Confronted by declining ridership over the past half decade, Fresno transportation leaders are looking to the public for ways to change the city’s bus service to attract more fare-paying passengers.
Fresno Area Express, or FAX, is holding a series of public workshops starting on Saturday at sites across the city to solicit ideas to make using the bus better or more convenient for more people. “The existing bus service is really just an adaptation of the same system we had in the 1960s, just extended further north,” said Bruce Rudd, Fresno’s interim assistant city manager and former transportation director.
But as routes have expanded, buses run less frequently on each route, meaning that it takes longer to get from one part of Fresno to another – another frequent complaint about the bus service.
We’re looking at this if we were to start anew and come up with routes that better serve the community.
Interim assistant city manager Bruce Rudd
Rudd and Transportation Director Jim Schaad noted that some key places in Fresno are not served by existing bus routes, including the relatively new El Paseo shopping center on Herndon Avenue near Golden State Boulevard, and the Clovis Community College campus at Willow and International avenues in northeast Fresno. “We’re looking at this if we were to start anew and come up with routes that better serve the community,” Rudd said.
In addition to exploring route options, bus frequency on different routes are also on the table, as well as bus fares.
Each workshop session will include an overview presentation, information stations, a consultant-led visioning exercise of what people want to see in a bus service, and interactive polling exercises to help determine what might entice more people to ride. Consultants will also climb aboard FAX buses to get ideas from people who already use the system.
Prior to the recession, when budget cuts forced the city to raise bus fares and reduce the frequency of buses on some routes, the transit system provided as many as 15 million to 16 million rides per year. That has dropped to about 8 million now, Rudd said. The rise in popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also believed to have taken a bite out of FAX ridership.
And as ridership has fallen, so to has the proportion of the FAX budget that the system can recover from fares. State and federal transportation funds pay for about 80 percent of the system’s cost, and cities are required to recover at least 20 percent from the farebox. Fresno is still able to cover that share with fares, Rudd said, but if ridership continues to slide, the city would have to use money from other sources, including some of its share of Measure C transportation tax money, to make up the shortfall.
FAX transit workshops
A series of seven public workshops are being held to seek the public’s ideas on ways to restructure the Fresno Area Express, or FAX, bus service to attract more riders.
▪ Saturday, Nov. 4: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fresno City College’s Skylight Room, 1101 E. University Ave., central Fresno.
▪ Monday, Nov. 6: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Central Valley Regional Center, 4615 N. Marty Ave. (south of Shaw Avenue), west-central Fresno.
▪ Tuesday, Nov. 7: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Mosqueda Community Center, 4670 E. Butler Ave., southeast Fresno.
▪ Wednesday, Nov. 8: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Frank H. Ball Community Center, 760 Mayor Ave. (near Ventura Street), southwest Fresno.
▪ Thursday, Nov. 9: 10 a.m. to noon, Woodward Library’s Woodward Park Meeting Room, 944 E. Perrin Ave., northeast Fresno.
▪ Thursday, Nov. 9: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Pinedale Community Center, 7170 N. San Pablo Ave., northwest Fresno.
▪ Saturday, Nov. 11: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Holmes Community Center, 212 S. First St. (south of Tulare Street), east-central Fresno.
A final wrap-up session will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Pinedale Community Center.