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Councilmembers Frustrated by Lack of Wi-Fi on All Fresno Buses

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Some councilmembers are calling for Wi-Fi service on all of Fresno's municipal buses — not just BRT. (GV Wire/Paul Marshall)
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Some Fresno city councilmembers want the Wi-Fi on Bus Rapid Transit expanded to the entire FAX line.

Internet service on BRT alone doesn’t cut it, councilmembers Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria told Joe Vargas, the city’s director of transportation during this week’s budget hearings.

“Why can’t we really be in the 21st century and operate like a smart city?” Soria asked.

More Wi-Fi in 12 Months

Vargas said about 2,000 monthly unique riders on BRT use Wi-Fi. The program started last October.

Installing new modems on other buses would take up to 12 months and $1,400 per bus to upgrade approximately 175 buses, Vargas said.

Arias was frustrated by the answers.

“I’m not buying it that… it’s an infrastructure problem,” Arias said. “You give IT people money and they make it happen.”

Arias noted that the transportation department received more than $30 million in federal pandemic relief funds.

Vargas said his department is spending the money appropriately. He cited elevated service, and reduced or no fares.

“A lot of that money, when we talk about sustainability, will need to be used in the next three years to ensure that I don’t have to come back before this council and give you a menu of service levels that we have to reduce. Again, our expenditures outpacing our revenues,” Vargas said.

Upgrades in technology would also help update digital display messages on the buses as well, assistant city manager Greg Barfield said.

Soria Has Heard It Before

Soria is going through her eighth budget process. She’s heard the Wi-Fi argument before.

“It’s still not even … done. And it’s like I think it’s a perfect example of government and sometimes how government doesn’t really work or just takes forever to get things done,” Soria said. “I’m a little bit frustrated that we still haven’t figured it out and that what you’re telling me is that it’s going to be still another year, so I’m going to be long gone.”

Arias also had issues with the city spending money on expanding bus service to the Amazon warehouse in south Fresno. He argued that Amazon did not contribute to that expanded service and questioned whether the roads in that area could accommodate buses.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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