Sunday, September 21, 2014

Would High Speed Rail have kept the SF Giants affiliation in Fresno?

Last week the news in Fresno was all about baseball. After a 17-year partnership with the AAA Grizzlies, the San Francisco Giants decided to end their affiliation agreement and instead back the Sacramento River Cats.

One of the major reasons cited for the switch was how Sacramento is closer to SF than Fresno, which allows for faster and more convenient moves between the teams when needed. Now, we all know the public reasons for any major decision aren't the only ones. There are always layers of strategy and money under the surface. However, the public reason certainly did come into play.

For the Giants, having their Triple-A affiliate in their geographical backyard was important. Many team’s transactions involve calling a player up from or sending him down to Triple-A, the highest minor-league level. The Giants, who for the last 17 years have partnered with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, now will have many of their top minor-league players just 90 miles away.

“When you have so many player moves that take place between your Triple-A club and major-league team, it was just very difficult to pass up an opportunity to get that close to our Triple-A club,” Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans said.
Sacramento Bee

Read more here:

Let's take a look...

AT&T Park in SF to Raley Field in Sacramento is a distance of 85 miles, or 1 hour and 25 minutes, according to Google Maps (no traffic). Transit is slower, but available. The Capital Corridor Route takes a little over 2 hours from Oakland, across the bay (plus time to get to Oakland).

AT&T Park to Chukchansi Park is 184 miles, or around 3 hours, according to Google Maps (no traffic). The San Joaquin train, also from Oakland, takes 4 hours and 15 minutes.

So clearly, there's some advantage. If a player is needed for a 7pm game, it takes half the time to go between SF and Sacramento than it would to Fresno.

That's today.

But what if High Speed Rail was available?

The projected schedules are for 86 minutes between Fresno and San Francisco. It also just so happens that the Fresno Rail Station will be 2 blocks from the stadium, and the future San Francisco terminal is also just 2 blocks away from their stadium.

Suddenly, the time/distance factor is completely nullified. Add to that how trains are safer and more reliable (no traffic), and if the tie-breaker is ease of access, Fresno gets the affiliation.

The mayor and the city talked about how they tried everything to keep the Giants in town. It's a shame getting HSR up and running yesterday wasn't in their power.

For a Giants fan in Fresno, it's certainly an interesting what-if. 

As an aside, the Grizzlies are now buddied up to Houston, who apparently didn't care about distance. This article popped up in the paper today:

The city does have a range of incentives available to entice new airlines to FYI, or for existing airlines to add new routes to and from Fresno, but the Federal Aviation Administration closely limits such financial inducements, Meikle said.

"We talk to airlines all the time about our incentives," he said. The packages include waiving landing fees and providing marketing funds "for airlines that are new to our market or who add a new destination," he said.

"If, say, United decided to start service between Fresno and Houston, it could qualify for the incentive." At that medium-haul range, an airline would have to provide at least four weekly flights; in exchange, the airline would get relief from airport landing fees and $2,000 a month in marketing money for 18 months.

The incentives are only available for year-round service, ruling out any suggestion that they might be used to try to boost any airline's service only during the baseball travel season.

Read more here:

United serves Bakersfield with flights to Houston, which is a product of how Continental operated (Houston was their hub). Continental always served Bakersfield, while their competitors, United and American, served Fresno. I assumed that when Continental merged with United, they would add a Houston flight to Fresno, but that hasn't happened. Maybe this time it will.

United recently dropped the Fresno-Vegas service, via their regional partner, and serving Houston would be a mainline operation. It would compete with Fresno-Dallas on American. In both cases, the flights are more about hub connections, than direct market-to-market demand.

Sacramento does have more flights than Fresno (including Houston), but High Speed Rail would also render the moot. Even with the current service patterns, players could take a quick 30 minute HSR ride to Bakersfield and transfer to a flight from there.
ead more here:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Central Valley misses out on TIGER grants, again

On Friday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the 2014 winners of the TIGER grant program. That program is handing out $600 million to 72 transportation projects.

California won some awards, but nothing for the Central Valley.

 photo tiger_zpse97398ae.png
-Off topic - The placement of Puerto Rico on that map is very poor...

Anyway, as reported by Streetsblog, the program is quite competitive, with 797 applications and only 72 winners. In that context losing isn't that much of a surprise...

Except that this is year 6. That's six chances to win grants. How has the Central Valley fared?

Transportation For America has put together a cool map showing the winners for all 6 years. The Central Valley gets one dot.

 photo tiger2_zps71ea16bb.png
The marker, in Fresno, is funding to remove the Fulton Mall, money which the city won last year. That's right, six years of grants, and the only Central Valley proposal to win money is the project that actually destroys a transportation asset.

That's quite the track record.

I wasn't able to find the list of 2014 grants submitted by Central Valley cities, but the numbers from 2013 are quite telling as to what planners in the Central Valley strive for.

In 2013, Bakersfield submitted two applications...for highway construction. Yeah, that highway.

Reedley submitted an application for a "Central Valley Transportation Center". Sounds exciting right? It's a planned fueling station and car-wash for school buses.

Merced County applied for funding to build a bypass around Los Banos. You know, the city that has an economy based around drivers stopping to eat and get gas, the county wants to route driver away from that. 

Tulare applied for a highway interchange.

You get the point, and the other (losing) Central Valley applications weren't much better.

What kind of projects DO win?

From LA:

The Eastside Access Improvements project will upgrade the streetscape, including street furniture, lighting, planting, and storm parkways, pedestrian facilities, including crosswalks and sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, including walk-bike esplanade, Class I and II bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, within a one-mile radius of the 1st/Central Station of the Regional Connector rail line, set to open for service in 2020 in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles.

 The Central Phoenix Multi-Modal Transportation Improvements project will conduct an environmental assessment and conceptual engineering for the South Central Transit Corridor, a 5-mile light rail line operating on Central Avenue between downtown Phoenix and Baseline Road that the Phoenix City Council identified as the locally preferred alternative for high-capacity transit service in fall 2013.


The BRT Project will construct the 3.6 mile 4th Street/Prater Way RAPID Transit BRT Project, running east-west between Reno and Sparks, NV. The project may also include upgraded electric buses and additional electric charging infrastructure, as well as construct accessible sidewalks and bike lanes.

It's no surprise that the Central Valley keeps missing out on funds - you can't apply for grants on projects that don't exist. With no planning to improve transit, there can be no applications. Without applications, there can't be free money.

Now, you might be reminded of the Fresno BRT project. That one did get federal funds, under a different program (Small Starts). $38 million in free federal monies actually. And then the city council said "lol, no thanks."

The same city council that just last month turned down $1 million in free money to make plans for the High Speed Rail station.

With this attitude of governance, and a planning system that continues to focus on only highways, I wouldn't expect any wins next year, or the one after - except for maybe a freight rail project.

Meanwhile, more forward-thinking cities will continue to reap the rewards, and continue leaving the Central Valley in the dust. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Barstow near Fresno State to get bike lanes

A critical east-west connection in Fresno will be getting bike lanes in the near future, as Fresno State received a grant that will help fund construction.

The following map shows Fresno State and existing the bike infrastructure. Barstow is the only east-west route, as Shaw has been designed to be very dangerous for bicycles. The A-B line is the rough extent of phase 1.

 photo bikeways2_zps3ce300bb.png

Back in August, the state released the list of projects to be funded under the Active Transportation Program for 2014.

Here's what Streetsblog wrote:

Under the ATP, the CTC is preparing to distribute $221 million for projects and programs in two categories: a statewide competition and a separate competition for small rural and urban projects. A third category of funds will be distributed later this year through the state’s largest Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) (more on that below).

The $221 million for the first two categories will be matched by another $207 million in local matching funds, yielding a total of $426 million in bike and pedestrian projects that will get the green light in the first two-year funding round. The 145 successful applications include 124 statewide projects [PDF] and 21 small rural and urban projects [PDF].
Here are the types of projects that would be funded:
  • $57 million in bike projects and plans
  • $119 million for 91 Safe Routes to Schools grants, 81 in the statewide category and 13 in small urban/rural category. Of the 91, 53 include non-infrastructure programs
  • 110 of the projects ($189 million worth) directly benefit disadvantaged communities at least partially
Streetsblog LA

The program was created in 2013.

The Fresno area projects that received money were:

  • Barstow Avenue Bikeways, requested by CSU Fresno, for a $875,000 grant out of $2,075,000 project cost.
  • Active Transportation Plan, requested by Fresno COG, for a $150,000 grant 
Project list (large PDF)

The project had received funding in the past. Now, if you're wondering why bike lanes cost over $2 million, this January 2013 (PDF) document explains it. The funding in this document is about an earlier grant.

 photo bikeways1_zps51665c0c.png

Sadly, this means another road widening project. It seems like even with a bike project, the administrators are eager to throw in auto-oriented costs, such as adding a right turn lane.

Today, Barstow looks like this. Cyclists use the very narrow shoulder, shared with pedestrians.

 photo bikeways3_zps4a8f70e6.png

Some sections, where the roadway is wider, have bike lanes, which are narrow and very faded

 photo bikeways4_zps431f8fa2.png

This would be a fantastic opportunity to design real bicycle infrastructure, that will get more students biking, like a two-way cycle track. However, that seems unlikely. Instead, it seems like the project will just widen the road to add standard painted bike lanes - and with the widening, encourage drivers to drive faster.

Fresno State does a poor job of encouraging transportation outside of driving. Last month, I posted about the Campus Pointe development, which has very poor pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.

The university attitude towards cycling is made obvious on their website, which is really sad.

Behold the "Campus Bike Program"

 photo bikeways5_zps7d814668.png
Absolutely no useful information. Really, that's it.

The link on the left to community routes? If you expected maps showing the best ways to and on campus...well that was hopeful thinking. Instead, they link to county maps from 2007, which gives a good idea of the last time that page was looked at.

Bike lanes coming to Barstow is great news, and it's nice to see the university push for them. However, it's a shame that the project seems to be doing the bare minimum, and the transportation focus for the university continues to be on parking. One of the justifications for the project is to minimize traffic impacts from a new parking garage (???).