From left, Gregory Barfield, Jim Schaad, Oliver Baines, Clint Olivier, Bruce Ruud, Mayor Lee Brand and Wilma Quan-Schecter appear at a press conference Thursday. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
Around 100 people attended the official launch of the “Q” line of Fresno Area Express in Downtown Fresno Thursday morning, capping a year’s long effort to launch business rapid transit in town.
The initial route for the “Q” system —standing for “quick” and “quality” — spans 15.7 miles on Blackstone Avenue, from North Fresno Street to downtown, then out to Ventura Avenue/Kings Canyon Road to Clovis Avenue.
Mayor Lee Brand, former Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s Transportation Director Jim Schaad, Fresno’s Assistant Director of Transportation Gregory Barfield, Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd, and councilmembers Oliver Baines and Clint Olivier attended the event at Van Ness Avenue and Mariposa Mall.
While talk of improving the city’s public transit has been ongoing for years, work on the bus rapid transit line began in mid 2016. The route went live on Monday.
Brand listed the setbacks of lawsuits, revisions, public workshops and construction delays that set the opening date back, but the city finally completed the project and the benefits will reach all corners of the city, he said.
“Our new ‘Q’ bus service will make daily transit experience more appealing, attractive and accessible,” Brand said. “It’s a great addition to our city and our community.”
With an original price tag of $50 million, the price was reduced to $38 million after Olivier travelled to Stockton to analyze the city’s transit system and came back with some changes for the Fresno project, Brand said.
Federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation cover most of the costs for the new system that include new state-of-the-art busses, new bus stop shelters and enhancements to traffic signals so busses will have priority for green lights.
Olivier admitted in the press conference that he was skeptical of the new transit system, wondering if it was a wise use of taxpayer dollars. But he said that it now serves as an example of how the government of Fresno works together to get things done.
“The reality is that we have a city government that works,” Olivier said. “Everyone was able to come together and give input to find a system that works for the taxpayer, the bus rider, the city employee and the transportation department.”
In 2017, the City of Fresno implemented a program that gave free bus rides to college students, and now with the “Q,” Fresno is more connected as a city, and as a community.
Rides on the Q line are free through the end of the week.