That ‘new bus’ smell: FAX service reduces wait times to and from Fresno State

Fresno State President Joseph Castro joined city transit leaders Monday to mark the ceremonial start of FAX15, a new bus service with more buses, greater frequency and shorter waiting times for passengers.

The city’s transportation department bought 20 new buses for the service, which will roll on portions of Shaw and Cedar avenues to and from the university every 15 minutes. Each of the new buses cost about $550,000, City Manager Bruce Rudd said during the unveiling at Fresno State.

The increased service began at 6 a.m. Monday, and will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

On Route 28, the north-south route along Cedar Avenue between Jensen and Shaw avenues, the new buses boost the trip frequency from about every 20 to 25 minutes to 15 minutes. On Route 9, which runs east-west along Shaw Avenue, the buses reduce the waiting interval from 30 minutes to 15 between Cedar and Brawley avenues.

“FAX15 is very important to Fresno State because our students, our faculty and our staff will be able to utilize an even better transportation option to get them to their classes on time and ready to learn and to teach,” Castro said.

In 2016, about 1,300 individual riders at Fresno State took a total of about 266,000 bus trips, Castro said, “and I believe with this innovation of FAX15, we’ll see those numbers rise dramatically.”

Fresno State students and staff can ride FAX and other transportation services free with their university ID, and Castro said that increased use of public transportation can help students and faculty avoid the cost of buying parking permits. “And we don’t have to build more parking structures if we do this in a smart way,” he said.

On the first day of service, the new buses were clean and shiny and boasted a classic “new car smell.” And for the most part, the routes made their targeted 15-minute intervals.

One older Route 9 bus heading east on Shaw toward Fresno State in the early afternoon ran 18 minutes behind its new FAX15 counterpart at Blackstone; in addition to the grime of age, the bus smelled faintly of something reminiscent of sweat and fuel.

Rudd said more improvements to the transit system are on the way through this year. In about March or April, he said, FAX buses will begin running later at night; times will vary depending on the route and on the needs of major employers along particular routes.

And the city continues its construction on new bus stops and shelters for its FAX-Q bus rapid transit service that will launch in October or November with an express service along the Blackstone Avenue and Ventura Avenue corridors.

“It’s indicative of the commitment that continues to be made in which we align a lot of our resources, including public transportation, to support a land-use plan that focuses on reducing vehicle trips,” Rudd said.