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.