The new bus stations are done, but Schenectadians still have months to wait before they’ll be able to ride CDTA’s speediest buses.
The rapid transit system — now called BusPlus on the new red and white stations — was supposed to open this summer to zip commuters to Albany and back. The buses can turn traffic lights green and use bus-only lanes to zip past traffic jams, offering the possibility of a frustration-free commute.
The buses have been eagerly awaited. When the last stations here were completed, riders began expecting the buses to arrive momentarily.
Then CDTA announced in late August that it had to delay the project until next spring. But that has given them time to “iron out issues” regarding the new system, spokeswoman Margo Janack said.
Among the new decisions: the buses will cost more than an ordinary CDTA ride: the fare will be $2 unless the rider uses a swiper card. All other buses cost $1.50.
CDTA will also close half of its 55 bus route this spring, which will help save money. The 55, which stops at 90 shelters between Schenectady and Albany, will instead run from Schenectady to Wolf Road, where riders can take the Central Avenue bus to go further into Albany.
That means those riders will pay twice as much as they do now. There are no longer any free bus transfers on the CDTA system; riders pay $1.50 every time they get on a bus.
But Janack said the change would make the system more efficient.
“When you think about it, it’s duplicate service,” she said, noting that riders can take the BusPlus instead.
To do that, they’ll have to get to one of 18 stops along the corridor, rather than the 90 stops available now. The bus stops less often because it’s intended as an express. CDTA believes it will shave at least 10 minutes off the current time. Right now, a bus running on time takes 68 minutes to get through rush-hour traffic each morning between downtown Schenectady and downtown Albany.
But even in the middle of the night, the bus still takes 54 minutes to drive a route that takes a car just less than 30 minutes. That’s because the bus stops so often, as well as hitting 72 traffic lights along the 17-mile route, CDTA officials said. Those lights will no longer be a problem. The new buses will be able to turn the lights green as they approach.
They will also use bus-only lanes to jump the long lines of traffic at Wolf Road and New Karner Road. In the special lanes, they will get the green light a few seconds first, allowing them to pull ahead of traffic.
“It is a faster service,” Janack said. “And you’ll always be moving. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a longer route if it means I won’t be sitting in traffic.”
At the bus stops, CDTA will slowly phase in real-time message boards to tell riders precisely when their bus will arrive. Riders will also be able to buy fares at kiosks. Both amenities are commonly used at commuter rail stations, which is why CDTA chose to add them. “It’s combining the benefits of commuter rail with the flexibility and cost advantage of bus service,” Janack said. If the system proves popular, CDTA will add BusPlus to other routes, Janack added.
The State Street-Central Avenue route was chosen first because more than 25 percent of CDTA riders use it.
“It’s the spine of our system,” Janack said.
In Schenectady, the BusPlus will stop at:
u Washington Avenue and State Street
u Erie Boulevard and State Street
u Nott Terrace and State Street
u Steuben Street and State Street
u Division Street and State Street
u Route 7 and State Street
In the suburbs, the bus will stop at Stanford Crossings, New Karner Road and Colonie Center.
In Albany, the bus will stop at Colvin Avenue, North Allen Street, North Manning Boulevard, Quail Street, Lexington Avenue, Lark Street, South Swan Street, Pearl Street and UAlbany.
The buses will run from 4 a.m. to midnight every day.