Sunday, February 15, 2015

Streetsblog Looking for Fresno Writer!

If you would have asked me previously which would most likely come to Fresno, Streetsblog or Jetblue, I would have guessed Jetblue (but not seriously).

And yet on Friday this happened:

Following the launch of Streetsblog in Texas, Ohio, Saint Louis, and the Southeast, we have more good news to bring. Starting in early April, Streetsblog will launch its newest news site, Streetsblog California.

As part of the grant from The California Endowment that will allow us to launch the new Streetsblog, we’ll be hiring a writer in Fresno to cover the Livable Streets beat in the Central and San Joaquin Valleys.

Part-Time Writer for Streetsblog California
Job Description
We are looking for a professional journalist for a part-time position based in Fresno or elsewhere in the Central Valley to be a local correspondent for Streetsblog California. The position will be expected to provide regular coverage of local transportation projects including but not limited to bicycle and pedestrian planning, transit service, high speed rail, urban planning, and other issues.

With 8 counties and close to 4 million residents, the San Joaquin Valley has a lot to write about. Expanding the definition to the Central Valley, which adds Sacramento and areas north, and you get 6.5 million people and the following metros:

  • Sacramento Metropolitan Area (2,527,123)
  • Fresno Metropolitan Area (930,450)
  • Bakersfield Metropolitan Area (839,361)
  • Stockton Metropolitan Area (696,214)
  • Modesto Metropolitan Area (518,522)
  • Visalia-Porterville Metropolitan Area (449,253)
  • Merced Metropolitan Area (259,898)
  • Hanford-Corcoran Metropolitan Area (153,765)
  • Madera Metropolitan Area (152,925)

Transportation-wise, that allows for coverage on the nations first real High Speed Rail line, two of the most popular Amtrak lines in the country, attempts at BRT, light rail in Sacramento, and commuter rail. Never mind bike and pedestrian news including plenty of good and bad news. Throw in Davis (unsure where Davis gets classified) and you have one of the premiere bike towns in the country.

It's also an area that needs more coverage.

The Streetsblog network includes only two blogs in the San Joaquin valley - this one, and the Fresno Bicycle Coalition, which hasn't updated in almost two years.

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The Bay Area, on the other hand, has dozens.

It will be great to see the area get more attention on widely-read platform, as a significant gap does exist. 

Oh and as for Jetblue, they recently made the surprise announcement of direct service from Boston to Sacramento,  on a seasonal basis for now.

Nonstop flights begin June 18 and will run through Sept. 7. JetBlue will fly four flights a week (Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays) on Airbus A320 aircraft. JetBlue also flies from Sacramento to its biggest hub at New York JFK and to Long Beach, Calif.
JetBlue's service will give Sacramento its first-ever regularly scheduled airline service to Boston, according to The Sacramento Bee.

"We have been trying to get nonstop service to Boston for many years and are thrilled that JetBlue has decided to invest resources in this route," John Wheat, Sacramento County Director of Airports, adds to the Bee.

The new Boston route will be a red-eye in the eastbound direction, departing Sacramento at 9:40 p.m. and landing in Massachusetts at 5:59 a.m., all times local. The westbound route will depart Boston at 5:20 p.m. and land in California at 8:49 p.m., all times local.
USA Today
 Last month Jetblue also expanded into Reno, adding service from JFK
JetBlue Airways today announces it will be the only airline to offer nonstop service between Nevada's Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and the U.S. East Coast as it launches service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on May 28, 2015. Reno-Tahoe will be the airline's 89th destination and is among a number of new JetBlue routes in the West.

"A nonstop link between Reno-Tahoe International Airport and New York City is long overdue. JetBlue is pleased to provide the only direct service linking the East Coast to an airport that is the gateway to so many great year-round destinations in the Reno-Tahoe region. Customers will finally have easy access to Reno, beautiful Lake Tahoe, the great historic town of Truckee, Donner Lake, Tuolumne River and the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain range -- home to Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park and two National Monuments," said James Hnat, JetBlue's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Government Affairs.
Yahoo News
I wouldn't exactly cite Reno as being close to Yosemite and Kings Canyon though...

Now, Reno gets more attention than Fresno, thanks to Tahoe and all the ski resorts. For comparison, Reno sees 3.5 million passengers a year, vs well under a million in Fresno. So while I wouldn't expect a flight from Fresno to Boston or NYC any time this century, I think Jetblue using one of their Embraer plans for a more local flight could happen one day. Maybe to Burbank, Long Beach, San Diego or as far away as Portland?

Who knows. But Streetsblog came to Fresno, so anything can happen.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Old Town Clovis Bike Trail Missing Gap Complete!

I've been wanting to share these exciting pictures for some time now, but had serious internet issues at home that caused my picture uploads to keep failing. Fortunately the internet company has finally fixed the problem. The pictures are no longer hot off the presses, but they're still very exciting, and I haven't seen any pictures posted elsewhere.

The longest bike trail in the Fresno area runs from Riverpark, up along Shepherd, and then down across Clovis, ending south of Sierra Vista Mall. It's a great recreational asset, a lot of fun to ride, and great for commuting too. It's known as the Sugar Pine Trail and also the Old Town Trail.

Originally it was a rail line, which is why it cuts across town. Sadly, at some point after the rail line was abandoned, and before the bike trail was built, Clovis allowed a parking lot to be built across the right of way near Old Town. That meant that for over a decade, there was a gap in the trail.

The gap wasn't particularly onerous - a two block detour on a quiet street with bike lanes. Unfortunately, there was zero signage indicating that the trail continued, and while the bike lanes were fine for me, they're a no-go for many riders. Not too many families riding with kids on training wheels would be comfortable on an on-street bike lane.

You can find an extensive picture review I did of the previous conditions here.

The gap before, this is where the path suddenly ended coming from the south:

What you had to do at the southern end:

Northern end was much worse:

The solution was obvious. I made these in 2012.

And that's almost exactly what they built!

In September 2013, the city approved plans to build a connection.

In April 2014, the plans were released.

Construction happened during the fall.  Overall, the trail looks great, except for one very significant flaw...Let's take a look!

Riding from the south, we approach the area...

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 Almost there...

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And there it is! The old crosswalk stays the same, but now the trail continues beyond. Oddly, the building that was on the lot has disappeared.

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Visibility continues to be poor approaching the crosswalk though, but that was always the case:

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And there we go. Unlike other sections of trail, here they decided to separate the two directions of travel with trees and lights. It's a shared space, also used as a sidewalk. However, aside from Big Hat Days and Rodeo Days, one never finds people on the sidewalk here, so conflicts won't be an issue. 

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Good, wide ramp.

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New lights...don't really fit any scheme though. odd choice.

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Benches and trash cans added in center area

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One still needs to be careful on the trail due to driveway crossings

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Water fountain is conveniently between both travel directions. Also, make note of how close the lights are to each other. Near the end of the post, I have pictures of them at night. 

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I wasn't the only user

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Halfway down, there's a T-intersection. The good news is, they DID built one ramp. The bad news is, they only built one, and decided not to paint a crosswalk. The current planning/engineering team at Clovis does not believe in crosswalks, and actually removed three on Clovis Avenue.

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Stepping back, you can see they built a bulb out for the crosswalk

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Ramp is fine, but no crosswalk

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The other crosswalk, not so good

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 The other side of the street got sidewalk extensions as well, but they couldn't be bothered to orient the ramps properly

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Continuing on...

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They built the path right up to the existing building. However, see those garage doors?

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Apparently they're not used, as the curb cuts were eliminated!

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Now we get to 3rd street, where a new crossing was built, and yes, a painted crosswalk. However, they installed that idiotic sign that contradicts state law (traffic is required to stop for crosswalk users).

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Brief detour...

They used the opportunity to modernize the other ramp, and add some landscaping. Sadly, they didn't bother to orient the ramp in the proper direction, as requested (but not required) by ADA

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Even the area across the street saw some substantial addition, and the road was made narrower!

Compare before (use utility pole as reference to width)

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and now

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Shame the utility poles weren't removed.

Ahem, back to the brand new crossing...

There's new signage for drivers, and you can see the road narrow on both sides

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But they really should have used zebra striping, as recommended by modern design guidelines. The transverse lines are barely visible.

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The turn is rather sharp, but there is space, and the ramp is well built. Very wide.

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There is one, very, very serious problem with the crossing though.

Remember all the lights on the trail? Yeah, none here. Zero lights for the road crossing, in any direction. It's recklessly irresponsible design, and I have some pictures at the end showing it at night. Any pedestrian or cyclist attempting to cross here after dark will be invisible.

Anyway, the new trail continues on this side of the road

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And connects with where the trail used to suddenly end right here (you can see the different concrete patterns).

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The trail continues for many miles that way...

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Looking back, the trail used to spit you out here

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And also looking back, we see the crossing from the other direction

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So overall, the new trail connection looks very good. Attractive, wide, plenty of amenities, and connects properly in both directions. The driveways are a big shame, and one needs to be careful, but heavens forbid the city lose parking spots for the trail where the right of way used to be. It would be nice to see additional signage at the driveways to warn motorists, but I don't see it being a big issue.

Except for that one potentially fatal flaw: zero lighting at the new crosswalk.

Let's take a look at the trail at night. The main trail itself is very well lit, much more so than any other section of the trail actually.(Pictures taken on automatic settings, no manipulation on computer).

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From across the street: 

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Unfortunately the lights point up. This contributes to light pollution and creates shadows below it, which is a poor purchasing choice. However, the lights are still better than any other trail section in the county.

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The crosswalk on 4th (the t-intersection) has a streetlight, so the lighting is ok.

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But now we reach the crosswalk for 3rd. See any difference?

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Lets take a step back to compare that again...

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Look where the lighting ends...right where it's needed most!

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The section of trail on 3rd has zero lighting too

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Until you get to the little rest area (was there before)

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Incidentally, this is how most of the existing trail is lit. There are lights, but set way too far apart.This is an existing section of trail from before.

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....but the real problem is where the cars are

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Extremely dangerous.

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I keep forgetting to write to the city, but I will to see how they plan on fixing this. I encourage others to do the same.The new trail is great, but the lack of lights at the crosswalk ruins it.

The worst part is, I did mentioned this to the city back in 2013, when the plans were still in design. They said they would "look into it".