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Fresno’s new transit system offers faster service, plush seats and bright blue buses

Fresno’s Q bus line: A new day for Fresno’s transportation

Monday marked the first day of Fresno’s new bus rapid transit system, called FAX Q, which stands for "quick" and “quiet." The buses, running on natural gas and painted in a distinctive light blue, will run along Kings Canyon to downtown, then up
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Monday marked the first day of Fresno’s new bus rapid transit system, called FAX Q, which stands for "quick" and “quiet." The buses, running on natural gas and painted in a distinctive light blue, will run along Kings Canyon to downtown, then up

“Quick” and “quality” are the traits that helped name Fresno’s newest mode of rapid transportation: the FAX Q.

Making its debut on Monday, Q’s Route One took off at 6 a.m. on Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road. The Q runs along Kings Canyon and Blackstone Avenue, two key thoroughfares in the city.

Loretta McKinley Odell of Fresno, 60, boarded one of the bright-blue Q buses at the Cedar Avenue stop around 10 a.m. She has been living in the city since October of last year and uses the bus for everyday errands, such as going shopping. On the Q’s first day, her destination was the downtown Fresno County Public Library.

“It’s unique,” she said of the bus, remarking how the interior was roomy and the ride was smoother than other FAX buses. Having moved from Minneapolis, she said she’s been a bus rider for most of her life, and that Fresno transportation is one of the best she’s experienced.

During the first week of the Q passengers can ride for free to become familiar with the buses and the routes. The stops along the high-speed route are bright blue, like the buses. There, customers can purchase daily, monthly and discounted tickets.

There are 17 40-foot-long buses that will travel nearly 16 miles on Blackstone Avenue to downtown and from Ventura Avenue and Kings Canyon Road to Clovis Avenue. Additional routes could be added in future years, according to the FAX website.

FAX Q driver Jeff Thompson said the bus allows customers to expedite travel time. The buses are clean and have plush seating. The project includes 51 stations.

Jason Tompkins, 46, of Fresno lives in downtown and has a bus stop in front of his residence. He is excited for what the rapid system will bring to Fresno, including the decrease of air pollution.

On Monday, Tompkins decided to ride the bus to see what rapid transit can be like in Fresno. He hopes one day Fresno can reach the caliber of transportation that major cities like San Francisco enjoy.

The transition for passengers who need to switch between the Q and other FAX buses for their daily commute is “seamless,” the FAX Q website promises. The tickets to board will remain valid for 90 minutes from the time of purchase.

Passengers are expected to wait no more than 10 minutes at Q stops, including during peak traffic times, before a bus arrives. The Q buses have a green light priority at traffic signals and a half-mile distance between stops. The Q will have operate on the weekdays until 1 a.m.

City leaders hope that the Q can help reverse a trend of declining ridership on Fresno’s bus system. At the peak of its popularity, FAX buses provided nearly 16 million rides per year. Last year, there were 10 million riders, according to Gregory Barfield, the city’s assistant director for transportation.

Federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation covered the cost to build the buses and system, which includes new shelters at bus stops, modifications to traffic signals to give buses a priority for green lights and the ticket machines. The purchase of 17 new buses brings the total tab for the system to $56.2 million, Barfield said.

Tompkins said looking out the bus window and onto Blackstone Avenue, “Maybe this is the beginning of something better to come.”

Tim Sheehan contributed. Jessica Johnson: 559-441-6051, @iamjesslj

Official launch

▪ FAX Q will officially launch with a ceremony at CartHop at Mariposa Plaza on Fulton Street on Thursday, Feb 22. CartHop will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

▪ FAX ambassadors will be on-site at bus stations throughout Fresno between Thursday and Feb. 28 to demonstrate how to use the new pay kiosks.

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