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Courtesy of Loren Daniels (Fresno City College Rampage)

New buses giving free rides to students

Fresno residents will be able to ride the Bus Rapid Transit system, called the FAX Q, for the first time starting Monday.

 FAX Q buses are clean-air vehicles that are expected to enhance bus services and improve public transportation in the city of Fresno.

 The L-shaped route of the FAX Q has 27 stops spanning 15.7 miles. The routes travel through Blackstone Avenue from north Fresno to Downtown. The route will then go east on Ventura Avenue/Kings Canyon Road to Clovis Avenue in southeast Fresno.

 “Our intention is to get people from one side of town to the other faster,” said Jim Schaad, director of transportation for Fresno.

 City officials have been working on the Bus Rapid Transit system for more than a decade. They hope to someday expand the system to include Shaw Avenue and the Fresno State campus.

 Schaad, at a recent community meeting held at Fresno City College, discussed a new feature for the bus rides – a ticket vending machine that will be at all the FAX Q stops.

 The machine is a large kiosk where people can purchase their ticket immediately upon arrival at their stop with cash or a card instead of waiting in line after the bus has arrived.

 The new system will complement traditional Fresno Area Express service and it is expected to improve air quality.

 Esmeralda Soria, District 1 city councilmember said, “I am very excited about what the Q will do to transform our community.”

 Soria said the Q provides a unique opportunity for people to move throughout the city in a quicker, more reliable way.

 Another benefit: price.

 Though a single pass will still be $1.25, an additional option of purchasing 10-ride or 30-ride cards will be included with discounted rates and no expiration date.

The hours of operation for the FAX Q will also be longer, extending on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and weekends from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

 Community members voiced concerns about safety with the later hours of operation.

 They were advised that all the stops will include lighting, and 18 additional police officers specifically assigned for the FAX Q unit will be on duty during hours of operation.

 Assistant FAX director Gregory Barfield said $1.25 in the transit industry “is one of the lowest fares that you’re going to find in California.”

 Barfield added that FAX recently had a holiday special where bus fares dropped to $1. More of those promotions may come in the future, he said.

 Students, estimated to account for $30,000 per month in fares, were advised that their student IDs would still allow them a free ride on FAX Q.

 The soft launch of the FAX Q will include free rides until Feb. 25.