CDTA aims to set bus ridership record for second year in a row

The Capital Region’s mass transit authority is looking to break its ridership record again this year

The Capital Region’s mass transit authority is looking to break its ridership record again this year.

CEO Carm Basile said the Capital District Transportation Authority has set an informal goal of carrying 17 million riders in its 2014-2015 fiscal year, which began April 1. That would be 500,000 more people than last year, which was a record.

“It would have been laughable to us five years ago,” Basile said at the CDTA’s monthly board meeting Wednesday at the Rensselaer Amtrak station.

In the year that ended March 31, the authority’s bus system carried just under 16.5 million riders, which just surpassed a record established in 1984.

The effort to keep ridership growing in 2014-2015 is off to a good start, with ridership in April of 1.44 million, 5 percent more than in April 2013.

“As has been the case for more than three years, ridership is up across our menu of services, with BusPlus and trunk routes leading the way,” Basile said.

Ridership has been growing for three years, after dropping 10 percent following a basic fare increase in 2009. Authority officials cite the impact of the BusPlus rapid-transit service between Schenectady and Albany started in 2011, as well as new “universal access” agreements with local colleges, which let students ride for free.

Also Wednesday, CDTA received a commendation for its security program from the federal Transportation Security Administration.

The authority received a “Gold Standard” rating from the TSA, one of only six rail or mass transit agencies in the United States to do so.

“It’s a real testament to our security measures and CDTA employees who are charged with upholding CDTA security policies and procedures every day,” said CDTA board Chairman David Stackrow.

The actions the authority has taken to prevent terrorist attacks include participation in the national initiative, “If You See Something, Say Something,” and installation of security cameras on a majority of its buses. Within the next couple of years, all 232 buses will be equipped with cameras.

TSA officials said the agency’s review covered CDTA’s security plans, security training, drills, public outreach efforts and background check programs.

“As the CDTA CEO, Carm Basile is focused on security, but in reality we know the entire workforce of the transportation authority has to be focused on security of its passengers to achieve this standard of excellence,” said Brian Johansson, TSA’s upstate New York security director, who presented the award.

Another upstate transit authority, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, also received a “gold” designation from TSA.

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