Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fresno's best chicken and waffles closing, come and get it while you can

It was with great sadness that I read this week that "Come and Get it, Chicken and Waffles" will be closing at the end of the month.

Besides having some truly delicious Chicken and Waffles, the restaurant was unique in many ways. The owners took a big risk with location, and their attempt to help grow downtown surely had some affect, as they drew customers from all around.

They first located on the Fulton Mall, but then moved on to an even less commercially successful district, Fresno's own Chinatown.

Not only did they pick an area in need of a lot of help, but they also had very special operating hours, which filled a very important niche.

Their hours are:

Friday: 10:00 pm - 3:00 am (no typo here)
Saturday: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 pm - 3:00 am

That's it. While I haven't done the research, I'd wager it's the only restaurant in California that doesn't open until 10pm. And it's right here in Fresno.

They will only be open for another five weeks, including tonight, so try and make the trip. Do note that everything is made to order, so expect to wait around 20 minutes for your chicken. 

They are located in an area of town you probably have not been to, unless you've taken one of the mexican bus lines. Plenty of free street parking.

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Don't miss it. At night, they only have a small yellow light to draw you in. 

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Their last day (eh, night) will be December 29th.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Megabus officially skipping Fresno again

A month ago, I wrote about Megabus making their return to the California market. Sadly, for the Central Valley, their announced route structure is mostly a repeat of what they offered the state in 2007 and 2008, before pulling out.

They will be offering the following routes (no intermediate stops, aside from a possible rest stop for 15 minutes)

Los Angeles - San Jose - San Francisco
Los Angeles - Oakland - San Francisco
Los Angeles - Riverside - Las Vegas
San Francisco - Sacramento - Reno (Sparks)

In 2007, they had also served San Diego and Phoenix.



Megabus will be starting small, offering many less departures than they do on the east coast.

For example, between LA and SF there will be 6 daily departures, with the trips advertized between 7 and 8 hours. Between SF and Sacramento, there will be 4 departures, and between LA and Las Vegas, four as well.

To put that in perspective, there are 16 daily departures between Dallas and Houston, and 14 between Boston and NYC.

It's understandable that Megabus is starting small, but it's also a shame. The company isn't shy about serving smaller towns, such as Hartford CT (125,000) with three daily departures to NYC, or Montgomery Alabama (205,000) with two trips to Atlanta. Fresno (510,000) and Bakersfield (350,000) are certainly much larger, and could easily support a few trips a day to LA or SF.

As I wrote last time, as long as the departures aren't at the exact same time as Amtrak, the Megabus service can actually improve all forms of non-automobile travel, as customers are best able to match the departure times to their preferences. Customers might very well pick a 10am Amtrak departure, and return on a 8pm Megabus.

Hopefully, Megabus sees success and rams up their service in 2013.

And while Greyhound has been paying attention, and pushing their new "express" service (which does serve Fresno) in anticipation of Megabus, they need to follow up with better buses. While Greyhound has made huge strides, they are associated with their gritty stations and sketchy passengers, and the older fleet doesn't help.


Megabus travel begins December 12th, with all tickets being $1.50 during the first week of service.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Just to make it extra clear....


Yesterday, I mentioned that the Fresno Bee is littered with stories every day about pedestrians being killed, motorists dieing, people shooting cyclists, and so on and so forth. I posted a screen capture indicating the toll that autoviolence takes on the region.

I just wanted to make it clear that I didn't cherry pick a list of headlines. It really is something we see day in and day out.

It really is a pattern. And it's time that it changed. City government and the local police need to take a look at the violence and maybe start connecting the line between the number of unnecessary deaths and the way the roads continue to be designed.


Here's what the Fresno Bee website looks like 24 hours later.




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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spot the pattern?


Here's a screen capture from the headlines on the Fresno Bee website on Saturday November 25, 2012. It's not a special day, it's something you notice pretty much every time you read the paper. The same type of stories, week in and week out.


There's a theme, I think, and it doesn't take much sleuthing to figure it out.




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Fresno, and the entire Central Valley has a serious problem, and it revolves around the way the streets are designed.

As the area continues to ignore the transportation and economic consequences of the auto-based design, maybe it's time those in charge start to pay a little bit more attention to the crime, injuries and deaths it facilitates.

Yeah, right.

That's the second pedestrian killed this week in Fresno. Here's what the chief of police said about the pedestrian killed a few days ago, a UCSF-Fresno medical student.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Dowd's death is one of a number of fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Fresno this year, and he urged pedestrians to be vigilant about protecting their own safety.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/11/24/3077809/valley-week-in-review-nov-18-nov.html#storylink=cpy
Fresno Bee

More traffic enforcement? Perhaps some crosswalk stings? More street lights? Lower speed limits?

Nope, the victim really should have been more vigilant.

Thanks for keeping us safe Chief.




Oh, and marginally related....remember the cyclist (which happened to be a sheriffs deputy) that was  shot in the back because he was on a bike?Happened just two weeks ago north of Fresno.

The good news is, the people who did that have been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The perps were about to flee to Louisiana before being arrested,

 But really, the deputy should have been more vigilant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Will early Black Friday push people to shop online?

It's Thanksgiving, a day of relaxing, eating, conversation....and standing in line for hours in the cold to shop?

Many retailers announced this year that they will open as early as 8pm on Thanksgiving day. That means, to get a good spot in line, you'd have to leave the house no later than 5pm - for some, many times earlier. Retailers want people to abandon their Thanksgiving dinner and time with the family to save some money on unneeded goods.

Of course, that's an individual choice, but what's worse is that millions of people who choose not to partake are forced into it....all the men and women who work in retail who now have to clock in at 7:30pm on Thanksgiving to staff the store. Some must start earlier for crowd control. Add in commuting time, and their dinner gets cut short as well.

I'm wondering (and somewhat hoping) that this race to open earliest fails somewhat, and that many people decide that instead of waiting in line, they rather grab their deals from the comfort of the couch or yes, even the dinner table. I can certainly see more families tolerating shopping on a tablet rather than having that family member leave the house completely.

Mind you, I'm writing this post from Massachusetts, a state that doesn't allow stores to open up until 12:01am on Friday. Antiquated blue law? Perhaps, but there's a good reason this blue law has made it while so many others have fallen - it actually makes sense.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Google satellite imagery for Fresno (summer 2012)

Google has just pushed out updated satellite coverage of the Fresno area on Google Maps. This happened in the past 24 hours, because just yesterday I coincidentally booted up Google Earth to see if a secret update was available (one not shown on Maps). Nothing was there, and yet today when looking up something completely unrelated, I noticed a roundabout that wasn't in the last update...meaning brand new recent pictures. The roundabout caught my eye because a couple of months ago someone emailed me to let me know it was being built. I'll write about that in the near future.

The imagery updated today was taken on August 26, 2012. That's pretty damn recent for Google. There's a lengthy turnaround time from when the images are taken because of all the processing and such required to make sure all the pictures line up perfectly, and there are no clouds or shadows.

The last images we had were from April 25, 2011, and I announced that update as well. I was getting worried that we would not get anything this year, as summer is the best time for the pictures to be taken, again due to the lighting and lack of clouds, and that had obviously already passed.

Fresno is actually really lucky that the perfect summer weather allows for these annual update. Some well populated areas are still looking at pictures from 2009 or 2010. Areas outside the US, even major cities, many times have even older pictures Fresno has now gotten an update four years in a row.

The new pictures let us look at new development, changes to the landscape and so forth. I will be writing a post about some of the more important changes, and many relate to things I've written about - trails, subdivisions, road treatments and much more.

For day-to-day use, it's obviously best to have the freshest pictures possible, to be able to navigate well and know what to expect when visiting a new place.

Tonight, just load up maps.google.com with your favorite zip code and enjoy the August imagery. Any changes you find noteworthy?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Impaired driver? Honda knows you

Honda has been running an ad campaign about the new Accord for over a month now. This past week, I've been watching some shows on Hulu (possibly too many) and it seems like every other ad is the same Honda piece which shows off their newest and greatest safety feature. That feature is the car beeps at you when you are so incapable of driving, that you've found yourself driving into the lane of oncoming traffic.

A version of the ad (Youtube)

I've two main problems with the ad. The first, is that you can only see the same video so many times before wanting to torch the product featured, regardless of what it is. Seriously, watch 4 shows on Hulu over a week and you'll see it at least 15 times.

More importantly, the ad is frustrating because it treats reckless, impaired driving as something normal that shouldn't be avoided, but instead accommodated by a beeping noise.

Honda claims that being an impaired driver is understandable, it's common, and they know us and are here to help. Do they educate customers about the dangers of driving when tired, which can be as bad as being drunk? No, they encourage is.

"This campaign demonstrates how Honda's deep understanding of the customer allowed our engineers to perfect the midsize sedan in the new Accord,"
Honda

In the ad, Honda says they know us. Honda thinks "we" are ok with getting behind the wheel when we can barely keep our eyes open, and nod ourselves awake.

Just look at this guy.

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Is this what a Honda driver should look like? Someone who looks like he spent the past 48 hours at a Las Vegas club and is rushing home to LA?

Honda thinks that if you're on a perfectly straight country road, with generously wide lanes, and you're swerving into the oncoming traffic because you can't stay awake, the proper course of action is not to pull over and cease driving, but instead it's to be beeped backed into momentary consciousness, to correct course and then repeat the cycle.

Thing is, as great as the beeping is, if the other lane WASN'T deserted, you have thrown yourself into a high speed front-end collision, taking out the oncoming vehicle, as you'd be dead before the beeping could really get into its groove.

Naturally, if you swerved the other way, you'd be in a gutter, or wrapped around a telephone pole, or had over corrected (post beeping) so now you found yourself again in the path of an oncoming truck.

But Honda knows us, and thinks that's just a risk worth taking.


I wonder what the reaction would be if Honda had branded their feature as a way to drive drunk "safely". Ladies and gentlemen, buy our Honda! Now when you drive drunk, we'll beep at you if you swerve too much, or are driving in the wrong lane! Perhaps the deluxe model can include a radar feature to warn you of cops?

Because it's pretty much the same thing.

Being sleepy behind the wheel is almost as bad as drinking and driving, suggests a new study from France.

The study, published as a letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that drivers who were either drunk or sleepy were at least twice as likely to be responsible for a vehicle accident compared to their well-rested or sober counterparts.

...

"We know from experimental studies that just four hours of sleep loss will produce as much impairment as a six pack. If you have a whole night of sleep loss, that's equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.19," Drake, who was not involved with the new research, told Reuters Health.

Reuters


Guy in the ad looks like he's had an entire bottle of vodka.

It's a shame that ad people at Honda ever thought this would make a good campaign. It's troubling that they've run these ads for almost two months now and no one has told them that hey, maybe this message is not so good?


As for the feature itself, the lane departure warning would be great for someone learning to drive, not fully aware of the width of the vehicle. Everyone else? If you're drifting into oncoming traffic, then don't drive.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SUV passenger shoots cyclist in back

Shocking story in today's Fresno Bee. A man cycling in the outskirts of Fresno was shot in the back by a passenger in a vehicle, using a rifle.

Mike Montanez, a 22-year Sheriff’s Office veteran, was cycling when he heard a sound and felt something strike his back, a sheriff’s spokesman said. The deputy was knocked from his bike.

When he looked up, the deputy saw a passenger in the rear of an SUV pull a rifle back inside the vehicle.

The deputy said there were three people in the vehicle, which was driving north on Friant Road.

The vehicle was described as a dark blue Chevrolet or GMC Suburban-type SUV. It appeared to be a model from about 1990.
Fresno Bee

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/11/07/3058024/off-duty-fresno-co-deputy-shot.html#storylink=cpy

The good news is the man is ok - sort of. The bullet is stuck near his spine, and due to the location won't be removed. It's unclear at this point if that will affect his ability to work.

The other good news is that the man was a police officer. The reason that's a good thing is because it means large amounts of effort will be put into this investigation, more so than if a regular civilian was injured. Hopefully, the scumbag and the others in the vehicle are behind bars by the end of the week. I mention this because of the following line:

Investigators believe Montanez was not targeted because he is a deputy.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/11/07/3058024/off-duty-fresno-co-deputy-shot.html#storylink=cpy

Which means they believe he was targeted because he was on a bike. Reports say he was wearing "cycling gear" (probably spandex) and nothing to indicate his day job. Sadly, Fresno city and county police do a bad job when it comes to investigating vehicular assault, which is why I mention that him being a cop is a good thing - there's no letting this one slide.

Location of assault:

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The road is a rural highway, with wide shoulders that are signed as bike lanes.

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I'll post an update if we get one.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NJT gets message, offerssome replacement bus service

A few days ago, I wondered why transit agencies generally don't offer substitute bus service when their trains are down for extended periods due to severe weather problems.

Looks like New Jersey Transit finally got the memo, and began offering some form of bus service. One major concern is that commuters still need a car to get to the park-and-ride lots, as the buses won't be stopping at the train stations. That is, if you walk to your local station, you're out of luck.

The issue NJT looks to try and solve is having too many customers coverge on the few trains that are operating.

The problem:
NJ TRANSIT normally operates 63 trains into New York Penn Station during the morning peak. Tomorrow, NJ TRANSIT will only be able to operate 13 trains into New York during the peak
The solution:
Utilizing the regional transportation network with a base of operations out of park-and-ride locations in central and northern sections of New Jersey, emergency buses will transport customers to light rail and ferry services in Hoboken, Weehawken, and HBLR’s Liberty State Park Station as well as providing limited, direct service to several boarding locations in lower Manhattan.  The busing plan will remain in effect until further notice and operate on weekdays during the peak travel periods of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.  In addition, free ferry service will be available from Liberty State Park Marina to Battery Park. 

 No school buses will be used, but they did partner with private bus carriers for the service.

Full details are available on their website. If you plan on using the service, check the website every day, as things are changing constantly.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Amtrak California offering 20% college discount

Amtrak has been offering college students in California a discounted ticket option for travel from now until June 13, 2013. Sadly, there are blackout dates, like Thanksgiving weekend, but there are many opportunities to save money.

Not all college IDs are valid for the discount, but in the Central Valley students at Fresno State, Fresno City, Bakersfield State, and UC Merced are among those included in the promotion.

Tickets must be purchased online at least three days in advance at this website, which also has the full list of details and restrictions. ID is presented on board if requested.

If you're making the trip anyway, why not save money. If you plan on driving for your trip, do the math and there's a good chance taking the train will save you money.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Curious lack of replacement bus service


Hurricane Sandy has reminded me of something that bothered me in the past - the lack of substitute bus service when the weather shuts down rail lines for long periods of time.  For example, I lived in DC the summer of 2009, and a few months later I was reading about metro being closed for almost a week due to snow. My friend who still lived there reported the office was open, so commuters were expected to make their way in. Without a car, and without transit service, what is one expected to do? I had lived in Takoma, and without Metro, making my way to work would have been near impossible. Public officials provided no substitute bus service even though the roads had been (eventually) plowed. For a region so dependent on public transport, I've always found this to be very odd. My memory is hazy on all these snowmaggedon events, but VRE and MARC were closed for some time as well, with no provisions for alternate travel.

This time around, Sandy has closed all subway service south of 34th street in Manhattan. In New Jersey, all rail service was suspended from Sunday night until a limited restoration tomorrow morning. LIRR and Metro North began running service before New Jersey, but not on all lines.  Problem is, many jobs began to require their workers show up as of Wednesday, and most certainly today.

If the trains can't run, that's perfectly understandable. Washed out tracks, flooded equipment, downed wires, broken signals, impassable tunnels are all major obstacles. I'm sure the agencies are working as fast as possible to get their lines working. So if the train can't run, then the train can't run, and I take their timetable as the best that can be done.

But the roads are open, and what bothers me is the lack of substitute bus service.

If you can't run the train, that doesn't mean the demand for rides is gone.  These agencies might think of themselves as rail companies, but they're not, they're transportation companies. If NJTransit charges $9 to get from A to B, I don't care if the service has to be temporarily provided via mystery machine instead of rail-car, as long as the trip can be made.

Take today. Arriving at Newark airport and planning on using the train line to head south...or anywhere? No commuter rail, and there is no substitute service available. Live in Edison and work in Jersey City? You need a car to make that commute, and patience for the hour long gas line. Coach USA is running their regular commuter routes, but with no additional service, and there's been no coordination between the state and the private sector to get Coach buses to make all NEC stops.

NYC began running a "bus bridge" today to get people from Brooklyn to Manhattan, whcih was a great step, but nothing is in place for commuters that go further distance on the commuter rail.

When DC closed up their metro for a week, local bus routes began running when the roads were plowed and de-iced, but the routes obviously don't make the same stops as the trains because that would be redundant. While DC will send out buses for a short-term diversion (like planned construction) nothing is done for weather.


The concern is that those who live without a car, and rely on public transit find themselves in a very bad situation if work calls them in but service continues to be suspended. Taxis exist, but fares can more than wipe out an entire days wages.

Equipment is a concern, but these weather events all have one thing in common: schools remain closed for much longer time periods than work.

That's important because it means the cities and states have access to a huge pool of equipment that sits unused and readily available.



Comfortable? Stylish? Smooth? No. But they work. And given the option, I'm sure many would rather ride one of these for two or three days than be stranded and risk being fired, or have to pay $100+ for an extended cab ride.


So why is rail substitution service non-existent for weather events? These things are happening every year, and yet no provisions are in place to get people moving again while the crews clear up the rails. For a region that depends on mass transit to such a high degree, this oversight is more than odd, it's alarming.