When I was growing up in Los Angeles, riding the bus was THE ticket to freedom for those of us younger than driving age. There were no school buses provided except for field trips and for kids in the lower grades who had to cross the busy street that bordered my elementary school. Older elementary, junior high and high school public school students throughout the city rode the Los Angeles Rapid Transit District buses to get to school then, and they still do today.
Moving to Fresno renewed my interest in public transportation, but it was hard to figure out the FAX bus routes. Many were circuitous, eventually getting to where you wanted to go, but slowly. For the past 25 years though, I’ve lived a short walk from Shaw Ave. where there is frequent bus service that I use.
I attended one of last month’s FAX public meetings seeking public input on the BRT Master Plan and regain ridership that has slipped over the past years. The public input portion of the meeting was very structured, but if I had a chance, here are some suggestions I would make to improve our local bus system:
1) The fare is not the problem; paying is. Equip buses to accept debit/credit cards for payment, since coming up with exact change is a hassle.
2) Focus on bus service to the parts of town that have inadequate parking and horrible traffic problems. Some examples:
- Bus service to Fresno State should not only involve travel on Shaw and Cedar Avenues, but also on Barstow, Maple, and Chestnut Avenues. Delivery into campus would make it advantageous to ride the bus instead of driving.
- While buses run frequently on Blackstone, some serious hiking is needed to access the whole of the Riverpark shopping area from Blackstone. What about a shuttle around the shopping center’s bordering streets on the weekends?
- Turn street side parking on the north and south sides of Shaw Ave. into bus only lanes between 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. That will make it faster to ride the bus than drive through traffic to work and school on Shaw.
3) Direct routes are needed from the airport to places travelers go, like Fresno State, the Amtrak/Greyhound Station, Riverpark, and Fashion Fair. The service needs to coordinate with the hours travelers are at the airport, particularly very early mornings, weekends, and at night.
On December 6 FAX will hold a wrap-up session to review the suggestions received at the public meetings. I’m anxious to hear what other bus travelers in Fresno have suggested.
by Marianne Kast, President, League of Women Voters of Fresn