to be at the beginning of the next cycle and have product ready to go. We believe we have missed the boat on this cycle by at least two years.”

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/11/02/4212870/assemis-westlake-project-in-fresnos.html#storylink=cpy

That doesn't make sense. While the company obviously doesn't want to start selling homes during another recession, there's no indication that the housing market is headed for another collapse in two years.

That's why I think the lake was the real issue.

These days, there are very few political things that people can agree on - aside from the drought. The lack of water is one concern that spans all political orientations. While left and right may have different thoughts on how to address water storage, I doubt you'll get any disagreement on how ludicrous the idea of building a giant artificial lake is.

That potential outrage would not only put a damper on potential home sales, but could soil the entire company brand. In times of browning lawns, who wants to be the person who puts money down for a home next to a fake lake?

Ironically, the developer plans to use the land for almond crops for the next few years. Almonds use a whole lot of water (1 gallon per almond), but at least the water goes to something useful (and delicious). Supporting agriculture isn't exactly an odd position to take in Fresno, even if they're the biggest users of water. After all, without these water intensive crops, the region would have nothing.

90 million almonds or a private lake?

Hmmm.

Of course I might be wrong. Maybe they don't care about the PR.

The company took a closer look at the project’s price tag and found that “Westlake costs substantially more to develop than anticipated — 30% more roughly,” Assemi said.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/11/02/4212870/assemis-westlake-project-in-fresnos.html#storylink=cpy
You know what's gone up in price these days? Water.

There were many other things wrong with the plan, aside from water use. Pushing the city borders out way out west is obviously an issue. Also, the lake would destroy the grid, creating a 1.5 mile barrier between through routes. That means destroying ones ability to walk or bike anywhere. Naturally, Granville was advertising this as a walking and biking community thanks to internal trails (aka, where people walk their dog for 500 feet)



You can see a discussion of these problem that I posted one year and a week ago.

Fresno never pushed for solutions, such as a smaller lake, bridges, and improved connectivity. But now they don't have to. Thanks, drought?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Citibike owners stumble on day one with price hike lie

It's a new day for the Alta Bicycle Share company, under new ownership, and new management. Sadly, it seems like the new boss is a lot like the old boss when it comes to making promises and then not following through with them. Alta became quite well known for never delivering on their promises, and on day 1, the new Alt, now owned by Related Companies and Equinox, has kept up the tradition.

For months now, there have been rumors that Citibike, Alta's flagship system, would see a price hike for annual memberships under the new ownership. The official announcement yesterday confirmed the hike, but included a disclaimer.

On the official announcement and in the email they sent to all existing subscribers last night:

At this time, you may still sign up for a new membership or renew an existing subscription at the current $95 rate. We will let you know in the coming days when the rates will increase.

And yet mere hours later, the price was secretly hiked before people could take advantage of starting a new account or extending the existing membership under the previous (already high) rate. 

Today at 1pm, this was posted on their website:

Yesterday we announced that a new membership price would allow us to provide better service to all of our members, and instituted that new price last night. We truly appreciate your membership and look forward to improving and expanding the Citi Bike system.

So much for letting people know in the coming days!

What's especially troubling is that it shows a complete failure of understanding on how to conduct public relations.

Citibike found themselves in every major newspaper yesterday. That's great free press! They've been losing thousands of members over the past few months due to the broken docks and bikes, but the new owners marched in promising they would fix it all and save the day.

Mr. Walder said that the immediate priority was rebuilding the system, and riders’ trust, and that every bike and dock in service would get a complete overhaul this winter. The hope is to end to the glitch-filled and empty docks that have made Citi Bike a frustrating experience for its most loyal riders.
NYT

Seems like an excellent opportunity to build up the user base and lock in existing members! Citibike could combine the renewed press, build on the excitements of improved maintenance and future expansion, and then seal the deal with a limited time offer to lock in existing rates. Nothing gets the credit cards out faster than a clock counting down to a 60% price increase.

Instead, they've taken all the attention and generated angry subscribers who were told to expect one thing, and then had the rug pulled out from under them hours later. That sure is one way to thank the subscribers that have pushed through all the technical problems and broken promises.

From their Facebook:
You didn't even give us 24 hours to renew the membership at the current rate. As a result, I am going to take a long winter break... Bye!
___
I don't mind the new price but Citi Bike should be ashamed for telling us it was coming and they'd let us know when and that, in the mean time, we could still renew at the current price only to jack up the price without warning. SHAME ON YOU, CITI BIKE.
___
Strange way of communicating with your customers. You said you would give advance warning for price hike and then you didnt. Will you be as good to your word about improving services?!
Citibike Facebook

Combine that with the seasonal timing: Winter is about to get rolling...and well, what the hell were they thinking? Why would anyone sign up for a membership now before next spring? Higher price and uncomfortable weather? No thanks!

Incidentally, Citibike was already one of the most expensive systems in the world. Paris, the global gold standard charges just 29 euros for a year. Montreal, the North American standard, charges $82 (Canadian).

It will be interesting to see if the management tries the same price hike approach in their other US cities. Boston, for example, has an $85 rate, and DC is $75.

It will also be interesting to see if this time around, they can keep their expansion promises. After all, the lack of expansion wasn't a funding issue, or a problem with Alta, it was because the supplier went out of business and since has been sold off (to a furniture company). Can the new Alta get more Bixi bikes, or will they have to pull the system and start fresh with a new model? Time will tell. 
 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

No Central Valley Colleges on Bicycle Friendly Awards List

Last week, the League of American Bicyclists released their updated list of "Bicycle Friendly Universities." The list ranks universities with a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum award for being bike friendly.

The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bikeable campus for students, staff and visitors. The BFU program provides the roadmap and technical assistance to create great campuses for cycling.

The Bicycle Friendly University program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning, known as the Five E's. Applications must be submitted online.
http://bikeleague.org/university

Here are the list of California colleges that made the cut:

Platinum
University of California, Davis
Stanford University 

Gold
University of California, Santa Barbara 

Silver
University of La Verne
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Santa Cruz
California State University, Long Beach 

Bronze
University of San Diego
University of California, Los Angeles
California Institute of Technology
Pomona College
Santa Monica College


 How about the local favorites?

Fresno State?
Fresno Pacific?
Fresno City?
Bakersfield?
UC Merced?

Nope. Not one Central Valley college made the list!

Maybe a map makes it more obvious (the green stars mean platinum)

 photo bikefriendly_zps5e0a86ab.png

I understand that there are MANY (many!) flaws with this kind of ranking system, especially one that requires the college to submit a form.

However, it does show a serious cultural issue, when the colleges are clustered in the way they are. Being bicycle friendly isn't on the radar of Central Valley colleges, and it shows.

I've posted a lot about the problems at Fresno State in the past, including at their new developments

Fresno City is also disappointing, because it is located in one the best parts of town for biking, and attracts many low income students. And yet their front door is an enormous surface parking lot for cars. 


However, to me the saddest is UC Merced. The university was built from scratch in the middle of nowhere in 2005. Thanks to every building being brand new, they talked a lot about energy efficiency and LEED. Problem is, they ignored the whole transportation side of energy use.

The University of California, Merced, will get 75 percent of its power from renewable sources by the end of 2016, and is on its way to being 100 percent renewably powered by then.
That's all very well, except I doubt any of the students drive electric cars.It's also noteable that almost every other UC is on the list, aside from Riverside.

How long will it take for the Central Valley Colleges to catch up with the rest of California and start being bike friendly?


You can see the full list here:
http://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/BFU_Master_Award_List_2014_.pdf



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Work underway at GV Urban's Met Block development

Way back in February of 2013, GV Urban went before the city with their newest apartment proposal. The plan involved building up the Met Block, named after the old Met Museum. The block is between Van Ness and Fulton, and between Calaveras and Stanislaus.



The plan involved keeping the Met (top corner) and restoring the only other building left standing, on the left.

Problem was, the plan sucked. GV Urban proposed sticking in the exact same template they've built five other times downtown, but this time with a hideous façade.



For quite possibly the first time ever, the city pushed back against GV Urban. Aside from the ugly façade, the city was concerned that such a prominent block should break GV's 3-story barrier, as to match the height of the Met.

 photo met1_zpsf76044a8.png

So the project went quiet for over a year, at least in the public eye.

Two weeks ago, the Downtown Fresno Blog posted that work had begun, and included this picture:

 photo met1_zps5fcd6cdb.jpg

That caught me off guard. I had expected to see a new proposal go through the planning board...

And indeed one had, back in May (massive PDF). Looks like I missed that meeting.

So what changed?

Almost nothing. Looks like GV Urban gets their way, again. The site plan is almost identical to what was presented in 2013. That plan included destroying a public park to replace it with private parking and an indoor courtyard. Classic Fresno. The public alley will also be privatized.



The diagram above is from last year, but is easier to see than the updated version, which to my eyes, is identical. It includes:

12 two-story triplex buildings
4 three-story fiveplex buildings
3 three-story mixed use

Total = 85 units 

As for the concern about heights? Not addressed. The buildings still top out at 3 stories, except now it looks just a wee bit taller, thanks to slightly more pitch on the roofs. And the hideous façade? Well, it sort of appears slightly less terrible.

 photo met2_zps156799d4.png

 photo met3_zpsf96bb19e.png

I'm assuming Granville pulled the "you let us do what we want or you get nothing at all" card and the city caved.

While it's great to see another 100+ people moving downtown, it's a shame they're doing so in such a mediocre project, especially on such a significant block.

On the plus side, the construction is so cheap that no developer will hesitate to knock it down in 20 years to build something better.



 On a completely different subject...

In May I also missed Brandau killing yet another road diet project, while voting yes on every road widening and traffic signal project possible. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Would High Speed Rail have kept the SF Giants affiliation in Fresno?

Last week the news in Fresno was all about baseball. After a 17-year partnership with the AAA Grizzlies, the San Francisco Giants decided to end their affiliation agreement and instead back the Sacramento River Cats.

One of the major reasons cited for the switch was how Sacramento is closer to SF than Fresno, which allows for faster and more convenient moves between the teams when needed. Now, we all know the public reasons for any major decision aren't the only ones. There are always layers of strategy and money under the surface. However, the public reason certainly did come into play.

For the Giants, having their Triple-A affiliate in their geographical backyard was important. Many team’s transactions involve calling a player up from or sending him down to Triple-A, the highest minor-league level. The Giants, who for the last 17 years have partnered with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, now will have many of their top minor-league players just 90 miles away.

“When you have so many player moves that take place between your Triple-A club and major-league team, it was just very difficult to pass up an opportunity to get that close to our Triple-A club,” Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans said.
Sacramento Bee

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/18/6717513/sacramento-river-cats-giants.html#storylink=cpy

Let's take a look...

AT&T Park in SF to Raley Field in Sacramento is a distance of 85 miles, or 1 hour and 25 minutes, according to Google Maps (no traffic). Transit is slower, but available. The Capital Corridor Route takes a little over 2 hours from Oakland, across the bay (plus time to get to Oakland).

AT&T Park to Chukchansi Park is 184 miles, or around 3 hours, according to Google Maps (no traffic). The San Joaquin train, also from Oakland, takes 4 hours and 15 minutes.

So clearly, there's some advantage. If a player is needed for a 7pm game, it takes half the time to go between SF and Sacramento than it would to Fresno.

That's today.

But what if High Speed Rail was available?

The projected schedules are for 86 minutes between Fresno and San Francisco. It also just so happens that the Fresno Rail Station will be 2 blocks from the stadium, and the future San Francisco terminal is also just 2 blocks away from their stadium.

Suddenly, the time/distance factor is completely nullified. Add to that how trains are safer and more reliable (no traffic), and if the tie-breaker is ease of access, Fresno gets the affiliation.

The mayor and the city talked about how they tried everything to keep the Giants in town. It's a shame getting HSR up and running yesterday wasn't in their power.

For a Giants fan in Fresno, it's certainly an interesting what-if. 





As an aside, the Grizzlies are now buddied up to Houston, who apparently didn't care about distance. This article popped up in the paper today:


The city does have a range of incentives available to entice new airlines to FYI, or for existing airlines to add new routes to and from Fresno, but the Federal Aviation Administration closely limits such financial inducements, Meikle said.

"We talk to airlines all the time about our incentives," he said. The packages include waiving landing fees and providing marketing funds "for airlines that are new to our market or who add a new destination," he said.

"If, say, United decided to start service between Fresno and Houston, it could qualify for the incentive." At that medium-haul range, an airline would have to provide at least four weekly flights; in exchange, the airline would get relief from airport landing fees and $2,000 a month in marketing money for 18 months.

The incentives are only available for year-round service, ruling out any suggestion that they might be used to try to boost any airline's service only during the baseball travel season.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/09/20/4135593/fresno-air-service-very-similar.html#storylink=cpy

United serves Bakersfield with flights to Houston, which is a product of how Continental operated (Houston was their hub). Continental always served Bakersfield, while their competitors, United and American, served Fresno. I assumed that when Continental merged with United, they would add a Houston flight to Fresno, but that hasn't happened. Maybe this time it will.

United recently dropped the Fresno-Vegas service, via their regional partner, and serving Houston would be a mainline operation. It would compete with Fresno-Dallas on American. In both cases, the flights are more about hub connections, than direct market-to-market demand.

Sacramento does have more flights than Fresno (including Houston), but High Speed Rail would also render the moot. Even with the current service patterns, players could take a quick 30 minute HSR ride to Bakersfield and transfer to a flight from there.
ead more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/18/6717513/sacramento-river-cats-giants.html#storylink=cpy