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CDTA trying to expand rapid transit route

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CDTA trying to expand rapid transit route

The Capital District Transportation Authority announced plans Monday for two new bus rapid transit r

The Capital District Transportation Authority announced plans Monday for two new bus rapid transit routes serving downtown Albany, one from Crossgates Mall, the other from Waterford or Cohoes.

The authority will need $58 million to $68 million in funding to create those routes, but U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he will push for the necessary funding in Washington.

“I’m confident we can get the funding,” he said in an announcement at The College of Saint Rose.

The new rapid transit lines would build on the success CDTA officials said they’ve had with their first rapid-transit route, the BusPlus service established in 2011 between downtown Albany and downtown Schenectady.

Together, the three rapid-transit lines would give CDTA 40 miles of BusPlus service.

BusPlus carried 1.6 million people in 2012. CDTA Chief Executive Officer Carm Basile said it’s been a major contributor to CDTA’s ridership growth in the past three years, from 13.5 million riders at the start to an anticipated 16.5 million riders this year.

People pay a premium price to use the service — $2 per ride vs. $1.50 for regular service.

“If you build it, they will come,” Basile said.

Backers say express bus service makes it more likely people will leave their cars at home, reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. They also say good bus service is an economic development tool, since it helps people get to business destinations.

“BusPlus will reduce traffic congestion, spur new economic growth and save time for commuters,” Schumer said.

One of the new routes, being dubbed the “Purple Line,” would run an eight-mile circuit from Broadway out Western and Washington avenues to the Harriman Office Campus, University at Albany and Crossgates Mall. CDTA already has a $400,000 federal grant for needed studies.

The other route, the “Blue Line,” would start in Waterford or Cohoes and stop in Troy and Watervliet before proceeding to Broadway, making a 15-mile circuit.

Rapid transit routes use better-furnished buses than conventional CDTA buses, and make a limited number of stops. The route to Crossgates would have 15 stops, whereas a local bus on that route makes about 40 stops, according to CDTA officials.

The costs include the purchase of new diesel-electric hybrid buses, construction of new bus shelters and electronic equipment that gives the buses advantages in traffic and gives people waiting at stops real-time information on when the next bus will arrive.

Developing the Western-Washington route would cost about $48 million, while the cost of the Hudson River route at estimated at $10 million to $20 million.

“I’m pushing for federal funding so these lines become a reality as soon as possible,” Schumer said.

He noted that he helped CDTA obtain $18 million in federal money to get the first BusPlus route off the ground.

“I think we have a leg up because we’ve done it and done it well on one route already,” Schumer said.

He said CDTA will apply for funding of the Crossgates Mall route through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts and Small Starts capital improvement program.

The senator acknowledged it will be a “heavy lift” to get the money, but said he will use his influence as New York’s senior senator.

“I plan to go to bat for CDTA after they file their application,” Schumer said.

The Albany route will benefit students at the region’s colleges and also residents who want to get to Crossgates Mall or to downtown Albany, Schumer said.

“We’ll take cars off the road, improve the environment and eliminate congestion,” Schumer said.

CDTA will hold an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the University at Albany downtown campus to solicit public input on the plans.

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