Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Broadway streetscape project almost done, results are disappointing

It's been almost three years since the project was announced, and now the Broadway streetscape project in downtown Fresno is almost done. The plan involved giving Broadway a small road diet, removing a center turn lane and one general lane to add angled parking on each side. The project included absolutely no bicycle accommodations (contrary to the master plan) but did add some amenities for pedestrians in the form of sidewalk extensions at intersections.

Sadly, the project has done many things wrong. The lack of attention to detail shows that Fresno does not have a planner that understands bicycle or pedestrian planning - or even basic ADA. Sort of shocking for a city of half a million. Let's take a look.

Note: Pics are 2-3 weeks old, sorry for the delay in uploading them!

We start at Broadway and San Joaquin, where the reason behind the angled parking is made clear. GV Urban has broken ground on their latest downtown residential project, and they're hungry for free parking.

 photo DSC09912_zpsdc6864ce.jpg

 photo DSC09914_zpsaf270a46.jpg

Their section of sidewalk is the only part that hasn't been worked on, presumably due to the ongoing construction.

 photo DSC09910_zps14918a4e.jpg

Here across from the Rainbow Ballroom we see the new angled parking, and removal of two traffic lanes. Sadly, Fresno refused to use back-in angled parking, which is much safer.

 photo DSC09911_zpsb5ebf075.jpg

Looking south

 photo DSC09915_zps1d72d25f.jpg

This intersection wasn't exactly the best place to start. Sadly, there's no curb extension here. I'm not sure why, but it was like the in the original plan, although a curb cut was removed. As it is now, no corner of this intersection will get a curb extension until GV Urban finishes their corner.

Moving along then, we find what a nicer bit of streetscaping looks like. New sidewalks, landscaping, and a curb extensions. Also, notice the drainage grates? This is a little odd, because even though they redid the entire street, it looks like a retrofit job. I guess it was cheaper.

 photo DSC09918_zpsf68eec6b.jpg

However, now we start noticing problems. I mentioned last time how narrow the ramps were. Bare minimum for ADA - why?

 photo DSC09919_zps9d27c028.jpg

Compare to the width of the crosswalk. Why?

 photo DSC09920_zps95147c39.jpg

 The added landscaping is nice, although I wish they had added more trees.

 photo DSC09921_zps06a3c951.jpg

So narrow. 

 photo DSC09924_zps97334ed8.jpg

This other intersection shows that vegetation is lacking. Looks like a future garbage collection area.

 photo DSC09927_zps042ed753.jpg

And this is how the curb extensions make the crossing distances for pedestrians much shorter.

 photo DSC09922_zps6b341fcf.jpg

For reference, this is how wide the street looked before

Aside from the narrow ramps, we encounter a serious problem.

Major ADA fail here. So you know those yellow rumble strips (truncated domes)? Their purpose is to inform the blind that they are exiting the pedestrian area and will be crossing somewhere with vehicles. A single strip is needed at the edge. Just one.

 photo DSC09925_zps2831fca5.jpg

As seen above, they've developed a rumble highway. This doesn't make things any easier for the blind, but it DOES make life very difficult for those in wheelchairs, who must now cross FIVE strips, rather than one.

Not to mention, it's a huge waste of money, and again indicates that the Fresno planners have no idea what they're doing. 

Seriously, wtf?

 photo DSC09923_zpsbd906d8b.jpg

Anyway, the new parking is being used by the residents of these apartments. Parking is free and unrestricted. For now, it does provide a benefit as it makes it obvious that people live here.

 photo DSC09926_zpsc1f78ba3.jpg

As we arrive towards the northern end of the project, things get bad.

At Broadway and Yosemite, they haven't painted any crosswalks at all. Huh, wasn't this a pedestrian upgrade?

 photo DSC09929_zps7bb002fe.jpg

 photo DSC09928_zpsce8f5023.jpg

Not only does this intersection have zero crosswalks, the new curb extensions explicitly restrict crossing from wheelchair users. This is a problem.

Under California law, an intersection exists where two streets cross. Like here. Also under California law, at every intersection, there are crosswalks where pedestrians have the right of way, marked or not.

 photo DSC09931_zpsfba70a37.jpg

Fresno chose not the mark the crosswalks, but they also went out of their way and put landscaping in the way. What that means, is that people can legally cross - but the disabled cannot. It's an ADA violation.

  photo DSC09930_zpscf296087.jpg

I will email the city, and I guarantee they will get right on it - by putting up signed stating that the crosswalk is closed.

 photo DSC09934_zps545530dc.jpg

 photo DSC09933_zps32f54d34.jpg

 It's 2014, is this kind of work acceptable?

 photo broadway1_zps6a702c2e.png
Walking back south again, we find more ADA issues

 photo DSC09940_zps2d07b94b.jpg

And note that none of the crosswalks have been painted in the continental style. Why? This is the point of view of a driver, look at the crosswalks in the distance, they're essentially invisible. Van Ness has continental crosswalks, why not Broadway?

 photo DSC09937_zps2b811e3b.jpg

This is nice, glad they kept the existing tree and gave it more room

 photo DSC09939_zpsb2ede1e0.jpg

Some sections further south have timed parking

 photo DSC09938_zps8ab02e29.jpg

And another fail. No, not the badly striped crosswalks...the arrow.

 photo DSC09946_zpsf7834842.jpg

What the hell is that? I can't even find it in the traffic manual. The closest sign is the W16-7P, but that's a different shape. Is Fresno seriously installing non-compliant signage in a brand new project?

The standard sign for a pedestrian crossing is this, which is what should have been installed.

 photo broadway2_zpsbfd397ed.jpg
More rumble strips at the end of the GV parcel...

 photo DSC09945_zpsba296152.jpg

Showing the width of the ramp and the lack of bicycle accommodations

 photo DSC09941_zpseb5daf6c.jpg

So in summary:
-Narrow crosswalk ramps
-Incorrectly installed domes
-Zero lighting improvements
-Zero biking infrastructure
-Missing crosswalks
-No continental crosswalk marking
-Poor signage
-ADA violations
-Pull-in parking

+Nice landscaping
+Curb extensions are valuable

Overall, a disappointment. Three years late and they couldn't even get it right. Maybe in 2060 they'll take another swing at it.

Bonus GV urban:
 photo DSC09917_zps92a8ef25.jpg

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fresno COG conducting (bad) survey on FAX service - deadline June 23!

I got an interesting email today from the Fresno Council of Governments, the metropolitan planning agency for the Fresno area.

They're conducting a study on how to improve FAX, which like most studies, includes public comment. Apparently, they put a survey online in late May, and sent out emails yesterday because the deadline is next week.

They're paying the good folks at Parsons Brincherhoff large sums of money to do this. 

In an effort to improve the efficiency and sustainability of our existing fixed route bus systems, the Fresno Council of Governments is currently examining the metropolitan area's travel patterns for both Fresno and Clovis through extensive surveys and analysis of area transit riders and non-riders.
Project documents are available for review on the Fresno Council of Governments website at  Please take our survey and share your preferences about the transit system. 
Public comments are encouraged and may be submitted in writing by 5:00 p.m. on June 23, 2014 to:

Sounds great right? A perfect opportunity to tell them that the area transit sucks, and they must do more to improve it.

Don't get excited. It's a loaded survey with a leading questions giving people a false choice. Here's what it says:

A city can only afford to run a certain number of buses. This service can be spread out over a huge number of streets or it can be concentrated along a smaller number of streets.

Transit agencies have to decide whether to concentrate service to raise frequencies and increase ridership, or spread it out over the whole city, so that everyone has a little bit.

If given the choice of restructuring transit service in the Fresno/Clovis area by increasing bus frequency on more busy lines OR spreading out service across the whole city, which would you choose?

So we get to pick if we cut the already abysmal frequencies, OR cut the already abysmal service area, a service area that was designed in the mid 1970's.

Isn't it great that the public gets to throw their two cents in? Yay, Democracy! 

Problem is, that's not the only choice. The REAL choice is deciding how funding is allocated. The question should have been, should $55 million be dumped onto a highway ramp project, for a highway system that's barely a decade old OR should the money go to increasing frequencies and service areas on FAX?

Should we widen every road to 6 lanes OR fund FAX?

Should we spend a million or so every year in airport "upgrades" OR fund FAX?

Nope. Instead we're told the choice is to screw over one transit user in favor of the other.

Just how bad are these choices?  A recent report (PDF) looks at different scenarios, including one which eliminates the lowest ridership routes and uses the money for 15 minute service and later hours on the most popular routes.

The problem? The lowest ridership routes doesnt mean it's a bad route! You can't keep cutting the lowest ridership route because theres ALWAYS going to be one that's last. Fresno already cut 3 routes in this past recession.

This is especially apparent when they point out the following in a scenario they ran:

For example, Route 45 was deleted, serving portions of West Herndon, Fruit, and East Ashlan. This route carries over 30 boardings per hour, which would be above average in San Jose or Sacramento, for instance. In the context of FAX’s system average of 47 boardings/hour, however, it is relatively low and it contains long segments with very little ridership. For that reason, a scenario attempting to push Fresno’s productivity higher must delete Route 45.
Eliminating a route that peer cities like Sacramento would love to have, for the sake of eliminating the " worst" route? Garbage. It just shows how poor the FAX situation is.

They also look at eliminating route 58H, which actually is the worst route by ridership. Thing is, the Children's Hospital pays for it as mitigation for building in Madera, at a location only accessible by a brand new highway. Cutting it doesn't make sense, since FAX doesn't fund it.

There is another suggestion I don't buy:
Weekend service should be standardized to clock headways, so that connections occur on a consistent pattern. This means changing 45-minute and 50-minute headways to 60 minutes, if 30 minutes cannot be afforded. The memorability of repeating clockface headways tends to be of greater value to ridership than the minor in crease in service quantity that these irregular headways represent
Garbage. 45 or 50 minute headways are fine if people can use technology to track the buses. This isn't 1960. People shouldnt have to memorize bus schedules, they should be able to use a smartphone, text-messaging service or automated phone line to get exact info on the time of next arrival. You know, the kind of technology which major metropolises like Visalia have adopted.

Aside from that, the report has a great selection of data, including trips by TAZ, and boardings by trip. It shows, for example, that the 6:35am Route 38 bus is at 223% load.

The highlight to me is a map showing boardings per stop. Guess where the busiest stops are? Shaw. But Shaw gets service only every 30 minutes because in the 1970's, cross-Shaw travel was rare. 

 photo faxboardings_zpsb5017bdd.png

You can find the information and survey here. I left them some words in the comment section.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A look at construction at First 5 Fresno's new "Lighthouse" headquarters

I don't think I've done a picture update on this project before, and it's moving quickly. You may have heard about it in the Bee because of controversy regarding an underfunded organization spending millions on a new building. I believe their current headquarters are on Shaw.

Their new building will be located downtown on Tulare and N, just south of the library. It used to be a parking lot, so this is a plus to the area. I was disappointed when they announced it would only be two and three floors, but it doesn't look bad in person, as each floor is pretty tall.

Here's the render:

 photo DSC00017_zps2c283d25.jpg

Part of the reason construction is moving so fast is because there's nothing underground. Let's take a look. Pictures taken as a full loop around the project.

 photo DSC00002_zps76eb17ab.jpg

 photo DSC00004_zpsbf604bc6.jpg

From the library side of the block

 photo DSC00005_zps01722542.jpg

 photo DSC00006_zps22f9902f.jpg

 photo DSC00007_zps1c979a0e.jpg

 photo DSC00008_zps5087bc93.jpg

They will have surface parking in the back, adjacent to the library lot

 photo DSC00010_zps3fa1bd35.jpg

 photo DSC00011_zpsd6ce017a.jpg

Creating a new street wall

 photo DSC00013_zps706de60f.jpg

Like all Fresno projects, no accommodations for sidewalk users

 photo DSC00015_zpsd8995c1c.jpg

  photo DSC00016_zps1e011542.jpg

The "lighthouse" end

 photo DSC00018_zps0fee9cf1.jpg

 photo DSC00019_zps6f578416.jpg

I swear it wasn't me who knocked down their fences! I was surprised how little was going on at the ground level. I don't even see where elevators go.

 photo DSC00020_zps6add7a78.jpg

 photo DSC00021_zps9cb276d6.jpg

 photo DSC00022_zps56c3edb0.jpg

 photo DSC00026_zps39ebab5f.jpg

And nearby, work is underway on a street. Don't know if it's just basic work or anything interesting.

 photo DSC00023_zpsfff8399d.jpg

 photo DSC00025_zpsea49fdf0.jpg