Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fresno will finally expand bus service past midnight on weekdays!

With a population of 520,000, Fresno is not a small town. And yet until now, the bus system, FAX, has acted like it serves a population of 50,000. Currently, service ends before 10pm on weekdays - all trips depart their last run around 9pm. On weekends it's even worse - the buses are in their garages by 7pm.

This will finally change in 3 weeks. 
A FAX bus downtown
On May 1, weekday service until approximately 1 a.m. will be launched. Weekend service bus frequencies will improve -- most routes will deliver service every 30 minutes.
FAX Newsletter
The new schedules haven't been released yet, so I am interpreting "until approximately 1 a.m" as the buses will start their final runs around midnight, concluding service at around 1am.

For example, Route 9, which recently received improved 15-minute service, currently starts the final trip eastbound at 9:13pm, ending at 9:56pm, and the last westbound trip departing at 9:14pm and concludes at 10:01pm. FAX (Fresno Area Express) advertises their service as operating until 10pm.

The expansion should mean three extra hours of service every weekday.

Unfortunately weekends are still a disaster. However, the FAQ on the Q bus website (Fresno's upcoming fake BRT), does suggest that weekends will also see some improvements:

Do BRT routes operate longer hours of service than traditional routes?
BRT routes will operate the same hours as traditional routes. Traditional routes will soon be expanding night and weekend services. BRT will also operate those same hours.
Fresno Q

As far as I can tell, there's no way to confirm this with the information they have released publicly. FAX continues to do a poor job of advertising their changes and improvements. They appear to rely on the on-board automated announcements as the primary source of information dissemination, which means non-riders have no way to hear about these improvements.

I've talked in the past about how having such a poor transit system helps Fresno sustain one of the highest unemployment rates in the county. After all, people can't start jobs they can't reach. And in a service economy, most jobs aren't 9 to 5. How do you work at a restaurant that closes at 11pm if your only transportation option closes shop at 10pm? 

Additionally, I've talked about how Fresno's system has seen continuous declines in ridership, which makes sense because a stagnant system in a rapidly growing city becomes less and less useful over time, as it fails to serve new businesses, employment centers, and residential areas.

Hopefully 2017 sees a reverse in these trends. New 10-minute service on Blackstone, 15-minute service on two other lines, and expanded hours will allow people to use FAX to get to work. If expanded weekend service materializes, FAX may finally become a reasonable option. especially if the routes are analyzed to better serve new commercial centers.

After nearly a decade of service cuts and fare increases, it's nice to finally report on some good news at FAX.  

4 comments:

  1. Good news! Thanks for posting. In addition to extending the effective 'last ride' time to 11 pm, FAX needs to extend its weekend service to at least an effective 'last ride' time of 1 am.

    One of the biggest issues (in my opinion) is the lack of east/west lines between Shaw and Shields west of Blackstone, and the bus line deserts north of Shaw west of Palm, and east-bound east of Blackstone north of Shaw. There are many parts of Fresno not covered by FAX unless someone wants to walk 20 minutes to the nearest stop.

    You are correct that FAX does a poor job of advertising service, routes, rates, changes and improvements. They really should send out a complete map with routes and service hours to every home in Fresno at least once a year.

    Increasing coverage, hours and ridership would definitely be a positive for Fresno for many reasons. Thanks for posting this information.

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    1. Sending a map to peoples homes is a suggestion Ive never heard before, but it makes a lot of sense.

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  2. Good article James..see this is what I'm talking about. Fresno has a habit of doing everything half ass...(fake BRT). And this is my reasoning for my statement that even though Fresno has a metro Pop of 600K; with all the halfness this city does..it pushes the weight of a city 1/4 its size. its frustrating.

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  3. As a past rider of FAX, this bus system often limited my options of finding work due to its operating hours. When I used to take FAX, I grew tired of having to leave home hours before I even clocked in just to make it to work on time. In time, I just grew out of using FAX and purchased a car. Unless it was my last option, (due to the emotional scaring of using FAX for si many years), I don't think I would even want to use the system regardless of how it extends the hours of service.

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