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CDTA fare increases are tempered

CDTA fare increases are tempered

People who ride Northway XPress commuter buses from Saratoga County to Albany will see a smaller

People who ride Northway XPress commuter buses from Saratoga County to Albany will see a smaller fare hike than first proposed under changes to the Capital District Transportation Authority’s fare increase plan.

The basic fare for riding a CDTA bus would still go from $1 to $1.50. The fares are scheduled to be voted on Tuesday by the CDTA board of directors.

But Northway bus riders, who have a separate fee schedule, will now see a 25 percent increase, rather than the original 50 percent increase, because CDTA doesn’t want that growing ridership switching back to driving their cars, a spokeswoman said.

The increase for the disabled rider STAR service has also be scaled back to 25 percent, from 50 percent.

The increases would take effect April 1.

“We wish we did not have to consider this, but with the economic downturn and our own higher costs and anticipated reductions in state aid, we feel we have to,” said Margo Janack, a spokesman for the transit agency.

CDTA, which serves Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, has seen significant ridership increases this year, while also facing higher costs and a projected $9 million budget deficit, a deficit that Janack said would grow by another $5 million if Gov. David Paterson’s new budget proposals were adopted.

The higher fares are expected to raise about $4.5 million, Janack said, and will be combined with reductions and consolidations of lightly used routes to reduce the agency’s deficit.

The proposed hikes were the subject of four public hearings earlier this month, including one in Saratoga Springs at which the proposed 50 percent hike for riding the Northway Xpress increase was criticized.

“A lot of our Northway XPress customers showed up and expressed their concern and said a fare increase might force them to consider going back to their cars,” Janack said.

The service, which CDTA contracts to Upstate Transit of Saratoga Springs, has seen ridership grow this year by about 30 percent, Janack said. It was nearly 164,000 last year and is expected to exceed 200,000 by year’s end.

The Northway XPress has five different fees, depending on zone, ranging from $28 for a 10-trip pass from Clifton Park/Halfmoon to Albany to $48 for riding the bus from South Glens Falls. The new proposal is that each zone fare rise 25 percent.

Overall CDTA ridership is up about 15 percent from a year ago, and is expected to exceed 15 million passenger boardings, agency officials have said.

STAR, or Special Transit Available by Request, was going to rise from $2 to $3 per trip but will instead rise by 25 percent under the proposed revisions, Janack said.

CDTA Executive Director Ray Melleady has already warned that given financial conditions, the agency could need to raise the basic fare again in 2010, from $1.50 to $2.

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