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Editorial: Region's worker ripe for free swipes

Editorial: Region's worker ripe for free swipes

College students aren't only ones who would appreciate free bus rides

The Capital Region’s colleges are on to something. Increasing numbers of them have taken to buying their students all-you-can-ride passes for CDTA buses that run to, from and within the region’s major cities, and the kids have taken a shining to them. As a story in Wednesday’s Gazette detailed, the collegians’ rides now account for more than 10 percent of the transit system’s total. Imagine if such a record could be duplicated among commuting workers.

Cars can be a bother, whether at a college campus or workplace. They not only cause traffic congestion, air quality and safety issues, but demand for parking always seems to outstrip supply. Rectifying the latter issue costs money — to buy land if it’s available, and to pave it over.

Recently, rather than deal with the hassle, the new Albany ShopRite supermarket started offering free CDTA Swiper cards for employees to ride the bus. The price the supermarket chain paid for this perk wasn’t disclosed, but presumably it was below the $65-per-month retail value.

If free parking is the kind of benefit that employers use to lure workers — and it is — perhaps the offer of a free bus pass could do the same. For someone who lives near a bus line and works anything but the graveyard shift, taking the bus into a congested urban area is a saner alternative to driving, and far cheaper — especially if someone else is paying. Even if such a worker wants to hang onto his car for non-commuting purposes, there’s still money to be saved by not having to buy as much gasoline, as well as wear and tear on their vehicle.

Here’s hoping other Capital Region employers, public as well as private, follow suit: It may cost a little every month, but ultimately, it could help save a lot — not just in dollars and cents, but in air quality, time and intangibles like quality of life.

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