CARS HOMES JOBS

Rapid transit to Albany advances

Fewer stops, high-tech signals to cut times

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
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— CDTA is building a bus service that will get Schenectadians to Albany as quickly as if they drove there.

The long-awaited Bus Rapid Transit line for Route 5, which was first discussed in 2003, will be built next year, CDTA officials told the Schenectady City Council at Monday’s committees meeting.

But the first riders might not get to board until 2010. The company has to complete substantial construction projects first, at a cost of more than $1 million. Work is already under way in Albany and Colonie, and officials came to the City Council Monday in hopes of obtaining a commitment for $83,333 or equivalent services to help with the project. Council members made no promises but expressed great interest and noted that they could pay their portion in engineering work and other non-cash services.

The rapid transit buses would run along Route 5, picking up passengers at just six designated locations Schenectady and nine in Albany. Local buses would service the other stops.

At the Rapid Transit bus stops, computerized message boards would give real-time arrival data. Passengers might also be able to buy tickets from vending machines there, which would speed up embarking time.

For the first 12 to 18 months, the buses would run at 15-minute intervals during operation. After that, buses would run every 10 minutes. In keeping with the environmentally friendly nature of public transportation, the buses are likely to be hybrid electric vehicles with LED lighting, CDTA officials said.

Bus drivers would be able to control the traffic lights, either holding a green light or signaling that a red should end early. At some stops, they would also be able to pull out of traffic, pick up passengers, and then pull out on a green light while the vehicular traffic in the adjacent lane is briefly held at a red.

Those changes are expected to dramatically speed up the trip, because the Route 5 buses go through 72 traffic lights along the 17-mile route, CDTA officials said.

Turning the lights green and picking up passengers at fewer than 20 of the 90 stops on the route should cut 10 to 15 minutes off the average ride, designers said. That would get passengers from lower State Street to the middle of Albany in less than 30 minutes — competitive with automobiles, especially during rush hour.

But Councilman Joseph Allen said CDTA’s proposed 50 percent rate hike might hurt its chances of coaxing drivers from their cars and onto a bus. The company may raise its fare to $1.50 for all buses next April, followed by a 50-cent raise in 2010.

“Isn’t that kind of self-defeating?” Allen asked.

Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard disagreed. “It’s still a lot cheaper than driving to Albany,” she said, adding, “I hope you get a lot more people to take the bus.”

In Schenectady, the bus would stop at: Liberty Park; under the State Street railroad bridge; Veeder Street/Nott Terrace; Stueben Street; Division Street; and the Ground Round at Route 7.

In the suburbs, there would be a stop at Stanford Crossings; New Karner Road; and Colonie Center.

In Albany, the bus would stop at: Colvin Avenue, North Allen Street; North Manning Boulevard; Quail Street; Lexington Avenue; Lark Street; South Swan Street; Pearl Street; and UAlbany.

CDTA officials said they picked the stops that are used most frequently. The route itself was chosen because 25 percent of CDTA’s riders use the Route 5 buses. More than 3 million passengers ride that line each year, according to CDTA.

 
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