Fresno names new director of transportation

The Fresno BeeMay 21, 2014 

Fresno has a new director for a transportation department sure to be in the spotlight over the next few years.

Brian Marshall, a veteran manager with public transit systems in Baton Rouge, La. and Chicago, will oversee the city's Fresno Area Express.

"Brian Marshall brings a broad range of experience in managing public transportation systems," City Manager Bruce Rudd said. "I feel confident in his ability to enhance current passenger services and lead the city's efforts to improve the quality and convenience of the public transportation services through investments such as Bus Rapid Transit."

Marshall begins June 2. He will make $147,000 a year. Rudd had been interim director since Ken Hamm left the city last year.

Marshall recently was chief executive of the Capital Area Transit System in Baton Rouge. The organization under Marshall increased operating revenues by 150% and redesigned routes to align with growth plans.

Marshall previously spent 20 years with the Chicago Transit Authority. He also served as board member with the Southwest Transit Authority, supporting eight states in the Southwest.

He has an undergraduate degree in business administration from Chicago State University.

Marshall's duties in Fresno include fleet maintenance. But the public will know him mainly as point person for FAX and the system's newest service, Bus Rapid Transit.

Few municipal services generate more comment at City Hall than buses.

Council members and the administration of Mayor Ashley Swearengin periodically engage in testy discussions of routes and operating hours. Just about everyone wants expanded coverage and more frequent service. No one knows how to pay for the dreams.

Always lurking in the background is fares, a topic that has fallen through the cracks in recent years.

Marshall's fate in Fresno most likely will be determined by the success or failure of a BRT system that remains nothing more than plans.

BRT calls for an L-shaped route that starts on Blackstone Avenue near the River Park shopping centers, goes to downtown's Courthouse Park, then heads into southeast Fresno via Ventura Avenue/Kings Canyon Road. Fares are to be the same as on FAX. There will be 10-minute waits during peak hours of demand.

BRT is to make public transportation more convenient for traditional FAX customers and convince car-lovers to reconsider their beloved gas-guzzlers.

BRT has gone through several reforms and recently inspired two months of civil war on the council dais. Swearengin sees a bustling BRT system as key to a 2035 general plan update that fulfills its promise of a revitalized inner city.

BRT's construction is funded with federal and state grants. Some council members worry the system will become a drain on city coffers.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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