Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CDTA Route Restructuring: One Week In

On November 13th, the Albany County CDTA bus routes went through the most dramatic revisions in their entire history.  One week later, they seem to be working out pretty well.  I haven't seen anyone freaking out about everything and I've heard some pretty positive comments on the buses themselves.

This one...uh not quite.  At least making fun of the CDTA website is a guaranteed good time.
The discontinued #4, my dearest friend in Lark Street transit for years.
My morning commute hasn't altered significantly.  I used to be able to take the 4 at 7:40 and the 63 at 7:57, both across the street.  If I want to take the Madison Avenue routes now, I take the 114 (with coffee on the way) at Madison and Lark at 7:35 or 8:05 or the 63, still, at 7:57.  The 10 now runs every 10 minutes at Washington and Lark between 6:00 and 9:00 am.  And the company shuttle that I can take still comes at 7:50.  To be fair, these routes all get me to work at different times.  But to be more fair, that's just as consistent as I would be if I had a car.

The first commute on the 114.  Madison and Lark.  The Madison Corner Deli and Lifestyles Vegetarian Juice Bar, two very recently opened businesses, are across the street.

Lifestyles Vegetarian Juice Bar and Dino's Pizza.

Madison, Lark and Delaware.  Just behind the walk/don't walk light is Delaware Park, where a farmer's market is held on Thursday afternoons in the summer.

The 114 letting me off at my stop, Madison Avenue and St. Rose College, as its known on the bus announcements.
This particular stop is across the street from the College of Saint Rose's new Huether School of Business.  The new business school, renderings of which can be seen in this Places and Spaces post, will be housed in a renovated building that will have a rear addition, not to the knowledge of some commenters on various Times Union Blogs, however.

This school is one of the two sites on the Saint Rose campus that has been the subject of protests over non-union labor, including this rat in front of the new dorm:

And this groove of footprints worn into the grass up the street at the new business school:

Yeah.  For real.
I'll write more about the protests when I write about some various new construction and renovation projects in Albany.  Some really cool and exciting stuff going on overall.

As far as my thoughts on the protests themselves, it's pretty well established that I support many forms of civil disobedience.  Saint Rose does, as well, in their policy of tolerance toward the demonstrations.

Back to Madison Avenue and St. Rose College, as the #114 pulls away.

The College of Saint Rose Alumni Garden

Sunday, November 13, 2011

CDTA Route Changes Go Into Effect Today

Today Albany's new routes begin, commencing the largest service change in CDTA history.  I've written about that a few times on this blog, and I've been pretty optimistic overall about the changes.  I think they'll improve the service we're getting.  However, there are a couple of things that aren't going to work quite as well.

While it's nice to see an increase in frequency on Routes 10 and 12 during the week, on weekends the two routes are running at the exact same times, while in the past, they were staggered to run at different, but equally frequent times.  While under the old route structure, I can get a #10 at say, 10:20, 10:40 and 11:00; and a #12 at, say, 10:30, 10:50 and 11:10; they are now they are all coming at, say, 10:20, 10:40 and 11:00.  As you can see, my frequency was basically cut from every 10 minutes to every 20, which makes a huge difference.  The frequency from downtown to Crossgates Mall has been effectively cut in half.  I am still hopeful that this was merely a colossal oversight that will eventually be corrected.

Needless to say, I've already complained, which would come as no surprise if you've read this post.

One thing that I admit I will miss when the new routes go into effect is the #4, which I fully admit is due to nothing more than really lame nostalgia.  The first time I took a CDTA bus was the #3 (also to be discontinued) but the first bus I took to regularly commute to work was the #4.

Due to the fact that I tend to take a bunch of random pictures anyway, I've managed to get some shots of my favorite morning moments: the moment my bus comes down the street.

My first bus stop, Lark Street and Madison Avenue.  I walked the 2 blocks from Madison and Swan each morning before moving close to the bus about six months after moving in there.
The stop at Lark Street and Lancaster Street.  Originally I lived about six houses from this intersection, now I live directly across the street.
On one of my last trips on the 4, earlier this week, a representative from CDTA was on board passing out literature about the new routes that will be useful to replace this one, namely the 114, the 10 and the 734. 

Two passengers were discussing the new routes in the seats in front of me.  They didn't seem happy to lose their #4.  One of them, a man sitting immediately in front of me, was complaining about the fact that things change (I'm not making fun of him, he really was) and how the government is always messing with his life (I'm not making fun of him, he really said that).

He then, toward the end of my time on the bus, said that he'll "take this route until I can't no more, then I'll figure something out."  I wanted to tell him that he had about two days to figure it out, so he should start soon.  But I didn't.  I thought getting punched that morning would be a bad idea.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Filler Perspective: Empire State Plaza

That's right.  I'm way too busy to actually write a blog post, so here's some easy and effortless filler instead:

I was just looking back through my iPhoto albums and I came upon one from 2008, just after I moved to Albany.  It was from September of that year, and with fall returning after a brief winter and summer, I thought it was appropriate. 

Here are some views of Empire State Plaza and Downtown Albany.

The Cultural Education Center, home of the New York State Office of Cultural Education, New York State Museum, New York State Library and New York State Archives.  The Pedestrian Perspective has 'perceived' the trip there in a prior post.

The Corning Tower.  My ex and I were scared shitless when we went to the observation deck on the 42nd floor and received an ID'ing, eye scan, metal detector and interview at the security desk on the concourse level.  Perfectly understandable for the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City, but still frightening nonetheless. 

My favorite picture out of the bunch.  With the exception of the UFO in the background, it has the most human scale of all the shots.

Stonehenge.  No, really.

I've always thought that the Agency Towers were modeled on Easter Island.  The shapes of the buildings look quite a bit like that.

A column of the Cultural Education Center, looking out over downtown.

Downtown Albany, with Madison Avenue in the foreground.

Downtown.  The silverish building in front is the Times Union Center.  The building with the red roof behind it is the somewhat recently built New York State Office of the State Comptroller.

Foliage.  From behind the Cultural Education Center.

The most elegant possible shot of Empire State Plaza.  Except for possibly the gardens, which I hope to visit next time, and soon.  This staircase doubles as an amphitheater for summer concerts.

To be honest, I really do enjoy walking down to the Plaza, sitting in the gardens, looking out over the city by The Egg, ducking into the cramped and hidden corners of the Cultural Education Center.  We will get into the history of the Plaza after we get through the nearly doomed history of the Albany Highway System. 

....when I finally get to it that is.  I actually have the second blog entirely completed.  The problem is that I got the path of the highway wrong.  Soooo I just need to re-write the ENTIRE thing.  

Hope you enjoyed our trip to the Plaza!  I know I sure did.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Albany

Though I posted my support for Occupy Wall Street in a blog a couple weeks ago, I regret that I have not been able to cover any of Occupy Albany in person. I've been so busy lately I haven't even had a chance to walk down there.  (I live only 4 blocks from the protest.)  However,  I have some links to other sources, as well as some snippets of stories coming out of there. 

Occupy Albany began Friday, October 21st in Lafayette Park, across from the Capitol building on Washington Avenue.  They've been camping out there since.

A photo from one of the first days of the protest.
Later the first night, they marched up Lark Street.  They did so again yesterday, but I was too asleep to see it.  Here is some video from the first march, taken from my apartment window:

This was taken from the front entrance of my building.  A protester gave us his thoughts.

The second night of the protest, a fight broke, to put it more accurately, one of the protesters was attacked by a veteran who has recently returned from the Middle East.  Here is the story from the attacked man, taken from Occupy Albany's Facebook page.

"Lil' bit rougher night at Occupy Albany as I was assaulted by really two drunk vets pissed off that I would use am American eagle on a sign advocating "Free Speech". Despite telling me over and over how he went to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for my right to be there protesting, the main one apparently decided he wanted to fight me to be sure I didn't have that right...

Monday, October 10, 2011


CDTA isn't into celebrating invasion and genocide, either:

Columbus Day Schedule

Buses will run on a normal Monday schedule, with the exception of the Northway Express, which will not operate.  You can find their full press release here, but it basically says the same thing that I just did.

New Schedules Posted

[Update: Here is a Times Union article about the Restructuring.]

The new schedules for the Albany County Route Restructuring will begin on November 13, 2011.   The transit agency has revised their original route plans, most likely due to opposition from neighborhoods that were poised to lose their service, which just so happen to be transit-and-pedestrian-unfriendly places like the Hackett Boulevard and Buckingham Pond areas.  There is a new route for these areas that will operate during peak hours only, the 734: Hackett/Buckingham Pond.

Another surprise is that the 13 will no longer travel on Madison Avenue at all.  Originally, it was supposed to go take a right from Lark Street onto Madison, traveling uptown, to a left on New Scotland Avenue.  It now will follow the same route that it currently is: Lark to Delaware to a right on Holland Ave to a left on New Scotlane.  This could be because the walk from Madison to the hospital is so easy that I did it with a partially collapsed lung.

A screen capture of the final Albany Route Map.
I may update this eventually, after I've had a chance to inspect the schedules more.  At first glance, however, it looks like vast improvement, especially for current trunk routes such as the 10 and 12, which both see greater frequency.  The route that now runs (nearly) the entire length of Madison Avenue to the Rensselaer Amtrak Station will see increased service for both Madison Ave and the train station, both in frequency of service during off-peak hours and hours of operation.  Basically, the route restructuring seems to reward those areas of the city that actually use the service, which I feel is a good thing.  It's nice to get new riders on the system, but one of the ways to do so is to show that once you are a rider, you will be paid attention to.  The way to do this is to treat current riders well.

In case you missed the half-buried link above, the final version of the route restructuring can be found here. There is also an interactive map available, on which you can show the stops made by each route and zoom in and out.  It seems like a lot of fun for those at work with ADD.  I know what I'm doing this afternoon.

Current CDTA Schedules already taken down

[Update, Tuesday 10/11/2011:  CDTA's website now has the current schedules back in place.  Thanks, CDTA!]

In a colossal screw up and waste of time, CDTA has taken down the current schedules that riders currently use to...ride the bus.  The listing on their website includes listings for both version of the schedules, but for each route, both go to the new schedule, which does not start for over a month.  You can find all of the schedules here.

Great going, CDTA.

I'm lucky in that I have the current schedules saved on my iPhone and computer, but what about those who are not so lucky?  Here are some solutions for you:

1. The Trip Planner on the CDTA website (upper left portion of the page) still works.  The reason for this is that it now simply links to Google Maps.

2. Google Maps.

3. Call CDTA's Customer Information Center:  (518) 482-8822.  Make sure to tell them that you're asking when the next bus is coming because they no longer have the information on the website.  Actually, even if you don't plan to take the bus right then, you should call anyway.  They need to get some complaints on this one.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

In case you haven't heard, and with the trickle of news coverage, it would be no surprise if you haven't, there's a movement that began in New York and has since spread to many other US cities called Occupy Wall Street (or Occupy L.A., Occupy Albany, etc.).  It is a reaction against corporate government, taxpayer subsidy of companies and vast and growing income disparity.

UPDATE 10-8-11 12:04AM: This was Wall Street the day this was posted.
What does this have to do with the Pedestrian Perspective?  Quite a lot, actually.  These same corporations are the ones that destroyed main street shopping, leading to depopulated cities and towns in favor of rapid suburban expansion, all on the taxpayer's dollar.

The thing that people fail to understand is that suburban development and our current (and doomed) building style is not simply a matter of consumer choice.  Yes, people choose this.  Yes, people like this.  But it's all built on government policy.  Government policy is what gives them the choice, and also what influences it.  Most people will choose the shiny new suburb over the urban decay that it created.  And they do so because the shiny new suburb has freshly built infrastructure (taxpayer-funded), nice shopping centers (with tax breaks that are taxpayer-funded), connectivity through highways (taxpayer-funded), all made out of and dependent on a reliable supply of cheap petroleum and natural gas, subsidized by taxpayers.

Make no mistake, petroleum and natural gas consumption is subsidized by ALL taxpayers, not just the ones that use it and pay taxes directly through its purchase.  The environmental cost and devastation is one aspect that we are all going to have to suffer the consequences of some day, and in the meantime, spend money on in hopes of cleaning it up.  Drivers pay roughly 30% of the full cost of driving.  The rest comes from the general fund, paid into by all of us, whether we drive or not.  The cost of subsidized parking alone (when you park at WalMart, the store gets to write that space off on their taxes) is estimated to be between $350-400 billion each year.  [Book recommendation: The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup].  On the other hand, transit gets a very small share of the total subsidy, and fares usually make up a higher proportion than driving taxes and fees do (about 40-60%).  Yet, transit is expected to be self-sustaining, while drivers almost never have to pay to use the roads.

At the same time, when these brand new suburban places are built, they destroy any hope of a local economy.  The economy of most places in the United States right now is multinational.  There is virtually no place where you can rely entirely on local businesses to meet all of your needs.  Worse, there are many places where local businesses cannot be patronized at all, because they don't exist.  Local businesses and small businesses pay their workers more than large corporations; this is well-known.  Thus, you can see where the problems begin.  At some point, we'll talk about the growth of the suburban "town" of Malta, between Albany and Saratoga Springs.  It's a sordid tale of creating a town plan, re-creating a town plan for easier parking, the effects of big business on small towns, and the end result of billions in taxpayer subsidy given to a company that is all but expected to abandon the area as soon as that subsidy ends (in twenty years).

What all of these places have in common is their inaccessibility.  They are inaccessible to anyone who does not or can not buy into the system by purchasing an automobile and all of the extras that go along with it.  They create poverty through the service industry that supports residents with the means to commute elsewhere to work in somewhat better-paying jobs.  Often, workers of the corporations at the service level are bussed in from inner cities, which would be fine, except that the transit system in these "towns" is good for little more than this.  The companies that open up in these places through tax breaks are the worst offenders in regard to income disparity.  This phenomenon represents the logical extremes of the divide between rich and poor, and the middle class that can also be found in these places is disappearing.  You can see why the discussion is being framed as the 1% vs. the 99%.  The way things are going, nothing in the middle will be left.  Is it really any surprise that people are taking to the streets?  Even if not every single one of them can articulate exactly what they are enduring, it doesn't take very long for rational people to see what's going on.

This picture is something I downloaded from Facebook.  I've seen it quite a bit lately.  It is irrelevant and defeatist.
More thoughts on the picture above:  Unfortunately, everyone in this country is part of the modern world, like it or not. I buy products from corporations (as little as possible, but because I was born in 1981, I have to), but fully support Occupy Wall Street. I also hate cars, but I'll be renting one next month, filling it with gas that I feel is too cheap and driving to another state to see my cousin in a play. In the process, I've still reduced my fuel dependence at least 90% by not owning a car, but every now and then, I still have to drive, because it's 2011 and I live in America. There's always a trade-off, but to say that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is hypocritical by virtue of being born after 1900 is absurd. When you can make all these products in the basement and walk to Manhattan, then statements like this will be appropriate.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Walking to the Emergency Room

Three and a half weeks ago, shortly after Labor Day, at about 7:15 am, my left lung partially collapsed as I was getting ready to take my morning shower.  (All by itself. Yes, that actually happens.)   My right lung collapsed completely in 2005, which required a ten-day hospital stay and surgery to fix.  A byproduct of the surgery is that virtually eliminates the risk of my right lung ever collapsing again.  My left is not so fortunate.

The way that you can know that it is a collapsed lung and not either a random pain or something less serious like a pinched nerve resulting from pleurisy, is that it happens in both your chest and back simultaneously.  However, it's not very common, so you probably don't have to worry.  Risk factors include being male, tall, thin and between the ages of 15 and 45.  Among the heightened risk factors are having had a prior spontaneous pheumothorax (collapsed lung) and being a current or former smoker. Each of these applies to me (btw: former, not current smoker).

Well, this morning I went ahead and took my shower before going to the hospital.  The first time this happened, I couldn't shower for eight days; I could only wash using this little pre-soaped sponge.  If I was to be in the hospital like that again, I was getting a last shower first.  My apartment is a ten-minute walk from the hospital.  I wound up taking my usual bus that I would take to work and walking the remaining few blocks from there.

It...could have been worse.  The hospital is undergoing a dramatic addition.  I've been to the Emergency Room before, but with the construction going on and in my condition, I did not want to risk taking a wrong turn and walking any further than I had to.  Additionally, even the way the hospital was configured before the visual confusion of construction was added, the ER wasn't the easiest place to find.

Yes, I see the big sign saying EMERGENCY.  However, it's pointing straight down Myrtle Avenue, which was formerly the access point for the Emergency Room.

I would guess that I could go up the hill at this point, and I would be correct.  However, there comes a certain point of pain where things like this are not worth the risk.  It should also be pointed out that I was across the street, where the view was even more ambiguous.
I decided to walk to the main entrance of the hospital, which is clearly marked and, in any case, would stand out as an entrance of an important building simply because of how it is built.

This entrance is the equivalent of about one long block up the street from the ER entrance, so it wasn't a bad walk.  However, it involved crossing the street, which in my diminished condition took a little while, even though it is a relatively narrow street (compared to many of the horror shows throughout Albany).  Drivers chose this moment to forget they were driving past a hospital, with sick and injured (and thus, not very speedy) people.  You would think this isn't the place to be rude to people crossing the street.  And you'd be wrong.

Finding the Emergency Room from inside the hospital was quite a bit easier, even if it was an incredibly convoluted route that takes you there.

This is nice.  The University at Albany could do this, but it's doubtful that any organization with less funding than the U.S. Military could fund the task of getting people around that mess.

The red isn't just on sign arrows.  There are red strips on the floor throughout the hallways.

The parking.  Oh the parking! So much parking!! Empire State Plaza and the Alfred E. Smith Building appear in the background.

The construction site.

The road from the ER to New Scotland Avenue.

All of the above is the walk from the ER to the CVS, where I filled my prescription for pain medicine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pedestrian Perspective: University at Albany - Uptown Campus

Welcome to the Albany main campus of SUNY, which in this case stands for the Soviet University of New York.

The walk from the bus stop.  Very inviting.  It wasn't actually cloudy that day; a perpetual fog hangs over the institution.  (Just kidding!)  (Kinda)
The University at Albany was designed during the height of the Crappy Inhuman Modernist Building Movement, by architect Edward Durrell Stone.  Built over a two-year period from 1956-1958, it has now tortured and demeaned students for over fifty years. 

Entering SUNY.  A grandiose mixture of concrete and intimidation built for a warm climate.  However, this isn't one.  It's New York.  Enter wind.

Someone was compensating...

This is the plaza where people hang out.  At least, people were probably present here in the renderings in 1956.  In reality, it repels all but the squirrels, who have the generosity of heart to make any place their home.

The fountain.  One of the few part of campus that students love.  Mostly for Fountain Day, an excuse to get wasted at noon on campus.  This past year was the last opportunity for the next few years, due to construction, for Fountain Day to be held.  It was canceled, however, for reasons outlined below.
On Saint Patrick's Day weekend 2011, a group of hundreds of UAlbany students rioted in the streets of the "Student Ghetto", bordered roughly by Lake Ave on the east, Partridge Street on the west, Morris Street on the south and Washington Ave on the north.  Most of the rioting occurred around Hudson Ave and Quail St, and made national news.  Over 40 students were arrested, many from the numerous videos that were taken of the event, which included students tipping over cars and countless other acts of property damage.  Finding the videos and news coverage is easy, just Google "Kegs and Eggs Albany".

After the riots, UAlbany canceled Fountain Day, sparking further protests and property damage on the uptown campus itself.  Some students spray painted some columns, while a non-traditional (meaning older) student got stoned and chained himself to the fountain for a couple of days.

No word yet on how much our degrees will be worth after all this ridiculousness.

In this shot, you can see the sheer size of the erect penis sculpture obelisk, as well as the lower level of the podium.  The lecture center can be found here.

This landscaping isn't really helping.
Overall, the University at Albany Uptown Campus is a suburban piece of inhospitable garbage plopped ungracefully into the City of Albany.  It adjoins the Harriman State Office Campus, which is arguably worse, though slated for renewal.  That's a topic for another post.

Students!! OMG!!! Of course, they are avoiding their designated hang out area.

This trash can looks like it just wants to swallow the campus whole.

This is the standard size of the windows on campus, including, I believe, in the dorms, which consist of four towers surrounding the main podium, each contained within their own mini-podium.  It's arguable that the windows are this narrow to prevent suicides.  College students occasionally do that anyway - college can be a very turbulent time - and a campus like this certainly doesn't help.

Every disgusting and demeaning suburban campus must have oceans of parking.  Even urban campuses have too much, but you could fit the entire Saint Rose campus into one of UAlbany's parking lots.

You can see one of the residential towers in the background.

Who doesn't want to cross a hamster-cage-bedding moat to get to the sitting area?  Sign me up!

Turns out that chain they put up to keep people out of here is super easy to step over.

The stairs to underneath the podium.

Another view of the stairs.

This is...interesting.  Clearly they didn't want this art project to be seen by anyone, so they hid it under a stairway.
Things are about to get ugly.  I know it's a shock that they weren't already.

Okay, listen.  This isn't a pedestrian perspective complaint.  But if a door needs to be pulled, give it a damn handle, not a push bar.  These deceptive doors just piss me off.

At this point in my travels through the campus, I decided to go inside the Lecture Center, underneath the podium.

I've been visiting this campus since before I moved to Albany three years ago, I performed and rehearsed here after moving and this is my second semester as a student at this college.  Last semester I even took a transportation planning class on the uptown campus (the classes for my major are downtown), as well as doing almost all of my essay writing here.  It can be objectively stated that I've spent quite a bit of time on this campus.

And yet, I got lost trying to find the main hallway.  Horribly, horribly lost.  There are no pictures of that part, because I was concentrating on finding where I was going.

I was looking for the way into the tunnel.  Finally, I found it:

I barely even found it in the end.  This tiny little sign is the only direction I found, after going through a maze of hallways.
That is not a typo.  We are actually talking about the maintenance tunnel here.  It is a primary route for students to get across campus, especially in winter, on a campus designed for the Mediterranean.

Let's go take a look a this route, and the charm it exudes.  Remember, while we are here, the impressionable and still maturing minds of the young people that this campus is intended to shape.

.....are you serious?

Yes, serious as can be...