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Running on empty, City seeks public’s view on FAX overhaul

Fresno City Hall

Running on empty, City seeks public’s view on FAX overhaul

City Hall is sounding out a new set of experts to improve Fresno’s public transportation system – the public.

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City Hall is sounding out a new set of experts to improve Fresno’s public transportation system – the public.

The city on Saturday will begin a month of community workshops on the state and future of FAX.

“The City of Fresno is making a significant investment to improve Fresno Area Express (FAX) services,” says a city flyer. “We need your help envisioning a FAX transit system that reflects your and the community’s needs to improve your experience on FAX. With rapid growth, auto-oriented development, and strict air quality and environmental justice requirements, FAX is challenged with maintaining a sustainable and efficient public transportation system that addresses your needs.

“We invite you to join us at an upcoming workshop to provide your input. We encourage you to invite your friends, family and neighbors to attend, as well.”

The scheduled workshops are:

1.) Saturday, Nov. 4 – Fresno City College/Skylight Room, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

2.) Monday, Nov. 6 – Central Valley Regional Center, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

3.) Tuesday, Nov. 7 – Mosqueda Community Center, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

4.) Wednesday, Nov. 8 – Frank H. Ball Community Center, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

5.) Thursday, Nov. 9 – Woodward Park Library, 10 a.m. to noon.

6.) Thursday, Nov. 9 – Pinedale Community Center, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

7.) Saturday, Nov. 11, Holmes Community Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

8.) Wednesday, Dec. 6, Pinedale Community Center, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The agenda will focus on three key areas:

1.) “Major service thresholds – a policy to establish a threshold which defines a ‘major’ service change, for example a 25% or more change (increase or decrease) in total vehicle revenue miles in service on any given route.”

2.) “Disparate impact policy – a policy to establish a threshold for determining if a given service change would result in a fair distribution of positive and negative impacts on minority populations.”

3.) “Disproportionate burden policy – a policy to establish a threshold for determining if a given service change would result in a fair distribution of positive and negative impacts on low-income populations.”

All of the above suggests these workshops will be complex affairs.

On one hand, what City Hall is calling a “Restructure Study” comes as something of a surprise. There was little in the FY 2018 budget of five months ago to suggest that Transportation/FAX needed a major overhaul.

“The Department implemented new and expanded services in FY 2017,” the budget states, “including night service and FAX 15 service on Shaw, Cedar and Blackstone Avenues. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service will be implemented in mid-FY 2018 along Blackstone and Kings Canyon Avenues, using 17 new BRT style buses and adding 6,200 hours and 275,900 miles of new service. BRT service provides enhanced station amenities, off board fare collection, 10-minute frequencies, traffic signal prioritization, on-board Wi-Fi, and security cameras on and off the buses.”

The budget made no mention of a nearly 50% drop in FAX ridership over the past decade.

But the City Council led by the District 2’s Steve Brandau and District 7’s Clint Olivier has shown increasing interest in FAX’s operations. The administration of Mayor Lee Brand earlier this year replaced Brian Marshall with Jim Schaad at the top of Transportation’s management.

On the other hand, FAX’s many challenges can be easily resolved with lots more money.

Parks needs more money. Public safety needs more money. Infrastructure needs more money. And now FAX needs more money.

As I predicted earlier in CVObserver, taxes will be the big issue among City Council candidates in Campaign 2018.

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George Hostetter

George Hostetter is a contributor to CVObserver and advisor to The Collegian, the student newspaper of Fresno State.

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