Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blog Update

It's been quite a while since I've posted, and even longer since I've posted consistently.  While much of this is because I'm a grad student, work full time, am preparing for an internship this summer and still try to have some semblance of a social life (I am a gay man living in downtown Albany, after all!), it's primarily due to some more pervasive blog issues.

Primarily, I'm out of room.  Photos use up a lot of data, and the blog has been based on photography since the beginning.  I have no wish to change this.  I love photography, even the iPhone variety.  And while there is always a lot to say about the city, it is so much more fun to see it.  I also love to try to connect overall urban issues -- too much parking, lack of pedestrian amenities, a culture biased toward the car, the effect of highways on urban life, shitty architecture, etc. -- with the results, as seen in photos.

So the bottom line is: I'm out of data and can longer post photos here.  My options from here are as follows:

  • Pay Google for more data.  It's not very expensive, but I really don't like that idea, since it goes into perpetuity.  I also have so little time to post that it will likely be a waste.
  • Create a second blog on a second account, linked to this blog.  That would work, but things like page views will be a pain to manage, and linking could also be annoying.
  • Migrate this blog to another service.  I've checked out the major blog sites and none give me any more data than Google, so this option hasn't been realistic yet.  If anyone has any leads on this, leave me some info in the comments.  
  • Stop blogging.  Honestly, this is the most likely.  This year is already out of control, schedule-wise.  I have some full Pedestrian Perspective photo series' ready to go, but no time or space to post them.  I love writing this blog, but maybe it's time to be a little more realistic.
So basically, I can't guarantee anything at this point.  There is quite a lot that I would love to do, but until I figure out  how to do so, this will be on hiatus.

Stay warm and well!

Friday, August 17, 2012

CDTA Route Restructuring - The Suburban Edition

Phase 1 of CDTA's Albany County Route Restructuring project was rolled out last year in the City of Albany.  Phase 2 is on the agenda now, with the focus on Albany County, the area surrounding the city.  Unlike last year's restructuring, I did not attend any meetings, nor did I follow the process too closely.  This is one of the first times I've even mentioned it.

A bus in Rensselaer, across the river from Albany. (Times Union)
The reason?  This project serves the area that I regard as almost a lost cause.  When the city's routes were changed, there was a great deal of excitement because the goal was to take an already decent transit system (by small American city standards, mind you) and improve it to the point that even more people could live without a car.  Even better, the plans were pretty solid.  The new 114 directly serves the Mansion neighborhood, an up and coming area of the South End, for the first time in years. The 100, in addition to being a great example of grassroots organization accomplishing a significant change in a transportation network (btw, click that link, it's an NPR story about the did I miss that?!), now serves Morton Avenue, also for the first time in years.  Before this, the closest stop was on Pearl Street, at the bottom of the hill, forcing citizens, including many frail, elderly citizens, to complete the journey on foot, often in treacherous weather.  Those same frail, elderly people, along with everyone else, now also have a direct connection to Albany Medical Center, with Saint Peter's Hospital being one transfer (to a fairly frequent route) away.

This next phase will not be as game changing.  But there are still some really cool changes planned. 

(Maybe some crappy changes, too.  Route 10 will see frequency of every 15 minutes, which may coincide with Route 12's schedule.  This already happens on the weekends.  As a result, service frequency from Downtown Albany to Crossgates Mall has been cut completely in half.)

Most of the Albany suburbs are horrible, car-dependent environments that have no hope of ever being appropriately served by transit.  One could even argue that by eliminating transit in the suburbs, the suburbs would be appropriately served, as that was kind of the point (lots of black people ride public transit, after all, and part of the reason we're in this suburb situation is simple racism). Some are better than others. Obviously Colonie, with the Route 5 Corridor, does pretty well if you're close to, well, Route 5.  Guilderland could be decently served, but the area between there and Schenectady is not as well-traveled as other areas, so there's no point increasing service.  Delmar is in the best position: just south of Albany and built on more or less a traditional American town plan, with a central village surrounding a main street.  They've benefited from the last phase, as service on Route 18 was increased substantially, and Sunday service offered.  It wouldn't be the greatest plan, but if you lived very close to Main Street, you could live in Delmar without a car and get most, if not all, of your daily needs met on foot with a relatively quick trip to the city for others.

However, that's not really the point.  While it would be wonderful if the other 'burbs were even half as nice as Delmar, people don't move there to use the bus and walk everywhere.  Much of the purpose of bus service here is to serve city residents when we leave, rather than the other way around.  Sometimes I do need to get to the suburbs, and I would rather not get a cab every time.  The restructuring, at first glance at least, looks like it will help in this regard.

(Maps included after the jump.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spring in an old Dutch City

Albany was settled by the Dutch in 1614, after its discovery by Henry Hudson, an Englishman who sailed by the Dutch, in 1609.  There are few pieces of great Dutch history alluded to in the city, from the rooftops on lower Lancaster Street to the old Dutch house on top of a 10 story building that can be seen from Townsend Square Park, Madison Avenue and Washington Park.

Another wonderful piece of Dutch legacy is the covering of the city in tulips.

Albany is home to Tulip Fest and numerous community-supported gardens, filled with tulips and many other flowers.  This year, the number of tulips was unfortunately cut by roughly 30%.  Turns out tulips have increased in price by 9 cents per bulb in the last year, a year that wasn't exactly conducive to large borderline Rust Belt city budgets.

Not only that, but Tulip Fest, one of the city's largest festivals, barely made it this year.  The warm winter and early spring have done a number on the climate of the region, including the cycle of the tulips in Washington Park.  Actually, beyond the festival itself, the whole city had passed its peak in the beginning of May.

Let's start with Downtown Albany and some of the local colleges:

Red tulips on State Street in Downtown.

The College of Saint Rose sign and flower bed on Western Avenue.

Some of the flower beds much earlier in the year.  They're now in full bloom.

Saint Rose's Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary on the quad.

In front of the Neil Hellman Library, with Lima and Alumni Halls beyond.

The Saint Rose quad.

An older College of Saint Rose sign on Madison Avenue, with Saint Joseph Hall in the background.

Moran Hall, the original building of the college.

The other new gateway sign on Madison Avenue.

The University at Albany downtown campus.  I totally skipped part of class to take these pictures.

A sign listing the halls behind.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Philadelphia's E-Lane

Over the weekend, Philadelphia debuted their "E-Lane" concept for city sidewalks.  This provides a safe lane for those texting while walking, and prevents sidewalk accidents in which distracted pedestrians bump into one another.  The project is limited to the space outside City Hall.

I wish I had heard about this project earlier; I really would've liked to write and link my own post about it.  It would be like actually being part of the April Fool's Day joke that it was.  Check out the hilarious information video:

I'm all for making a city a fun place to be, and feel that we need much more of it.  It's one of the reasons that I love my own city: the fun stuff isn't as pervasive as a place like Brattleboro, nor as forced as a place like Saratoga Springs, nor even as honest and gritty as in a place like Troy.  It's known as an almost stoic, provincial place, and much of it is.  The fun stuff, then, is unexpected.  And when something is a bit of a surprise, its effect is more significant.

I can think of few more unexpected and awesome ways to make a city fun than April Fool's Day jokes by the city administration.

Well played, Philadelphia!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Snow. Finally.

On Leap Day, Albany received its first major snow fall of the year.  On February 29th.

This is not funny, Mother Nature.

Anyway, it was a very pretty sight.  It rained a bit the next day, and most of it is now gone. But our brief visit with winter was long overdue and sorely needed.  Having four seasons in the Northeast is necessary for the soul.

The storm also led to The Great Facebook Snow Pun Thread of 2012:

I don't know why they're different sizes. Click on them and they'll be easier to read.
Scenes from The College of Saint Rose, 2-29-12:

Taken from the Patricia Standish Curriculum Library in the Lally School of Education.

From the Saint Rose quad.

Between two buildings on Madison Avenue, which is in the background.

Outside the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary.

The Alumni Garden, one of my favorite places on summer.

Alumni Garden again.

The alley between Moran Hall and Saint Joseph's Hall.  Moran hall was the original Saint Rose campus.  The link goes to an old photo of the building from the Capital District Library Council's  Digital Collections.

From the mezzanine of the Neil Hellman Library, looking out through the windows of the Reference Room, to Western Avenue.

Looking at the quad from the Interlibrary Loan Office.

Saint Vincent's Church on Madison Avenue.  Before the Massry Center for the Arts was built, this was often used for musical performances.

Partridge Street, looking toward Western Avenue, from Madison.  What a beautiful winter street scene.

Partridge Street, in the other direction, not looking so hot.  Saint Rose demolished a few houses on this stretch to make way for the parking lot of a new dorm on Madison Avenue.  While the dorm is an improvement, Partridge Street is scarred.
Crows in the trees, easy to spot in a snowstorm.
The construction site with Centennial Hall, the new dorm, behind.

Saint Vincent's.
Another view of Partridge.

Partridge Street again.  It took a while for the bus to get there and I just kept taking pictures.

Madison Avenue, with Centennial Hall on the left.
Brace yourself.  There are tons more photographs.  We're not getting much winter this winter, so I need to get as many photos as I can while the opportunity is there.

Scenes from Center Square and Washington Park:

The Trinity Methodist Church, which has been featured heavily on this blog, as I don't have to leave my apartment to take a photo.  I'm moving in a couple of weeks, though.

Lark Street looking north.

Lark Street

Hudson Avenue

Hudson Avenue

The Lark Street Business Improvement District (BID)

Chestnut Street

State Street

A condominium building's storefront on Lark Street.  Formerly the home of Australian restaurant, now the location of the Alacrity Frame Workshop, which was robbed by an 11 year-old boy recently.

A super cool alley between the Trinity Church and the building next to it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ominous Albany

When I think of ominous winter scenes, I generally am reminded of being in southern Vermont, high up in the mountains, with no one around for miles as the snow piled up outside.  I exaggerate only slightly.

Other scenes in Vermont may look familiar this winter, and are just as creepy:

Vermont in April 2009.  No snow, lots of haze.  Taken from my parents' deck.
Overall, I don't think of Albany as being a particularly ominous place, even during the autumn, although this can change during an Aqua Ducks Haunted Duck tour.

On the other, the lack of snow and cold this winter is certainly an ominous sign.  As was the lack of autumn in autumn.  (Of course, the lack of snow will change today, as a big storm moves into the Northeast.  Why?  Well I'm driving to Vermont, of course.)

Sometimes, the sky gets just that kind of eerie that makes for a nice afternoon, especially if it can be viewed from inside, on the couch, with a movie and a nice mocha latte.  The other day, there was just one of those skies.

These pictures have been taken over the course of the last couple of years.

Taken as the bus was coming to take me home, hence the blurriness. 
Taken from my apartment a few minutes later, which is always an ominous action in and of itself, as I have to stick my iPhone completely out my third story window in order to get this particular shot.
Taken from the 3rd floor of the Massry Center for the Arts at The College of Saint Rose.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Albany Stop Lights: The 12-second grace period

Drivers are douchebags.  This is something we all know.  When you get behind the wheel, you're a douchebag.  Instantly.  Admit it.  Sometimes I rent cars, and when I get behind the wheel, I'm a douchebag, too.  It's just how it is.

However, there is one aspect of driver douchebaggery that routinely grinds my gears:  the absurd grace period that every Albany driver assumes they have when approaching a stop light.  The grace period is generally about 2-3 cycles of any given light.  And someone recently put together a wonderful five-minute video about it:

The first segment of the video is actually taken at Lark and Lancaster Streets, otherwise known as the intersection at which I live for another month.  And the site of the gorgeous Trinity Methodist Church, the choir of which I am a member.  It moves to Washington Park, then to the intersection of Madison and New Scotland Avenues, and finally to Chapel Street between Columbia Street and Sheridan Avenue.  Pay close attention and you can see some of Albany's finest running red lights, as well.

A really great description of the impact of this type of selfish, immature and dangerous behavior can be found on the Albany Times Union Blog, from which this video was taken.  Additionally, it proposes some really good, cheap, easy solutions that work psychologically, such as removing traffic lights on some of the most quiet streets in Center Square and Washington Park.

Here's the URL for that post:  Normally I only link to something, but I want to make sure everyone gets to this site.  It's important.

Especially if you're one of those douchebags.