The Capital District Transportation Authority will be altering, consolidating or eliminating 15 less-used routes in and around Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga Springs as of May 24, officials announced Wednesday.
The actions are being taken to save money at a time when CDTA is seeing high bus ridership on other routes but feeling a revenue pinch because of low mortgage tax receipts.
“CDTA is responding to the fiscal challenge of balancing escalating operating costs and reduced revenues,” the authority said in announcing the changes.
CDTA had more than 15 million passenger trips on its buses during the 2008-09 budget year, an 11 percent increase from the year before.
The consolidation or elimination of under-used routes will allow the agency to focus resources on its more heavily travelled routes, said CDTA Executive Director Ray Melleady.
“With our strong ridership gains this year, many routes are at capacity, creating a strain on our system,” Melleady said. “Although not an easy course of action, consolidating, reducing or eliminating lightly used or duplicative services allows us to reallocate resources to meet demand in more heavily used corridors.”
In the Schenectady area, Route 53 (Altamont Avenue), Route 55 (Albany-Schenectady), Route 59 (Nott Street) and Route 70 (Troy-Schenectady) will all eliminate direct service to General Electric’s main plant.
“Truthfully, our ridership on the routes going into GE has been low for a long time,” said CDTA spokeswoman Margo Janack.
Route 78 (Schenectady West Loop) will be eliminated, officials said, because closure of the Super Steel plant in Glenville eroded ridership.
In Saratoga Springs, Route 471 (Union Avenue), which was cut in January, will be restored through Labor Day. Officials said 85 percent of that route’s use is in July and August, so it will run only seasonally.
Also in Saratoga Springs, Route 473 (Jefferson Street) will go into the Embury Apartments, while Route 474 (City Shuttle), which currently goes there, is being eliminated.
There are also changes in the city of Albany and in Rensselaer county. The complete list is available at www.cdta.org.
The route changes are part of an agency effort to cut 35,000 service hours this year. This wave of reductions will cut 10,600 hours, saving CDTA approximately $1 million. The first phase of reductions occurred in January; a third round of reductions is being planned for September.
CDTA said there will be an informational campaign to notify customers of the changes and of travel alternatives, and new route maps and schedules are on CDTA’s Web site. Posters are going up at bus stops, and brochures being distributed.
In another effort to balance its budget, CDTA raised its basic bus fare from $1 to $1.50 as of April 1, the beginning of its budget year.
So far, officials don’t think the higher price has had much impact on ridership levels, though exact numbers aren’t yet in.
“It doesn’t look like ridership is down,” Janack said. “If it is down, it’s definitely not significant.”
Overall, Melleady said the agency has held onto the low-double-digit growth it first saw when gasoline prices were peaking last summer.
“We were able to sustain ridership gains throughout the fall and winter, showing that people find our services to be convenient and economical,” Melleady said.
A new route numbering system will also be introduced May 24.
Information regarding the new route numbering system or route changes is available by contacting CDTA’s Customer Information Center at 482-8822 or visiting www.cdta.org.