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Posts Tagged ‘Fresno’

Great Minds Think Alike

Three months ago, I outlined the many bike/ped access problems in the Fresno HSR Station Plans. It appears Fresno city planners have the same concerns.

The city has published Design Guidelines that finds many problems with the bike/ped access across the new rail line. They propose various solutions — some are good ideas and some are less-than-ideal. Unfortunately, the CHSRA have set the design parameters in concrete, and that limits the design options. But given what they had to work with, this is a positive step at least.

For example, CHSRA did not think about dedicated bike facilities in their grade-separation overcrossings. Whereas their overcrossings would have been designed with 10′ sidewalks and (in some cases) 7′ shoulders, Fresno planners propose 14′ space for bike and peds on all the overcrossings — basically a 14′ wide Class I bike facility.

Things get more interesting in the downtown area, where the street grid gets seriously disrupted. Here is their proposal (click to enlarge):

The big change is in the pedestrian bridge. CHSRA had an overcrossing that dead-ended into the station. Instead, Fresno would have the pedestrian overcrossing relocated to Tuolumne Street, providing a through connection over the tracks:

Tuolumne Street is a C3-designated (high-volume, one-way) street that currently serves as the NE-bound partner in the Stanislaus-Tuolumne one-way couplet. The CHSR 15% engineering drawings assume elimination of the Tuolumne overpass.

Re-use of the Tuolumne right-of-way for a pedestrian/bicycle access bridge is preferable to a mid-block pedestrian bridge that does not line up with the desired pathways of pedestrians and bicyclists, on the street grid. Circulation is most intuitive and convenient when it is organized in street rights-of-way, or in a way that reinforces the patterns established by a grid of rights-of-way. By creating starting and ending points at G and H Street, the new pedestrian bridge would increase connectivity, and allow restoration of normal frontage for Tuolumne Street between Broadway and F street (which is currently occupied by the approach to the existing bridge).

Recommendations: re-align the proposed pedestrian bridge in the Tuolumne right-of-way and provide vertical connection at H and G streets to expose more commercial frontage.

The next major change is to increase the opportunities for sidewalks and ground-level retail near the station. Unfortunately, I fear they will be thwarted by CHSRA mentality of isolating stations away from streets.

Finally, there is the problem of those tunnel-like undercrossings. How to make them more inviting for bikes and peds? And how to reclaim valuable street frontage for retail?

 

So what’s not to like? Well, there is still a problem with getting from street level to the platform. The CHSRA has deliberately complicated that trip, with fare gates, parking lots, and the like. And the secure bike parking is still lacking.

Because of the time-limits on the stimulus funds (and the election), the CHSRA is rushing to get this project out to bid. That is too bad — if Fresno had more time to press these issues, they might have actually gotten a decent design.

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The Berlin Wall of Fresno

Admitedly, “Berlin Wall” is a loaded term. But it is appropriate for what high-speed rail might do to Fresno. That is because the Chinatown and Westside neighborhoods would lose direct access to downtown.

The CHSRA proposes to close Kern, Inyo, and Mono Streets at the rail right-of-way. Tulare and Fresno Streets do get grade separations, but by putting those streets in long subways under the tracks (both freight and HSR tracks) it creates a hostile environment for bikes and peds.

Here we see on the map how HSR creates a 6 block barrier:

Remember, the whole point of HSR was to revitalize urban neighorhoods. This is not the way to go about doing it. And Lord knows, these wrong-side-of-the-tracks streets can use the help:

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As part of the EIR process, station area plans have been published by the CA High-Speed Rail Authority for Fresno and Bakersfield (“California High-Speed Rail Fresno-Bakersfield Segment, Part III, Section E“).

Here is a rendering of the Bakersfield design (there are several variations, all following the same template).  You should click the image to enlarge.

And here is a Fresno rending. For a downtown location, the Fresno station sure has an abundance of surface parking (parking areas highlighted in orange, the station footprint in yellow).

These designs are very underwhelming. They are so retrograde, it is as if Parsons Brinckerhoff had thawed out 1960’s BART engineers from cryogenic hibernation.

The bike/ped access is especially bad. A simple metric for bike/ped accessibility is the walking distance from platform to street. For some destinations, it isn’t too arduous — but for other directions the travel is circuitous. Visitors must cross acres of parking (not to mention the fare gates and possible TSA baggage screening) to reach the street. The Bakersfield design is especially lacking because the station would be grade-separated over a roadway, and yet no effort was made to exploit that. Really, the only direct route from platform to street is the emergency staircase.

The bike parking is also problematic because no thought was given to inside-the-station secure bike parking. Indeed, bike racks and lockers are relegated to obscure locations, away from foot traffic (making for easy theft). The lack of secure parking is inexcusable as the stations don’t lack for space. Approx. 1,000 sq-ft is allocated for a telecommunications and “station computer” center (if this high-speed rail thing doesn’t work out, perhaps Google can use the facility for a data center).

Since the stations are situated along the existing freight rail tracks, long pedestrian overcrossings were included; however, the design of the overcrossings is bizarre. Take a look at this view of the Bakersfield station, and note how the freight overcrossing doesn’t line up with the high-speed rail platform. To exit the station, one must go down, then up, then down again!

A similar problem exists for Fresno station. The tracks are at-grade, and the west entrance is at-grade, but passengers must go up and down again — because the fare gates are in the upper level concourse:

So what can be done differently? For starters, we can look to these guys for inspiration…

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Fresno-Henge

What better way to celebrate the Summer Solstice, than by driving around and around a freeway onramp in your SUV?

At least, that’s what I think Fresno County highway engineers had in mind when they built this tiny replica of Stonehenge — inside a cloverleaf interchange.

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Fresno Follies

Truly depressing what’s going on in Fresno:

Homeowners be forewarned. If your residential street becomes a popular cut-through route, and you are in search of measures to calm the traffic (like a traffic circle), be wary. Your city might take the Fresno approach and solve the problem by simply removing the residents. Mustn’t let silly homes slow down the traffic.

James Sinclair misses the punchline: Peach Avenue is a designated “Scenic Arterial Street” in the 2025 Master Plan.

And even worse: Funds for this insane project aren’t coming from Federal stimulus dollars. It is being paid for by the State of California and Fresno County. Here we are in the middle of a major budget crisis. Police and teachers being laid off, and billions of cuts to higher education — but the zombie road widening projects just keep right on going.

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Requiem for CA SR-180

Here are some photos of remnants of CA State Route Highway 180, in eastern Fresno County. Fresno County is blasting a super highway through some of the most famous California agricultural land. Already, the old farmhouses are boarded up and/or demolished. The ‘For Sale’ signs are springing up, in preparation for the Fresno metropolitan area to sprawl 10 miles east.

Literally “a road-to-nowhere”, this 2-lane highway runs through very remote orchard and ranch land, before heading up into the Sierras and dead-ending at Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park. This project was funded through the American Recovery Act (“stimulus” dollars). Unless the Obama Administration makes radical shifts in its transportation priorities, auto bailouts and sprawl highways will be its legacy.

Farming road permanently severed

How SR-180 will eventually look:

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