Friday, May 29, 2015

A novelty for Clovis: new hotel to be built over parking

Fresno and Clovis are the land of surface parking, where commercial garages, both above and below ground, are rare. Indeed, the only non-surface parking structure I can think of in Clovis is the garage at the Clovis Community Hospital (not counting surface lots with solar panels above them).

So I raised my eyebrow at a proposal for a new hotel on Clovis Avenue, not far from Old Town. The empty lot where a new La Quinta Inn is proposed is quite narrow, so to fit the required parking, they're planning on building the hotel over it.

This type of building is common elsewhere, especially LA, but as far as I can tell, it the first such example in Clovis.

It will be nice to see the hotel built up 4 stories, right up to the avenue, and not set back with an acre of surface parking.

Further, as this is more expensive to build, it shows that Clovis might just be nearing that point where commercial developers can no longer to afford to waste so much space on surface parking. When land is plentiful, the developers don't care how much they use.

But maybe Old Town is finally growing up?

The hotel is planned for an empty lot, just south of where our dog goes to get his baths.

 photo quinta1_zpszt5rqvn7.png

As an aside, the above image shows an interesting Sim City approach to planning. Industrial is on the right, separated from a strip of commercial with a railroad (now trail) and an avenue. The commercial in turn, shields the residential on the west side. I don't know about you, but that's exactly how I'd start off all my new cities.

With parking below, the hotel comes quite close to Clovis Avenue.  The building will be 65 feet high, which should create a nice street wall. Oddly, the area has an obscenely low height limit of 35 feet. However, the height limit has been waived for multiple hotels in the past. 

 photo quinta2_zpseqqmvpvo.png

It will fill this view:

 photo quinta4_zpspcwyupqb.png

There will be a wee bit of surface parking at the back, by the dumpsters. What's interesting is that to meet the parking requirement (92 stalls for 79 rooms, seriously?) the hotel people have come to an agreement with the neighboring lot to the south to share spaces if needed.

 photo quinta3_zpswknazqmg.png

While usually a new cookie-cutter hotel isn't exciting, this one at least hints at a shift in the economic value of parking within central Clovis.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bus from Fresno to Yosemite starts this weekend! Adds exciting local options!

This weekend, public transit service begins for the first time connecting Fresno to Yosemite. Aside from serving a tourist purpose, the system also will operate as an important commuter and community connection. Thanks to the anonymous comment letting me know the schedule was up!

Stops will be at:
  • Fresno Greyhound
  • Fresno Amtrak
  • Fresno Airport
  • Fresno State
  • Outside Kaiser Permanente Hospital (near River Park)
  • Madera, Highway 145 Park and Ride
  • Coarsegold Market
  • Oakhurst Best Western
  • Tenaya Lodge
  • Wawona Hotel
  • Yosemite Valley (three stops)
 photo yarts5_zpstpb1baco.png
YARTS has developed an extensive long-distance bus network to serve Yosemite.

The first bus leaves the Fresno airport bright and early at 4am, with the next four trips starting at the Greyhound station at 7:52am, 9:10am, 12:10pm and 2:10pm. A final commuter run leaves Fresno at 5:45pm and goes only as far as Oakhurst.

The trip is scheduled at around 4 hours, from end to end. with the commuter portion (to Oakhurst) taking a little under two.

The return trips are reversed, with the first trip starting at Oakhurst (6:00am) arriving downtown before 8am, and the last bus leaving Yosemite at around 7pm.

Check it out for yourself here (PDF)

Overall, the schedule seems very well thought out, and fares are reasonable. Going from Fresno to Yosemite costs $30 for the round trip, and that includes park admission. To Coarsegold and Oakhurst, round trip service from Fresno is only $15. One child under 12 rides for free with an adult.

Further, here's something that could be exciting for Fresno residents:

The new YARTS service allows for improved local transit connections!

Service from the Madera Park and Ride to Fresno is listed as $6 round trip, and no pricing is listed for trips within Fresno. Presumably, that is not their market however....

Say you want to get from Fresno Amtrak, to Fresno Airport. With FAX, you'd have to take an 8 minute walk to the Courthouse Park, and then a 34 minute bus ride on Route 26. With wait times, you're looking at an hour!

If your times work out, with this new bus, you could do it in a flat 15 minutes! On weekends, the FAX bus only makes this trip 12 times a day (once an hour), so adding 5 new trip options is a big deal.

In fact, this would be the first addition of any public transit service in Fresno in over a decade.

On FAX, going from Fresno Amtrak to Fresno State requires that same 8 minute walk, and then a 36 minute bus ride! YARTS will do the trip in under 25 minutes, with no walking.

Finally, Google Maps shows that to get from the Airport to Fresno State via FAX it would take over 1 hour! And you'd have to sweat out the transfers, on a system that refuses to invest in technology that lets riders know when the next bus is coming.

 photo YARTS_zpsztmvfdl6.jpg 
The abysmal state of transit in Fresno

On YARTS, the very same trip will fly by in 15 minutes!

Here's the best park:

YARTS has taken the initiative to make sure they're listed as a Google Maps transit option as of this weekend.

So when you search the routes for today or tomorrow, you get the map above.

But let's set our plans for next week:
 photo yarts2_zpshz9wuoft.png!!!

Presumably, this option won't be well advertised, because they want riders going to Yosemite, but at least for the northbound trip, you could simply buy a ticket to Madera and get off early. It'll cost a little more than FAX, but with those time savings, it would absolutely be worth it.Southbound trips may be less reliable, because you'd be counting on a bus being on time after over 3 hours on the road.

It's just so exciting, here is another trip...

This week:
 photo yarts4_zpsqfwuuq6v.png

Next week:
 photo YARTS3_zpsjbjsej9s.png

Of course the bus will also provide an excellent lifeline to the foothill communities, and the early and evening rush hour trips show that as a goal. Further, monthly passes may be made available.

The bus also takes cash and credit card, making payment easier than on local buses.

It is unclear at this time if signage will be going up to advertise the bus stops, and if there is a park and ride arrangement with Kaiser to allow people to park there all day for free.

For now, the bus is scheduled to run daily from May 23 to September 27, and hopefully it proves a success and is extended, at least on weekends, into the fall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Two new public electric vehicle charging stations open in Fresno

Two months ago, I decided to look back at the state of public electric charging infrastructure for electric cars in Fresno. Sadly, the situation was still very dire.

Fortunately, there has been some news on that front. Chargers have arrived at Fresno State and Downtown:

Fresno State is planning to give electric car drivers more options to "charge up" under plans announced Friday to build a six-stall charging station on campus.

University officials say the station located west of Save Mart Center will have two quick-charge pumps -- a car's battery could recharge in 20 to 30 minutes -- plus four more for longer charges. It's being paid for through a $397,000 grant from the California Energy Commission.

The university's station is scheduled to open in September 2015. Electric car drivers can currently power up at just a few public locations, including the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District office, Schneider Electric, and Lithia Nissan on Blackstone Avenue.
Fresno Bee

The chargers actually opened ahead of schedule, and can be used immediately.

The chargers are open to the public, but not free. Fresno State charges $3 per day to park there normally, unless you have a semester pass. During events at the Savemart Center, prices are a flat $10 or $15.

On top of that, the charger itself with cost you $1 an hour. 

Due to these costs, it will really only benefit students and staff who would park there anyway, or those who are attending an event. Further, the chargers are too isolated from Shaw Avenue business to be of any use to anyone not conducting business at the University.

A new location downtown does provide for more flexibility.
Four new recharging stations for electric vehicles were opened Wednesday in downtown Fresno by the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.

The foundation installed the charging stations at its Downtown Business Hub, 1444 Fulton St. The charging stations are the product of a partnership between the Hispanic Foundation, the San Joaquin Valley Electric Vehicle Partnership and NRG eVGo, through a grant of almost $20,000 from the California Energy Commission and other state agencies.
Fresno Bee
I could find no information on pricing or access. However, the lot is located at Fulton and Stanislaus, just north of the Fulton Mall. It is located across from the Cornerstone Church and from the new Lede apartment building under construction.

The lot itself is not gated, so it may be open 24/7, depending on their signage and towing policy. That would allow one to charge up while visiting an area store or restaurant.

It's good to finally see some options, but there's a long way to go.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fresno to get money to count bicycles and pedestrians

This is a couple of weeks old, but I've fallen behind in posting again (work, and then sick). Fear not, there are plenty of posts in the draft box.

The US Department of Transportation has announced that they will sprinkle money around the country to help count bicycles and pedestrians. This is important because transportation funding is always data oriented, and without data, there's no possibility for funds.

That is, if we want more funding for people walking and biking, we need to know how many people do it! You may have heard stats like "less than 1% of people bike" for example, but these statistics are purely related to journey to work. As the press release points out:

Among other items, Beyond Traffic highlights the increased activity of bicyclists and pedestrians on and near America’s roads. Beyond Traffic notes that cycling and foot traffic currently accounts for roughly half of all trips taken that are under a mile, and more than 10 percent of all trips of any length.  You can imagine how those numbers might change over the next three decades as our population grows and our urban areas get increasingly dense.
That is, the general commute data from the mail surveys people occasionally get tells us nothing about how many people are actually walking and biking in certain places. For example, if everyone who works on the Fulton Mall drives to a garage, and then walks three blocks, the pedestrian count is zero.

To find out the real numbers, you need manual (or machine) counts, not surveys.

In addition to the equipment, each recipient will receive technical support from FHWA and the Pedestrian Bicycle Information Center. These ten MPOs will begin work this spring, engage in a range of counting activities throughout the summer and fall, provide early experiences and initial data by December, and complete the pilot early next year:
  • Providence , RI
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Richmond, VA
  • San Juan, PR
  • Palm Beach, FL
  • Fresno, CA
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Memphis, TN
The money is going to COGS, which is the area planning organization. That means the project is not limited to the city of Fresno, but the entire Metro area (essentially the County). 

Exact locations haven't been decided yet, but I would put money on some of the following being strong candidates
  • Fresno-Clovis Rail Trail
  • Van Ness or Fulton Corridor
  • Olive Avenue in Tower
  • Fulton Mall
  • Eaton Trail
Anywhere I'm missing that would provide valuable information?

The data will be helpful to the region and the city. And hopefully, the data can then be used to find grants for improvements.

Incidentally, COGS is hiring for a Travel Demand Modeler position, if you feel so qualified. Details (PDF)