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CDTA’s ridership continues to rise

Expansion of BusPlus service is on the horizon

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
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— The Capital District Transportation Authority saw its ridership continue to grow this spring after it approached record levels in 2012-13.

There were 1.37 million boardings in May, up 6 percent from May 2012. The number of riders is up 7 percent since CDTA’s fiscal year started April 1, CEO Carm Basile said Wednesday.

The authority’s ridership totalled more than 15.6 million in 2012-13, the most since there were 16.3 million riders in 1984-85.

“Ridership increases continue to be across our route network, with notable increases in BusPlus and trunk routes,” Basile said at the authority board’s monthly meeting at the Rensselaer Amtrak station.

Growth this year would mark the third consecutive year of ridership increases for the mass transit authority, which was hit with a roughly 10 percent ridership loss after its last fare increase, in 2009. The number of passengers began to grow when gas prices rose in 2011 and has continued to rise.

The BusPlus service started in 2011 along Central Avenue between Schenectady and Albany has been successful enough that CDTA is planning to establish similar services in the Cohoes-Troy-Albany area and between downtown Albany and the University at Albany and Crossgates area. There are also plans to increase Sunday and evening service this fall on the established BusPlus route.

Part of the reason for the increase is success with CDTA’s Universal Access program, in which colleges pay so that students can make unlimited use of the regional bus system.

Universal Access ridership is up nearly 30 percent from a year ago, Basile said. Schenectady County Community College was added to the program last year, and Hudson Valley Community College is expected to sign up in August.

“That’s one we’ve been chasing for a long time,” Basile said.

He said CDTA is currently under consideration for a new state contract to provide bus transportation between state park-and-ride locations and the big state offices around Albany. The Office of General Services is still in the process of evaluating bids, but being awarded the contract would allow CDTA to add more buses.

“Existing customers will see more service. We all know that the more frequency [of buses] there is, ridership goes up,” Basile said.

In Saratoga Springs, meanwhile, concert promoter Live Nation this summer is subsidizing CDTA trolley service during 10 of the largest concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the CDTA board awarded a $197,679 contract for doubling the size of the parking lot at the Saratoga Springs rail station, from 85 to 170 parking spaces.

The station needs more parking because of the success of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, and it last fall began charging $5 per vehicle to use the lot for the Polar Express and other special event trains.

The contractor, Delsignore Blacktop Paving of Troy, will pave and stripe an area that’s now dirt and gravel, though it’s used for parking.

“We’re trying to make it a better customer experience as well as enhance our revenue,” said CDTA board Chairman David Stackrow.

The CDTA serves Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, providing bus service and operating the Rensselaer and Saratoga train stations.

 
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