Monday, March 28, 2011

180 and farmland - Part 4

We continue east.

2009: Dockery to Del Rey

2010: Dockery to Del Rey

2009: Del Rey to Indianola

2010: Del Rey to Indianola

Thursday, March 24, 2011

180 and farmland - Part 3

Let's continue moving east. Is there more destruction of prime valley farmland? You bet!

2009: Thompson to McCall

2010: Thompson to McCall

Here's something interesting...they've built a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. It looks to be a park and ride. A transit element you'd think, a place to park a car to take the bus. But no, not here in Fresno County. I'm guessing there's some kind of "reward" for including park and rides in projects, because these little (useless) parking lots are popping up next to all the freeways....but there's no corresponding bus service! Carpools perhaps? Maybe, but none of the highways here have carpool lanes....

2009: McCall to Dockery (Dockery does not reach Kings Canyon, yet)

2010: McCall to Dockery.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

180 and farmland - Part 2

As I noted yesterday, I am going to be taking a look at the extension of highway 180 and the effect it is having on agriculture. All you see below can easily be found on google maps, I'm just putting it in one place so it's easier than switching back and forth between the aerial and satellite imagery.

We begin at 180 and just east of Temperance (Locan pictured), which was built only a few years ago, and from there move east.

You'll note the highway goes from more farmland. No urban area in sight, at least not yet. Once the developers see all those pretty off-ramps, subdivisions will be sprouting up like weeds.

2009: Locan to Dewolfe
2010: Locan to Dewolfe

2009: Dewolfe to Leonard

2010: Dewolfe to Leonard

2009: Leonard to Highland

 2010: Leonard to Highland

2009: Highland to Thompson

 2010: Highland to Thompson

Is there more? Oh yeah... a lot more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

180 and farmland - Part 1

One of the arguments being used against High Speed Rail in California is the impact it will have on agricultural land. After all, the valley depends on the prime farming land for our economic needs, and it just doesn't make sense to pave over productive farmland.

The argument itself isn't a bad one. Yes, high speed rail will take up farm space. Yes, high speed rail will require taking people's property.

But my question is, why aren't these same people bringing up these concerns when it comes to other transportation projects in the valley?

Some like to bring up the building of I-5 as an example, but I don't think it's a good one. The same people protesting today were in a very different place 40 years ago, so I can't blame them for not bringing up the concerns in the past. After all, people's opinions change, and people generally become more informed as time goes on.

So let's look at the here and the now: The millions and millions being spent to extent 180, from nowhere to nowhere. Of course, you'll recall those who framed HSR as a "train to nowhere" due to the cities chosen as the starting point of construction. That's a fallacy because the plan is to connect SF to LA, and of course there are many major stops along the way.

But the 180?

Well, let's take a look for ourselves. I am going to be posting some imagery from google of the project. The satellite imagery is from 2009, and the aerial (angled) imagery is from 2010.

Please note the farmland being consumed.

2009: Locan to Dewolfe

2010: Locan to Dewolfe

2009: Dewolfe to Leonard

2010: Dewolfe to Leonard

I'll continue tomorrow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Airport Expansions - Carte Blanche

Anyone who follows rail, and in fact most transit in general knows that any proposal involving tax monies receives a lot of backlash.

"How dare we spend so much money on a train to nowhere, or on an empty bus!"

Except of course when we talk about air transit. It seems as if airports have found a way to avoid any criticism when it comes to dumping money into them (although of course they get criticized when it comes to noise).

Take Sacramento International:

In what Sacramento International Airport officials called a milestone moment, crews hoisted the first of two automated people mover vehicles onto an elevated guideway Thursday morning as part of the airport's $1 billion expansion program.

$1 billion is a good amount, and that's just an expansion. Who knows how much has been spent to get the airport to the condition it is today?

So how many people get to benefit from this mass infusion of money?
4,455,817 boarded airplanes at the airport in 2009.

 That's 12,208 passengers a day.

Individual bus lines in cities like San Francisco regularly carry more than 12,208 people a day. Can you imagine a single bus route getting  a $1 billion expansion?

Let's just look at an even smaller chunk of that:

The new buildings and $30 million people mover system are expected to open this fall, replacing the outdated Terminal B complex. Officials said the electric vehicles will travel at 22 miles per hour on a curving track that runs about the length of three football fields. The 50-second trip will take passengers to the federal security checkpoints in the concourse building.
$30 million for an automated transit system, that at most, will see 25,000 riders a day (boardings and arrivals), and that's assuming everyone needs to ride it to get to their gate (I'm not familiar with the new layout). 

"It's a highly sophisticated system," airport director Hardy Acree said. As well, "it's a fun ride."
I'm sure it is a fun ride, but surely that money could have gone somewhere with more riders? Sacramento's very own light rail system sees 50,000 riders a day. I'm sure they could use $30 million. 

In fact:

Before the June 2010 budget cuts, RT light rail formerly operated from 4:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily with 15 minute headways during the day. After the budget cuts took place, it was curtailed to operate from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with service every 15 minutes in the day Monday through Friday and every 30 minutes on weekends and every night.

I'm sure $1billion could have done wonders for Sacramento's light rail system.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lofts in Old Town Clovis?

This article appeared in the Fresno Bee last week:

Downtown Clovis, known for its old-fashioned Western charm, could soon be getting a piece of the urban lifestyle: residential lofts with ground-floor shops and offices.
Granville Homes is proposing to build 35 loft-type condominiums above commercial and office space at the site of the old Clovis City Hall and the former state Department of Motor Vehicles office. A plaza at the front of the project would serve as an entryway into downtown Clovis where Bullard and Pollasky avenues meet.

This is a promising development.  Old Town Clovis is small, well defined and in relatively good condition compared to downtown Fresno. But it's far from perfect, as there are many surface parking lots and buildings in bad condition.

Unfortunately, the mayor has fallen into the trap that change is bad.

Mayor Harry Armstrong, who did not attend Monday's meeting, said in an interview that he is not sure the idea is right for downtown Clovis because the area functions pretty well now."I look at downtown and we have all these new people who want to change it," he said. "To make it become a reality, I have mixed emotions."
Something can function well now and function better in the future. That really shouldn't be a new concept for anyone. Downtown Clovis is far from perfect. For one, while it's cute, it has nothing to differentiate itself from similar downtowns in places like Selma. Nobody says "let's go visit Clovis and their awesome downtown" but people do plan trips to visit San Luis Obispo.

Old downtowns like the one in Clovis grew up on the idea of mixed used living. That's what the old-west style town was all about. Stores on main street, with the owners living on the 2nd floor, and other residential directly behind it.

The Bee article can be found at:

Smart Growth Presentations available

The organizers of the Smart Growth Conference have posted the powerpoint presentations that were used online.

They can be found at:

The videos of the presenters will be made available later this week.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fresno "Smart Growth Conference"

I managed to make it to the first day of the Smart Growth Conference. I thought the presentations were to begin at noon on Wednesday, but a small free lunch was served (sandwiches, salad, cookies). That gave me time to explore the art museum and meet a few people.

The presentations were interesting. One was about AB32 and how cities need to plan their growth to meet the targets. Another talked about land use in Fresno, and how downtown has the cheapest infrastructure but the highest tax revenue - even though so much of it is vacant. The last presentation was about density, and what it looks like.

The presentations will be found online (with video) next week.

Some of the questions were interesting, an there were only two "crazy" types. One who went off on a rant on the evils of high speed rail, and the other about the wonders of natural gas. The rest were mostly on point, although perhaps too wordy.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of media attention and Fresno officials.