Saturday, January 20, 2018

Is the Manchester Center Food Hall Really Coming?

I love food halls, or em, an "artisan food community". I've enjoyed them in Los Angeles, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. So naturally, I was excited when one was announced for Fresno back in September 2016. Especially because the location was to be inside the Manchester Center Mall.

The plans include a new mall entrance, a redesigned facade with signage, a marketplace or “artisan food community” for chefs, food trucks and restaurants, an exterior shopping area and an outdoor events plaza.
Fresno Bee

At the time, it was supposed to be ready "a long way off, probably opening in late spring of 2017, Bagunu says, though construction has started."

In January 2017, this was the update:

Inside the mall, renovations are going hot and heavy in the former Gottschalks store, though you wouldn’t know it because windows covered in black plastic hide the mess. It’s the beginning stages of what the mall calls a marketplace – essentially a fancy food court.
Well, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is that the "redesigned facade" is well underway. This is an improvement from when I last did a photo tour.

The bad news is that there has been zero visible progress on the food hall. That hot and heavy construction apparently ground to a complete halt.

Let's take a look at the current state of Manchester Center Mall.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Final Look at Construction on Fresno's New Fake BRT Line "Q"

Fresno's new fake "BRT" (bus rapid transit) line, branded as "Q" is set to open Fall of 2017. Well, that's what the website says.
Key Dates
Construction Kickoff: June 2016
Construction: 2016-2017
Testing: 2017
Launch: Fall 2017

In reality, the bus line was delayed yet again to February or March of this year (originally, it was expected way back in 2012).

And this time they really mean it, so they're hosting public meetings to educate people on what the bus line is. The first one is this week:

Shaw & Blackstone Corridor
January 17, 2018 | 5:30 pm–7:00 pm
Tornino’s
5080 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93710 

Quick aside: This is a complete failure of public outreach and engagement. Asking people to come to YOU, on a certain date, at a certain time is public outreach in name only. FAX knows where the customers are (on the bus and at the stations). FAX should come to the people. Nobody is going to take time and money out of their day to go to a random location to hear some official talk about a kiosk. Worse: The three meetings are in the same time period (5:30pm-7pm) so anyone who works during those hours is out of luck.

Depressing. I recently read about a city which launched a new bus service and advertised it by mailing info to every house within 1/4 mile of the route. That's outreach.

Also, at some point they should maybe tell the public how this will affect the two existing bus lines that currently run on Blackstone and Kings Canyon. I've yet to see any information about that.

Anyway, let's take a look at the construction shortly before the new line opens. This post looks at a regular stop in Blackstone, the Manchester Transfer Center, and the Van Ness stop by the Courthouse Transfer Station.

Previous updates:
September 2017
January 2017

We start at a random bus stop on Blackstone and Clinton. This location previously had a regular bus stop, shelter, and bench.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Google satellite imagery for Fresno! (Fall 2017)

Posting updates about Google Maps satellite imagery in the Fresno region used to be a frequent topic on this blog. Thanks to the lack of clouds for half the year, Fresno was lucky in that new images were posted about twice a year, compared to some more populated area that only got an update every other year - or even less frequently. Basically, to provide the images, a satellite has to take hundreds of pictures, and then they are all blended together automatically to reveal a seamless image without clouds in the way. Since Fresno has so many clear days, it's much easier to get the shots.

Or at least that was the case, because in all of 2016, Fresno saw no updates.

Here's a look at the update history. The link is my post talking about it (although now those links are useless thanks to the Photobucket debacle).

3/18/2015
11/13/2014
4/5/2014
3/15/2013
8/27/2012
8/26/2012
4/25/2011
9/24/2009
6/5/2009
3/29/2007
3/16/2007
11/28/2006
8/4/2006
12/30/2005
10/02/2015
8/19/2004
(and a few older ones)

As you can see, pretty consistent!

Well, in 2017 we got two updates, with the most recent one showing up in December. Those images were taken on 8/7/2017 (it takes them a couple of months to process and update - that's normal). There was also an update taken on 3/31/2017, which I noticed around July, but never got around to posting about.

But here's a twist: Usually the images go up on the Google Earth platform first, and then a month or so later show up on general Google Maps (and dates that are less than perfect never migrate to Maps). However, this year, the images that show up in Google Maps are blended with a range of dates! What's even more confusing is that in Google Maps, you're not told what date the image is from.

This popped up thanks to construction progress.

IE: Let's look at High Speed Rail construction over the San Joaquin River.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Fresno is getting direct air service to Chicago!

I've always though the next domestic airline destination from Fresno would be to Houston, via United, but today we get a surprise: it will be Chicago....with United! 

United Airlines in 2018 continues its domestic routes expansion, as the airline opened reservation for a total of 12 routes in 2018. Following routes opened for booking since Friday night (Pacific Time) 17NOV17.
Chicago O’Hare – El Paso eff 09APR18 2 daily Embraer E170 (Republic Airlines)
Chicago O’Hare – Fresno eff 07JUN18 1 daily Embraer E175 (Skywest)
Denver – Jacksonville FL eff 09APR18 1 daily Embraer E175 (Skywest)
Denver – Liberal eff 06FEB18 6 weekly CRJ200 (Skywest)
Denver – North Platte eff 01FEB18 2 daily CRJ200 (Skywest; weekends frequency varies)
Denver – Pueblo – Liberal eff 06FEB18 6 weekly CRJ200 (Skywest)
Denver – Scottsbluff eff 30JAN18 2 daily CRJ200 by Skywest (weekends frequency varies)
Los Angeles – Kalispell eff 07JUN18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Medford eff 09APR18 2 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Missoula eff 07JUN18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Los Angeles – Redmond eff 09APR18 1 daily CRJ200 (Skywest)
Newark – Elmira eff 09APR18 2 daily ERJ145 (Commutair)
Routes Online 

As you can see, this will actually be Skywest service on a regional jet, but it will allow for new eastern connection on United!

Fresno has poor airline connections compared to peer cities, as I highlighted here.

Additionally, Citylab recently did an article about the economic importance of direct air flights.

While there is nothing cities can do about their geography, they can be strategic about air connectivity. Perhaps the main practical takeaway from the study is that direct flight connections with particular cities mean a great deal more than airport capacity per se. The study confirms what many of us intuitively know: Changing planes is a pain in the neck—so much so that it actually affects inter-city investment patterns.

So this is great news!

...well, 90% good news. To start, this will be seasonal service, running from June to August. So United is just testing the water here. Hopefully, the water, uh, bites.

Additionally, Fresno recently landed a new international destination. Volaris will be flying to Morelia, Mexico, on Mondays and Saturdays starting December 16.

Now bring us Jetblue please!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Major delays in new trains means no new 8th daily San Joaquin for now

Amtrak California was supposed to be welcoming a whole new fleet of bi-level trains this year. or last year. Who knows. They were funded way back in 2010 as part of stimulus package. You know, the package intended to create jobs fast with shovel-ready jobs.

sanjoaqin
The current two level trains and low floor platforms
Well something odd happened with that contract. The winning bidder (Nippon-Sharyo) couldn't deliver. Here's an article from April 2016.

A Japanese company hired to build new passenger railcars for regional Amtrak service has fallen years behind schedule and likely won’t complete the order before federal funding expires.
The stalled production undermines an ambitious plan to upgrade Amtrak service in California, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri and has highlighted the complexities foreign companies face in complying with made-in-the-U.S. requirements. Funding for about three-quarters of the 130-car order is tied to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
...
After repeated failures, engineers are now redesigning the car’s body shell. That and additional testing will take about two more years to complete, according to people familiar with the matter. The entire job was to be finished in 2018, with the stimulus-funded portion due for completion in 2017. Now, Nippon Sharyo isn’t expected to start production until 2018, people familiar with the work say.
Wall Street Journal 

As a stop-gap measure, Amtrak California announced they would be purchasing two brand-new, but never used trains that were built for Wisconsin. 

Unfortunately, things got worse. 

The Talgos never showed up. Something happened behind the scenes and that purchase didn't happen. Unfortunately, the media never pressed Amtrak as to why, so we don't know what went wrong.

brightline
California will now be getting these trains - a proven design,
but designed for high-platform stations

And rather than fix the problems with the bi-level trains, Nippon-Sharyo simply gave up. They couldn't meet the safety criteria, and in September, they finally lost the contract. This week, Amtrak announced that Siemens would instead build the trains. 

Now, there's a lot of issues with this new contract. For one, the new trains will be single-level, rather than high-level. Secondly, there's the issue of California having low level platforms, while these trains will be high level. 

But for now, I'm going to focus on the operational issues this has caused. 

Amtrak California has had ambitious plans to increase service. In 2016, The San Joaquin line received a new 7th daily round trip. 

Earlier this year, they said things were on track for an 8th daily train in early 2018. 

Well, it looks like someone finally told them that the new rolling stock they would need to keep this schedule wasn't coming in time.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Look at BRT Construction in Fresno

Construction should not take this long.

We last looked at BRT ("bus rapid transit") construction in Fresno back in January. Eight months later, the thing still isn't done. We're not talking about a new tunnel, a new corridor, or anything of significance; just sidewalk extensions and shelters. And apparently that's just too much for Fresno to manage in a timely manner. It is embarrassing how little is being built and how long that is taking.

This is a project that has been in the works since around 2008. The city council finally signed off on it in 2014. It was supposed to be done, this time for real, in 2016. Now it is supposed to be done in 2018. Maybe.

High Speed Rail is also plagued by delays. The Central Valley segment was supposed to be finished up by the end of this month. In that case though, the delays are a little bit more understandable. It is a brand new corridor, full of tunnels and viaducts. Republican lawmakers have thrown every bit of obstruction that they could muster at it. Property owners took up lawsuit after lawsuit. Out-of-state interests poured in money to kill it.

So more understandable, but certainly still disappointing.

Anyway, this post will look at BRT construction, next one will be HSR.

We start with a typical "station" on Blackstone Avenue. All along the route, sidewalks have been bumped out to provide space for these stops. This one is located adjacent to a delicious Ethiopian Restaurant.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fresno Fulton Mall / Street September 2017 Construction Photo Tour

This is a comprehensive look at the Fulton Mall (future Fulton Street) in Fresno, 2 months before construction is scheduled to end. Fresno is spending around $20 million to eliminate a pedestrian mall and re-open it to vehicles and vehicular parking. The intention behind it is to bring economic vitality to the corridor.

My last update was in January. Back then, we were told construction would end in May 2017, a delay from the original date of November 2016.

Previous posts
January 2017
May 2016
August 2015 (construction diagrams) 

I was looking forward to this walk, hoping things would be looking up after a year of damaging construction. Sadly, the corridor looked the worst that I have ever seen. Most businesses were closed, many permanently.

I saw maybe 8 people, total. I always take my photos on weekend afternoons, so I am comparing directly between my previous visits, and I have never seen it this dead. Even when the prison-style fencing was up last year, there were more people.

Note that in the days since I took these photos, there have been a few changes: benches were added, some of the artwork was uncovered, and some of the vehicular barriers were removed.

DSC_0088_29356

Again, this is a very comprehensive look, so click ahead to load a ton of photos.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Old Town Clovis Construction Update

I must admit, losing all those photos in the old blog posts was discouraging. While I still have all those photos saved on multiple hard drives, there are just too many to find, upload, and relink. It essentially made years of posts useless.

And that discouragement made July suddenly turn to September.

But I am back now, with fresh photos that will be hosted on Flickr. Are there any guarantees that Flickr won't do the same thing? Nope, but I guess that's a risk we must take.

I'm starting with a nice and easy post: a look at the newest construction in Old Town Clovis.

Last updates:
February 2017
May 2016 

The most obvious change is that the two new buildings next to Centennial Plaza are almost done. Not only are they new (a novelty in old town), but they're the biggest yet. 3 stories isn't exactly a skyscraper, but they do make an impression, and frankly, a nice one. I'm not in love with the architecture, but it will do.