Fresno’s transit system is looking to make some changes.
Over the past decade ridership of The Fresno Area Express (FAX) has declined by almost 50% and FAX needs to remedy the situation or risk losing grants and subsidies that help fund the service.
Because of this risk, FAX has undertaken the pursuit of self-improvement – including hosting listening sessions to hear what the public has to say. For those unhappy with FAX services, this could be the change needed to finally get them back to riding the bus.
But even with the series of community listening sessions (which finished up on Jan. 30) and copious public input, the question of whether it will all be enough to solve their ridership issue still remains.
“I don’t take it regularly anymore, but I used to,” said Christy Brambila, who stopped using the bus system for numerous reasons, including concerns about safety.
“I would constantly get harassed on it and it was terrifying riding it at night,” continued Brambila.
In addition to stories of harassment, various users have made statements expressing dissatisfaction with FAX services when it comes to long wait times and inconvenient bus routes.
FAX has experimented with small changes to solve this, such as seasonal fare decreases, but the biggest change also seems to be the most promising: the introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit system known as The Q.
The Q has several unique characteristics that make it potentially appealing to current bus riders, but it might also be able to court previous riders who were dissatisfied with FAX.
A nicer, newer bus is the most notable change, a huge step in making the bus riding experience a little bit more pleasant. 18 officers will also be around the new bus route corridors in an attempt to make rides safer.
The biggest appeal of The Q however isn’t the new buses or even the newly accessible ticket vending machines to make purchasing fare easy. It’s the opportunity to enjoy rapid and frequent transit on a fixed route. With The Q scheduled every ten minutes, FAX wait times will be dramatically reduced when compared to other bus routes.
The Q will also answer the public concern of schedule tracking via the Fresno Transit App and Google Maps, making it easy for riders to minimize their wait times.
But even with all of these changes, some concerns still exist.
60 minute wait times 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. raise concerns about safety and the new Bus Rapid Transit systems will only be available on Q routes, meaning that many in Fresno might not even benefit from these new improvements.
“I am a resident of southeast Fresno and I’m mad that there’s no northbound buses within a 10-minute walk by where I live,” said Diana Rodriguez, a frequent FAX rider.
In addition to concerns about accessibility, Rodriguez expressed the need to address the issues of tardiness and inconsistent service that most users experience.
“I feel that the chronic tardiness problem that bus 22 and a handful of others has could be fixed a bit by implementing higher tech like the route 1 stations have at every bus stop. Though I would hope that the upgrades are already slated to begin soon,” said Rodriguez.?
According to frequent bus riders, extending recent innovations to all of Fresno would be a good step forward for the city. But the difficulty of that task makes changes remain uncertain.
You can now test out the new Q train yourself. Fresno’s Bus Rapid Transit is now up and running along two routes: along Ventura in southeast Fresno and connecting downtown to north Fresno through Blackstone.