Now that Beth Gohra’s son is in college, she and her husband are left with one vehicle to get around.
It would have been a hassle, but on Friday her employer announced she and her fellow ShopRite colleagues could now ride CDTA buses anywhere, anytime, for free.
“It will be a lot easier now to say to my husband, ‘You take the car, I can take the bus,’ ” said Gohra, who works five days a week and now looks forward to saving on gas.
The Capital District Transportation Authority and ShopRite Supermarkets announced the first-of-its-kind initiative Friday morning at the new ShopRite store in Albany.
Standing in front of a CDTA bus bearing a giant ShopRite advertisement, the public transportation company’s CEO, Carm Basile, announced that the first corporate partner to join its universal access program would be a company that only returned to the Capital Region last year.
A handful of local colleges and universities offer the program to their students, but ShopRite is the first employer to join.
“We knew that we had something that could help the corporate community,” said Basile. “It could help major employers, so we shopped it. We talked, we worked with elected officials to try to find the right business, but you need someone who’s progressive, someone who says this is not a benefit, it’s a necessity.”
Basile applauded ShopRite for being the company willing to “step outside the box.”
About two-thirds of the store’s part-time employees are expected to use the program, said Tom Urtz, ShopRite’s vice president of human resources and community affairs.
ShopRite has about 1,000 associates between its Niskayuna and Albany stores. It expects that number to increase to nearly 1,500 when a new store opens in Slingerlands this fall.
About 15 percent of CDTA’s total ridership is composed of local colleges in the program, including Schenectady County Community College, Skidmore College, the University at Albany, Russell Sage College, the College of Saint Rose and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Students and faculty simply swipe their college ID cards when boarding a CDTA bus, and the colleges pay a flat fee based on student ridership.
Urtz declined to divulge how much ShopRite is paying to provide the program. CDTA’s base fare is $1.50, with packages available based on usage. Unlimited rides for one month can be purchased for $65 with a Swiper card.
“It’s a lot cheaper to have people riding buses than to build parking spaces,” noted Basile.
City and county officials were on hand at the news conference to point out the local benefits of the new partnership. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said the Albany store would need a couple hundred more parking spots than it has now if every employee drove to work.
“This lot is maxed out,” he said. “It’s very, very busy. So this really will help ease the burden of transportation that many commuters face, especially as gas prices continue to rise.”
The program also improves the overall quality of life in the Capital Region, said Jennings. It not only alleviates parking congestion but enhances the city’s sustainability by making environmentally friendly transportation easier to come by.
As part of the agreement, unlimited rides means pretty much what it sounds like. ShopRite employees can take the bus to and from work, to medical appointments, lunch dates, errands, anywhere.
There are more than 60 CDTA routes and connections throughout the Capital Region, including the STAR paratransit service and the NX Northway Express service.
CDTA wants to expand the universal access program, said Basile, and is in talks with several large employers interested in similar arrangements.
“We want to recognize the first of what will be many agreements with major employers,” Basile said Friday as he posed with ShopRite officials and employees to present a plaque.
“There’s always got to be someone who’s first, the leader. And the leader is ShopRite.”
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