Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are public electric car chargers finally coming to Fresno?

It's amazing to think that almost three years ago, I wrote about Fresno finally getting its first public electric car charging station. As the region with the worst air quality in the country, the lack of support for electric vehicles was alarming.

And here we are in 2015, and the situation is almost the same as it was in 2012!

In that post, I wrote about how the first public car charging installation was coming to Blackbeard's. Well three years later, it hasn't actually happened. Here's what progress looked like last month:

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The solar panels were never installed, nor was the charging station.

To be fair to Blackbeard's, they're a mini-golf and arcade place, where revenue arrives in the form of quarters. But how are everybody else doing?

Here's what the charging map looked like in 2012....two Nissan dealerships.

 

Here is what it looks like today.

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Good amount of growth right? Well, not really. Other dealerships got in on the action (Toyota, Fiat, Mercedes)  but it's unfair to count them, because they exist primarily to charge their cars for test drives. There's also an RV park shown, and a couple that are only available to employees of the company (Pelco, and Air District), which means they're not really public.

So removing those out, we are left with...

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Two Best Westerns, a highway rest stop. a DMV, a hospital and a gas station. A grand total of 6 public charging stations in a metro area with 1 million people.

That's shameful.

For comparison, here's the significantly smaller Santa Cruz

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Obviously, places like San Francisco are on a completely different level. You can explore the country with this cool website: http://www.plugshare.com/#

Why are public chargers important? Because so many people will never buy an electric vehicle due to range anxiety. You can drive almost anywhere in the world and know you will find a gas station, but the fear of running out of power can be enough to scare someone away from a non-polluting vehicle. This is even more true because their range is so much less than a gas car.

To truly be wildly adopted, chargers are needed everywhere. And unlike gas stations, they need to be in places that people plan on parking in anyway, like the mall or a favorite restaurant.

Fortunately, a solution may be coming, as announced last month:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company asked state regulators for permission to build an estimated 25,000 electric vehicle (EV) chargers at sites across its service area in Northern and Central California. If approved, this program would be the largest deployment of EV charging stations in the country.

The chargers would be located at commercial and public locations, including multi-family dwellings, retail centers, and workplaces. Approximately 10 percent of the chargers would be installed to support disadvantaged communities. PG&E would also provide tools and educational materials for site hosts and customers to learn about the benefits of electric vehicles.
PG&E
 One would assume this means a good deployment in Fresno.

However, there's reason to be worried. When Walgreens announced a nationwide roll-out, Fresno was excluded.

And Tesla loves to trumped their super high speed charging network.

Superchargers are free connectors that charge Model S in minutes instead of hours. Stations are strategically placed to minimize stops during long distance travel and are conveniently located near restaurants, shopping centers, and WiFi hot spots. Each station contains multiple Superchargers to help you get back on the road quickly.
Tesla
Here's their network as it exists today, and with all planned 2015 locations.

 photo ev4_zpsnx1d4ayt.jpg

But look closely, and you'll see the only charger in the Central Valley is on I-5, at the Harris Ranch store and rest stop. Nothing along the 99 at all.

Tesla thinks their car buyers will never set foot in Fresno, Bakersfield, or the National Parks. Hopefully PG&E doesn't limit their deployment in the same manner.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Streetsblog Looking for Fresno Writer!

If you would have asked me previously which would most likely come to Fresno, Streetsblog or Jetblue, I would have guessed Jetblue (but not seriously).

And yet on Friday this happened:

Following the launch of Streetsblog in Texas, Ohio, Saint Louis, and the Southeast, we have more good news to bring. Starting in early April, Streetsblog will launch its newest news site, Streetsblog California.

As part of the grant from The California Endowment that will allow us to launch the new Streetsblog, we’ll be hiring a writer in Fresno to cover the Livable Streets beat in the Central and San Joaquin Valleys.

Part-Time Writer for Streetsblog California
Job Description
We are looking for a professional journalist for a part-time position based in Fresno or elsewhere in the Central Valley to be a local correspondent for Streetsblog California. The position will be expected to provide regular coverage of local transportation projects including but not limited to bicycle and pedestrian planning, transit service, high speed rail, urban planning, and other issues.
Streetsblog

With 8 counties and close to 4 million residents, the San Joaquin Valley has a lot to write about. Expanding the definition to the Central Valley, which adds Sacramento and areas north, and you get 6.5 million people and the following metros:

  • Sacramento Metropolitan Area (2,527,123)
  • Fresno Metropolitan Area (930,450)
  • Bakersfield Metropolitan Area (839,361)
  • Stockton Metropolitan Area (696,214)
  • Modesto Metropolitan Area (518,522)
  • Visalia-Porterville Metropolitan Area (449,253)
  • Merced Metropolitan Area (259,898)
  • Hanford-Corcoran Metropolitan Area (153,765)
  • Madera Metropolitan Area (152,925)

Transportation-wise, that allows for coverage on the nations first real High Speed Rail line, two of the most popular Amtrak lines in the country, attempts at BRT, light rail in Sacramento, and commuter rail. Never mind bike and pedestrian news including plenty of good and bad news. Throw in Davis (unsure where Davis gets classified) and you have one of the premiere bike towns in the country.

It's also an area that needs more coverage.

The Streetsblog network includes only two blogs in the San Joaquin valley - this one, and the Fresno Bicycle Coalition, which hasn't updated in almost two years.

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The Bay Area, on the other hand, has dozens.

It will be great to see the area get more attention on widely-read platform, as a significant gap does exist. 



Oh and as for Jetblue, they recently made the surprise announcement of direct service from Boston to Sacramento,  on a seasonal basis for now.

Nonstop flights begin June 18 and will run through Sept. 7. JetBlue will fly four flights a week (Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays) on Airbus A320 aircraft. JetBlue also flies from Sacramento to its biggest hub at New York JFK and to Long Beach, Calif.
JetBlue's service will give Sacramento its first-ever regularly scheduled airline service to Boston, according to The Sacramento Bee.

"We have been trying to get nonstop service to Boston for many years and are thrilled that JetBlue has decided to invest resources in this route," John Wheat, Sacramento County Director of Airports, adds to the Bee.

The new Boston route will be a red-eye in the eastbound direction, departing Sacramento at 9:40 p.m. and landing in Massachusetts at 5:59 a.m., all times local. The westbound route will depart Boston at 5:20 p.m. and land in California at 8:49 p.m., all times local.
USA Today
 Last month Jetblue also expanded into Reno, adding service from JFK
JetBlue Airways today announces it will be the only airline to offer nonstop service between Nevada's Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and the U.S. East Coast as it launches service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on May 28, 2015. Reno-Tahoe will be the airline's 89th destination and is among a number of new JetBlue routes in the West.

"A nonstop link between Reno-Tahoe International Airport and New York City is long overdue. JetBlue is pleased to provide the only direct service linking the East Coast to an airport that is the gateway to so many great year-round destinations in the Reno-Tahoe region. Customers will finally have easy access to Reno, beautiful Lake Tahoe, the great historic town of Truckee, Donner Lake, Tuolumne River and the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain range -- home to Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park and two National Monuments," said James Hnat, JetBlue's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Government Affairs.
Yahoo News
I wouldn't exactly cite Reno as being close to Yosemite and Kings Canyon though...

Now, Reno gets more attention than Fresno, thanks to Tahoe and all the ski resorts. For comparison, Reno sees 3.5 million passengers a year, vs well under a million in Fresno. So while I wouldn't expect a flight from Fresno to Boston or NYC any time this century, I think Jetblue using one of their Embraer plans for a more local flight could happen one day. Maybe to Burbank, Long Beach, San Diego or as far away as Portland?

Who knows. But Streetsblog came to Fresno, so anything can happen.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Old Town Clovis Bike Trail Missing Gap Complete!

I've been wanting to share these exciting pictures for some time now, but had serious internet issues at home that caused my picture uploads to keep failing. Fortunately the internet company has finally fixed the problem. The pictures are no longer hot off the presses, but they're still very exciting, and I haven't seen any pictures posted elsewhere.


The longest bike trail in the Fresno area runs from Riverpark, up along Shepherd, and then down across Clovis, ending south of Sierra Vista Mall. It's a great recreational asset, a lot of fun to ride, and great for commuting too. It's known as the Sugar Pine Trail and also the Old Town Trail.

Originally it was a rail line, which is why it cuts across town. Sadly, at some point after the rail line was abandoned, and before the bike trail was built, Clovis allowed a parking lot to be built across the right of way near Old Town. That meant that for over a decade, there was a gap in the trail.

The gap wasn't particularly onerous - a two block detour on a quiet street with bike lanes. Unfortunately, there was zero signage indicating that the trail continued, and while the bike lanes were fine for me, they're a no-go for many riders. Not too many families riding with kids on training wheels would be comfortable on an on-street bike lane.



You can find an extensive picture review I did of the previous conditions here.

The gap before, this is where the path suddenly ended coming from the south:



What you had to do at the southern end:




Northern end was much worse:


The solution was obvious. I made these in 2012.




And that's almost exactly what they built!

In September 2013, the city approved plans to build a connection.

In April 2014, the plans were released.


Construction happened during the fall.  Overall, the trail looks great, except for one very significant flaw...Let's take a look!

Riding from the south, we approach the area...

 photo IMG_1286_8688_zpsbxisrfxd.jpg

 Almost there...

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And there it is! The old crosswalk stays the same, but now the trail continues beyond. Oddly, the building that was on the lot has disappeared.

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Visibility continues to be poor approaching the crosswalk though, but that was always the case:

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And there we go. Unlike other sections of trail, here they decided to separate the two directions of travel with trees and lights. It's a shared space, also used as a sidewalk. However, aside from Big Hat Days and Rodeo Days, one never finds people on the sidewalk here, so conflicts won't be an issue. 

 photo IMG_1292_8694_zpswxzfjyn7.jpg

Good, wide ramp.

 photo IMG_1293_8695_zpsefqom50a.jpg

New lights...don't really fit any scheme though. odd choice.

 photo IMG_1294_8696_zpsdnjrr7od.jpg

Benches and trash cans added in center area

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One still needs to be careful on the trail due to driveway crossings

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Water fountain is conveniently between both travel directions. Also, make note of how close the lights are to each other. Near the end of the post, I have pictures of them at night. 

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I wasn't the only user

 photo IMG_1299_8701_zpsv5s1xgn6.jpg

Halfway down, there's a T-intersection. The good news is, they DID built one ramp. The bad news is, they only built one, and decided not to paint a crosswalk. The current planning/engineering team at Clovis does not believe in crosswalks, and actually removed three on Clovis Avenue.

 photo IMG_1301_8703_zpsbdmlqq7x.jpg


Stepping back, you can see they built a bulb out for the crosswalk

 photo IMG_1300_8702_zpsq2d08bj7.jpg

Ramp is fine, but no crosswalk

 photo IMG_1303_8705_zpswmuhgltz.jpg

The other crosswalk, not so good

 photo IMG_1304_8706_zpsu71ws4fi.jpg

 photo IMG_1305_8707_zpsgdnohkq4.jpg

 The other side of the street got sidewalk extensions as well, but they couldn't be bothered to orient the ramps properly

 photo IMG_1331_8733_zpsbgui7val.jpg


Continuing on...

 photo IMG_1306_8708_zps9mukxzhd.jpg

They built the path right up to the existing building. However, see those garage doors?

 photo IMG_1307_8709_zpsptsbciel.jpg

Apparently they're not used, as the curb cuts were eliminated!

 photo IMG_1309_8711_zpstl5hbf6m.jpg

Now we get to 3rd street, where a new crossing was built, and yes, a painted crosswalk. However, they installed that idiotic sign that contradicts state law (traffic is required to stop for crosswalk users).

 photo IMG_1313_8715_zpsi1an5hbz.jpg

Brief detour...

They used the opportunity to modernize the other ramp, and add some landscaping. Sadly, they didn't bother to orient the ramp in the proper direction, as requested (but not required) by ADA

 photo IMG_1312_8714_zpsywetbvkt.jpg

Even the area across the street saw some substantial addition, and the road was made narrower!

Compare before (use utility pole as reference to width)

 photo oldtown1_zpscljes0dx.png

and now

 photo IMG_1314_8716_zps8lcfdxw3.jpg

Shame the utility poles weren't removed.

Ahem, back to the brand new crossing...

There's new signage for drivers, and you can see the road narrow on both sides

 photo IMG_1315_8717_zpspbq8dovc.jpg

 photo IMG_1317_8719_zpsejumohss.jpg

But they really should have used zebra striping, as recommended by modern design guidelines. The transverse lines are barely visible.

 photo IMG_1318_8720_zpsxtetmad1.jpg

The turn is rather sharp, but there is space, and the ramp is well built. Very wide.

 photo IMG_1319_8721_zpsprhlsxyd.jpg

There is one, very, very serious problem with the crossing though.

Remember all the lights on the trail? Yeah, none here. Zero lights for the road crossing, in any direction. It's recklessly irresponsible design, and I have some pictures at the end showing it at night. Any pedestrian or cyclist attempting to cross here after dark will be invisible.

Anyway, the new trail continues on this side of the road

 photo IMG_1320_8722_zpsbs7rji1y.jpg

 photo IMG_1321_8723_zpsla2ohvnz.jpg

And connects with where the trail used to suddenly end right here (you can see the different concrete patterns).

 photo IMG_1322_8724_zpsxk2dobpe.jpg

The trail continues for many miles that way...

 photo IMG_1323_8725_zpsci5bz5tb.jpg

Looking back, the trail used to spit you out here

 photo IMG_1326_8728_zpsky9jess0.jpg

And also looking back, we see the crossing from the other direction

 photo IMG_1324_8726_zpsqcxf0cbw.jpg

 photo IMG_1327_8729_zpsre1ms7ep.jpg


So overall, the new trail connection looks very good. Attractive, wide, plenty of amenities, and connects properly in both directions. The driveways are a big shame, and one needs to be careful, but heavens forbid the city lose parking spots for the trail where the right of way used to be. It would be nice to see additional signage at the driveways to warn motorists, but I don't see it being a big issue.

Except for that one potentially fatal flaw: zero lighting at the new crosswalk.

Let's take a look at the trail at night. The main trail itself is very well lit, much more so than any other section of the trail actually.(Pictures taken on automatic settings, no manipulation on computer).

 photo IMG_1628_9030_zps1actqfei.jpg

 photo IMG_1629_9031_zpsnuwzobji.jpg

From across the street: 

 photo IMG_1636_9038_zpso4ldfrhi.jpg

Unfortunately the lights point up. This contributes to light pollution and creates shadows below it, which is a poor purchasing choice. However, the lights are still better than any other trail section in the county.

 photo IMG_1631_9033_zpsy7kgnqlu.jpg

 photo IMG_1632_9034_zpshgdkctuy.jpg

The crosswalk on 4th (the t-intersection) has a streetlight, so the lighting is ok.

 photo IMG_1634_9036_zpsbogs3mgu.jpg

 photo IMG_1635_9037_zpsynl8t5en.jpg

But now we reach the crosswalk for 3rd. See any difference?

 photo IMG_1640_9042_zpskowzaxic.jpg

Lets take a step back to compare that again...

 photo IMG_1637_9039_zpsnmcvjnfy.jpg

Look where the lighting ends...right where it's needed most!

 photo IMG_1639_9041_zpsit5fulac.jpg

Seriously?

 photo IMG_1641_9043_zpszyrvmhf9.jpg

 photo IMG_1642_9044_zpslwngtpbl.jpg

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The section of trail on 3rd has zero lighting too

 photo IMG_1643_9045_zpsltuydjz8.jpg

Until you get to the little rest area (was there before)

 photo IMG_1645_9047_zpsuuz7zko6.jpg

Incidentally, this is how most of the existing trail is lit. There are lights, but set way too far apart.This is an existing section of trail from before.

 photo IMG_1646_9048_zpspmofivhn.jpg

....but the real problem is where the cars are

 photo IMG_1648_9050_zpsi0krfrv6.jpg

Extremely dangerous.

 photo IMG_1650_9052_zps2rl0spj3.jpg

I keep forgetting to write to the city, but I will to see how they plan on fixing this. I encourage others to do the same.The new trail is great, but the lack of lights at the crosswalk ruins it.

The worst part is, I did mentioned this to the city back in 2013, when the plans were still in design. They said they would "look into it".