CDTA gets added $1.4M in state aid
Updated 9:45 p.m.
CAPITAL REGION The Capital District Transportation Authority got some good news about state transportation aid Wednesday.
Word of an extra $1.4 million in aid came shortly after the CDTA board adopted a $76 million budget for fiscal 2013-14, which starts Monday.
The budget for the regional mass transit agency contains no increase in bus fares, though an increase in parking fees at the Rensselaer and Saratoga Springs train stations will go into effect Monday.
The budget as adopted was already balanced, but shortly after the CDTA board’s noontime meeting at the Rensselaer rail station, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that additional aid for mass transit will be in the new state budget.
CDTA will be receiving $1.4 million in extra aid, part of $21 million in capital aid being spread across 19 upstate mass transit agencies. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which serves metropolitan New York City, is getting a $358 million increase.
“New York state has always been a national leader in investing in our public transportation infrastructure, and this budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending to rebuild transit systems across the state,” Cuomo said in a statement.
CDTA plans to set the extra money aside for capital projects. In the next few years, those could include new bus rapid transit service and communications and computer systems. CEO Carm Basile said the $1.4 million is appreciated.
“Quick math, that’s four buses, or you can make much-needed repairs to our maintenance facilities,” he said after learning the news. “All in all, this is fabulous news.”
CDTA, which provides bus service in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, has about 250 vehicles and 640 employees. After several years of a hiring freeze, the authority is now in the process of training two classes of drivers to fill open positions.
Ridership is up about 5 percent from last year, and should total about 15.5 million boardings in the current budget year when it ends Sunday.
A year ago, CDTA officials had to wrestle with closing a projected $10 million budget gap. This year, the budget has been balanced more easily, in part because the mortgage recording tax revenue from the four counties is about $12 million, nearly 50 percent higher than anticipated.
Authority officials attribute the mortgage tax increase to a rebounding real estate market, especially in Saratoga County.
Anticipated federal aid is being reduced from $8.9 million to $6.7 million as a precaution. CDTA officials have been unable to learn how the federal government’s funding sequester will impact their aid payments.
“Everything is in such flux at the federal level. It’s hard to be optimistic,” said CDTA board Chairwoman Denise Figueroa.
In the budget, parking fees at the Rensselaer station are being increased by $1 or $2 per day, which is expected to generate an additional $350,000 annually. A special event parking fee at the Saratoga Springs station should raise about $4,000, according to the budget.
Overall, officials said they’re pleased with the new spending plan. It “will position us for this year and allow us to consider ways to accommodate growing demand for service,” Basile said.
The authority board also approved a grant management agreement with the state Department of Transportation that Basile said should allow consultants to finish designing the planned downtown Schenectady train station. The design work is only half done now.
Funding for the $14.6 million project has been secured from federal and state sources, but Basile indicated construction is still some ways off, pending completion of negotiations with Amtrak, the federal passenger rail service.