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.

One thing I hadn't noticed about the new route structure comes from a press release on the CDTA website this morning.  Apparently the restructuring provides three routes for each hospital in Albany: Albany Medical Center, St. Peter's Hospital and Albany Memorial Hospital.  This statement from Steven P. Boyle, the CEO of St. Peter's Health Partners was especially promising: "Public transportation and CDTA play a similarly important role in th[e] community infrastructure.  That's why when we started planning our modernization project, one of the first things we did was meet with the folks at CDTA to discuss ways to improve how people come to our hospital using public transportation.  From the earliest plans for our renovated campus, we envisioned a new public transportation entrance on South Manning Boulevard that would allow regular access for passenger [sic] utilizing CDTA buses.  This new entrance brings people to the very heart of the institution with easy access to all the programs and services we offer."

As I mentioned in my post about walking to the Emergency Room at Albany Medical Center, health care is a growing sector of the economy, something I'm not particularly thrilled with.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that many hospital patients are elderly, disabled or unable to afford a car.  It's important that people in these demographics are able to get to health care reliably, and this is a huge step in making that happen.

You can read the full press release here.

The new route created after complaints during the restructuring.  Buckingham Pond and Hackett Boulevard were both left without service.  This fixes that.
I'm also very glad to see CDTA make concessions to those who found themselves without service, as well.  The project was budget-neutral, meaning that they could not simply add routes or frequency.  The system had to be completely re-worked and it had to break even in the end.  I think that the transit authority did a great job, with only that one frequency complaint that I mentioned earlier (so far).

And it needs to be mentioned that it did a great job only when taking the budget-neutral aspect into account.  CDTA needs to do better, but we need to allow them to do better by funding them.  We're not at the point when private businesses will take over transit lines; that will be far in the future.  In the meantime, we need to respond to the problems that we are facing with energy, pollution, health concerns and land use.  Transit is a huge part of the solution, but only when it works.

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