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 effort...how 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.)

The good:

Service on Fuller Road - The 190, formerly the 90, will now provide service to all of Fuller Road, which was previously covered only in the portion between Central and Washington by the 90.  Basically, instead of taking Washington Avenue to the University at Albany, it will now take Western to Fuller.

Improved service on Wolf Road - This road of strip malls and corporate boxes will now be served by multiple routes: the 190 and 117 will now serve the full road, with the 1 and 125 also providing service from Central Avenue to Sand Creek Road.  As it is now, the road is served by the 90 and limited flex service.

Albany International Airport - Three routes now serve the airport.  At least one from Crossgates Mall.  I love going there and watching the planes take off and land, and this should make for a nice blog post next summer.  Currently, the airport is served by the 737 (which makes only 7 full runs per day) and limited flex service.

The Suburban Circulator - One of the routes going to the airport is the 155, which provides service to Route 20 in Guilderland, Washington Avenue Extention and New Karner Road.  I can even take this from Crossgates to my favorite hibachi place, a total dive buffet on Central Avenue.  Then I can get back on and go to the airport, or jump on BusPlus and go home.  (Actually, that sounds like a perfect rainy or snowy Saturday.)

The new map of Western Albany County, primarily Guilderland and Colonie.  The changes discussed above can be seen on this map.
The villages south of Albany: Voorheesville and Altamont.
Also, the 63, my favorite bus to take to work, will now be the 763, hopefully with the same route up Lark Street and Madison Avenue.  The 19 and 21X to the villages will be replaced by the 719.

The not so good:

Cohoes - Before grad school begins again this month, I may take a day off to go to Cohoes for a Pedestrian Perspective.  I've been wanting to since the winter, when I took a drive up there while renting a car.  It's a very interesting and cool town that I was introduced to by my last boyfriend, who had lived there for a brief period.  There is Harmony Mills, which is about halfway converted to upscale lofts, some really cool tenement housing and Cohoes Falls.  Also, the Cohoes Mastadon, on display at the New York State Museum, was discovered here.

Cohoes Falls swollen with late spring rains and snowmelt.  (Wikipedia)
Thing is, I have to do this soon, because after the restructuring, there will be no direct route to Cohoes from Albany.  This is currently covered by the 29, which does not operate on weekends.  A few years ago, I met a friend from Cohoes at Oh Bar on Lark Street, and he was taking the bus, after the 29 had stopped running for the evening.  It took him roughly two hours to get to Albany without the direct route.  The 29 will be replaced by two routes, and it will be interesting to see how this works instead.  The first of these routes will be the 129, which runs from Downtown Albany to  Latham Farms, a gigantic and nightmarish megastripmallonspeed that now serves as a new transportation hub for all of these routes.  The second is the 182, which will run from Latham Farms to Downtown Troy via Cohoes.


The hub concept will make it relatively easy, relatively speaking, to get around the suburban areas of Albany.  Other dedicated hubs include Crossgates Mall, Colonie Center, Albany International Airport, Downtown Troy and, to some extent, Downtown Albany.  Most major destinations in the region seem to be covered, as well as can be expected under the harsh conditions that exist in suburbia.

It bears repeating that these changes will not only, and likely not even primarily benefit suburban residents, but rather city residents that need to go elsewhere in the region.  And in this regard, it looks like a great plan. 

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