May 23, 2019

An affordable alternative

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'The bus drivers are usually really nice and helpful.  They don't say anything if you are listening to your iPod or eating a bag of chips.  But if you spill them all over the floor, that is when they have a problem,' said high school student Kimberly Cardova about her bus experience.  Cardova depends on the bus to get everywhere she needs to go on schedule -- whether it be school or around town.
Juan Villa / The Collegian

By Jimmy Graben / The Collegian

An environment saver. A ride home. The anti-gas guzzler.

These are just a few of the ways that someone could describe the Fresno Area Express (FAX), Fresno’s large-scale public transportation system.

FAX has a repertoire of more than 100 buses to serve the greater metropolitan area of Fresno, including 20 fixed-route bus lines. The buses travel as far north as Woodward Park and can travel all the way down to Malaga Community Center south of Fresno.

Several of theses buses serve the Fresno State community on a daily basis. At least one bus comes by campus every 15 minutes. The bus stops are easily identifiable with the blue awning and red benches that signify where patrons must wait to get a ride.

Many members of the campus community have utilized the FAX by purchasing bus passes at the University Student Union. According to University Operations Services, 675 students have bought one-way bus passes since August 2007. Additionally, 302 students have purchased monthly convenience passes for FAX.

With four routes in operation around campus, riders have the ability to utilize not just FAX, but the Clovis Transit Stageline, which is an alternative bus system for patrons who live in Clovis.

Riders who have utilized Fresno’s public transportation system said that it is more than just a bus system.

The FAX provides an alternative way of getting around for people who can’t afford a car or the escalating gas prices.

Riders from all over the Fresno State community found different perks to using the FAX and have identified the pros and cons of public transportation in Fresno.

By Heather Billings / The Collegian

Fawna Martinez sits on the threadbare blue cushion whose padding has all but worn through, her purse in the seat next to her.

“Sometimes the air conditioner doesn’t always work,” she said. “One summer, it was so crowded and hot that I stuck my purse next me and said, ‘No one’s sitting next to me.’”

Martinez, who works as a waitress at the Vintage Room restaurant and has been riding the bus for five years, doesn’t have many complaints about the Fresno Area Express system.

“I really can’t complain because it gets me where I need to go,” she said. “I’m usually the one that’s late, not the bus.”

Once she saves up for a car, Martinez said there’s not a doubt that she will be driving her own vehicle. She said she is looking forward to not being stuck on the bus for up to two-and-a-half-hours a day.

In addition to the convenience of being able to drive herself, she said she will buy a car because she doesn’t believe that riding the bus is more environmentally friendly than driving a car.

“If more people rode the bus, they’d have to run more buses, and the smoke from that would pollute our air more than it is already,” she said.

The 19-year-old mother said she is continually amazed by the diversity of riders on the bus.

“You get all ages, from senior citizens to kids as young as elementary school. I do have two kids and so when I see kids that young on the bus I’m kind of shocked.”

Martinez said that when she started her job at Fresno State, it was difficult for her to adjust to not being around for her 3-year-old son and 6-month-old daughter.

“Going home is my favorite part of the day,” she said.

By Sandra Sedano / The Collegian

Without the Fresno Area Express (FAX), Glenn Turner would not have a girlfriend — at least not one within walking distance.

“I can’t talk to you no more; I can’t go see you anymore; you live too far,” said Turner, as he pictured what might happen between he and his girlfriend if there were no buses.

The 20-year-old Fresno State student counts on public transportation as his sole means of getting around. He rides at least two buses daily, since it is the only way he can get to work, home, school — and his girlfriend’s house.

Sometimes, one bus will be enough to take him where he needs to be. But when one bus is not enough, he has one hour to get on a second or a third bus, with only one dollar.

“You put your money in the machine and you need a transfer,” Turner said. “It is good for up to one hour, but usually when you need to take another bus you don’t need to wait that long unless you have to walk really far for the other bus’ stop.”

He is familiar with FAX’s black, metal benches, which sit under a small roof to protect bus riders from harsh weather. Every day, Turner sits on them and waits anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get on the No. 9 or the No. 45 bus.

The No. 9 picks him up on Shaw Avenue right in front of Fresno State and leaves him on Fruit Ave., where he can walk to his girlfriend’s house. The No. 45, he uses to get to and from work.

Like many other people, Turner would like to have a car. If he had one, he said that he would find a way to use it, but with gas hitting the $4 mark in the Fresno area, it is no wonder Turner opts for riding the bus.
“It’s convenient for students to pay $1 and get to where you need to be,” he said.

Although Turner rides the bus every day, he does not have a bus pass.

“This is only temporary until I get a car,” he said. “I was already saving for one but even if I bought it, gas is so expensive that I don’t think I could do it. I’ll just wait.”

By Jimmy Graben / The Collegian

Freshman Eden Davis is like most students at Fresno State.

She gets up for her 8 a.m. class every day from a long night of studying. But instead of going into a car and turning the keys in the ignition, she takes a walk to the corner of First and Nees avenues, where the No. 38 Fresno Area Express (FAX) bus picks her up at 7:30 a.m.

“It really sucks when I get up late,” Davis said. “There’s nothing worse than watching the bus turn around the corner and you’re like, ‘NO!’”

On the days that Davis does make it to the stop on time she brings along her bike for the 15-minute ride to Fresno State from Riverpark. There are four stops along the way school on the No. 38. Every time she sees a random blue awning with red benches she knows the bus is coming to a stop.

“It’s tolerable,” Davis said. “It’s a lot easier now that I’m used to it.”

Davis has had a lot of practice in the realm of public transportation.

She grew up in New York City, where using the bus system is a little more complicated than here in the Central Valley.

“The buses in New York are hectic,” Davis said. “Here it’s easier to get around and you always have somewhere to put your bike.”

Davis gives new meaning to the phrase going green.

Not only does she ride the bus to Fresno State every day and all over town, she rides her bike once she gets off the bus.

She believes that public transportation is a great way to help with pollution in the environment.

“It’s like a giant carpool pretty much,” Davis said. “If four people ride the bus then it’s like four cars off the road. If four people ride every bus in Fresno, then that’s like 400 people off the road so there’s lots of benefits to it.”

By Sandra Sedano / The Collegian

Gas prices are not the reason a local high school student rides the bus every day. Neither is the lack of license.

It is the importance of learning independence — and also Fresno geography.

Like many students, Kimberly Cordova will ask for rides from her parents to get around. She is one of the fortunate ones who always get a yes.

But with that yes also comes a bus pass.

“My dad is a bus driver and sometimes I get to ride with him on the same bus,” Cordova said. “He said I can’t get a car until I learn my way around Fresno.

She does not stick to one route only. She goes everywhere.

“Sometimes I have to get across town and it could take me up to an hour,” she said. “I will either talk to my friends if they are with me, and if they are not I’ll just sit there.”

The buses clearly state on several signs no eating, disturbing others or listening to audio devices. But Cordova assures that the warning only applies to severe cases.

“The bus drivers are usually really nice and helpful,” she said. “They don’t say anything if you are listening to your iPod or eating a bag of chips. But if you spill them all over the floor, that is when they have a problem.”

When the time to exit the bus arrives, Cordova signals the bus driver by pulling a cord over her head that lights up an LCD screen near the driver. It reads: Stop Requested.

As she is pulling the cord, Cordova stands up, looks out the window and tells her seatmates, “That was our transfer,” pointing at a bus across the street already about to turn.

She hurries off the bus as soon as it stops and runs toward the other bus, waving her arms at the new driver while the bus waits for them at a light.

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