Saturday, August 20, 2011

One Small Step for BusPlus...

Giant leaps still pending.

The next feature of CDTA's BusPlus service is beginning to appear, the promised real-time displays featuring the amount of time until the next arrival, as well as information such as the bus number and a time/temperature display:

And there it is.  I noticed this last weekend on my way home from the co-op and snapped these pictures.  (Posts have been slow lately as I've had very little time to work on this blog.)  I noticed another at the West Mall Station (Hannaford Plaza on Central Ave.) a couple days later coming home from the gym.

 About 10 seconds after the sign said "Due", this happened:

BusPlus is rarely late.  Thursday night, on my way to Schenectady to see West Side Story at Proctor's Theater, was one of the first times I experienced that.  During rush hour, I was waiting at North Allen Station, which did not have a real-time display, so I still don't know what happens when the sign says "due" and the bus hasn't arrived.  (I want it to say "Late" and then "Really Late" and then maybe give the number for Yellow Cab.) Additionally, there was a person in a wheelchair on the bus, which always causes (necessary and automatically forgiven) delays.  Well, to be fair, the other passengers were a bit perplexed this one time a few months ago, when a person in a motorized wheelchair was having trouble backing into the space, and instead, got out of the chair and lifted the front end of it so that it was better aligned.

Other small steps that are planned for the current iteration of BusPlus include queue jumpers and electronic communication between buses and traffic lights, which will help mitigate these issues.  The former will give the bus itself a green light before any of the other lanes of traffic get one.  The latter will allow green lights to stay lit a bit longer if a bus is running late.  You can read more about these in a Getting There post on the Times Union Blogs, including a couple of comments, the second of which is by me. 

Now for the giant leaps: 
The next phase of bus rapid transit in Albany will be the Western-Washington Corridor, followed by a route to Troy and Cohoes.  They are basically taking care of the routes in order of the busiest, which I think is a smart move.  The suburbs are not as well-served by transit in this region.  There's a reason for that:  they are crappy, poorly built and inefficient places to begin with and thus simply not as easy to service through transit.  Also, transit has a tendency to rely on destinations and I don't think that Albany's suburbs actually have any.

I found out the future of BusPlus plans from Ross Farrell at the CDTA Route Restructuring Open Meeting that I attended and blogged about.  There were three possible plans, with a range of costs and cool features.  I'm thrilled to report that CDTA is going with the coolest plan:

This includes the shortest time to cover the greatest  number of destinations.  Saint Rose and all SUNY campuses in the city, as well as the Harriman State Office Campus, will be on the route.  It also includes dedicated transit ways through the campuses uptown, with a flyover across I-87.

Of course, this is all years away.  These things get tied up in politics and paperwork forever.  And who knows how much of these plans could change in the meantime? 

While speaking to Ross, I also mentioned the elephant in the room: light rail.  He said that it's not being considered at the moment because of the cost and lack of public support.  But because things are moving in this direction, he expects it will happen and that CDTA has it slotted for the 2030-whenever time period.  I'll admit it was refreshing to hear someone from CDTA not scoff, vomit and run screaming from the room the second I mentioned rail, which is how I always pictured the conversation would go.

So in the meantime, we're stuck with buses.  But at least our cities in the area are small and easily traveled by this mode.

Here are the other two potential routes for the Western-Washington BRT Corridor:

As you can see, neither plan is anywhere near as good.  Props to CDTA for going with the best option!  You can find the full document from which these plans came, a PDF version of a PowerPoint presentation, here.

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