Young Fresno bus rider says tax proposal must devote more money to improving transit

·4 min read

Measure C is a half-cent sales tax that seeks to improve systems of transportation in Fresno County. It will control the fate of transportation around the county, affecting the lives of countless people who call this area home.

As a young person who uses public transit as my main means of transportation, I am concerned about how this money is being allocated.

Measure C is projected to raise a budget of $1.6 billion. The local community is demanding policymakers put a hold on the renewal until the 2024 election cycle to ensure that more community input is provided so that the money is spent meaningfully and equitably. As of now, the county is planning to spend 52% of the Measure C budget on community street repairs and maintenance, while only 1% is being allocated to active transportation, 12% to urban and rural public transit, 18% to local needs, 15% to regional mobility, and finally 2% to environmental stability.

With more than half the budget being spent solely on creating new roads, policymakers are ignoring actual community needs. It is urgent that we provide Fresno’s communities with the funds to create sidewalks, plant more green life, and improve Fresno FAX bus systems.

I grew up around northeast Fresno in District 1. Living in this community, I often struggled when it came to our transportation systems, both from FAX and our sidewalks and street plans.

Attending Glacier Point Middle School, my peers and I would constantly experience our buses being late or simply missing them. As a result, we’d have to walk home. The quickest way to get home was about a 50-minute walk down Ashlan Avenue for me and the other students who lived in and around the Highway City neighborhood.

Walking down Ashlan was a huge struggle for us because of the lack of a sidewalk. We had to walk through these prickly, weed-filled dirt paths as we were being scratched and our jeans were becoming filthy. On top of that, because of the narrow path, anxiety was always high because of the cars speeding past.

With no trees or shade, we often had to stop and rest because of the blazing heat in the summer. Additionally, we’d suffer during rainy days as we walked down the dirt path, muddying our clothing.

My story isn’t unique. The struggle was and is shared with students across the Central Unified District, specifically: Central East High, Teague Elementary, Steinbeck Elementary, and the newly built Justin Garza High School.

Young people rely on streets like Ashlan to be safe and accessible. Looking at the current budget, I’m dissatisfied with where the money is being put. There is no way that 1% of the active transportation budget will be able to fix my neighborhood, as well as all neighborhoods around the county.

My experiences with public transit in the present day are still hardly satisfactory. Using the FAX bus system at least four times a week, I experience all of the frustrations of the system. Riding primarily on Bus 20, my rides are 70 minutes long, not including the 10-minute walk I have to take to get from my house to the bus stop. Additionally, my specific bus comes in 45-minute intervals, meaning if I have a class at 12:30 p.m., I have to leave my house by at least 10:25 a.m. to make sure to get on the 10:44 a.m. bus if I want to make it to class on time.

Fresno only has one bus that incorporates a rapid transit system, Bus 1, which goes from the Sunnyside neighborhood to the River Park Shopping Center, and comes in 10-minute intervals.

The #WhatTheFAX campaign spearheaded the movement to implement increased bus services. By conducting interviews with young bus riders, the campaign found that having WiFi on buses and increasing bus frequency were the biggest priority concerns. The county reacted by adding these features to Bus 1, but it’s been years now and we still aren’t seeing any development in putting these features into other routes.

The county’s budget plans for Measure C are not practical for what the community needs. The county needs to seek community input instead of keeping the budget meetings low profile.

In addition, we need to put more money into the FAX system, because all buses and communities deserve rapid transit and free bus WiFi. And there’s no reason that streets in such close proximity to schools should lack sidewalks.

These policymakers can do more for our communities. They need to listen to the people, and they need to seek out our stories.

Ashens Límon attends Fresno City College.

Ashens Límon
Ashens Límon