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 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.)