The Capital District Transportation Authority is seeing ridership grow on a pace to make this its busiest year since the 1980s.
CDTA CEO Carm Basile said the bus system carried 1.43 million passengers in November, up more than 50,000 from November 2012. It continues a trend of monthly ridership exceeding the previous year’s.
“Most of our gains are on trunk lines and neighborhood routes that connect to them,” he said in a report Wednesday to the CDTA board,
The authority, which services Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany and Rensselaer counties, carried 15.6 million riders in 2012-13. The ridership year is measured from April 1 to March 30.
Year-to-date, Basile said, ridership is up 6 percent, putting the authority on a pace to see passenger boardings exceed 16 million.
“This could certainly be our highest ridership in 30 years,” he said after the meeting, held at the Rensselaer Amtrak station.
Much of the growth has been along the BusPlus rapid transit line CDTA has established along Central Avenue between Albany and Schenectady.
Plans are in the works to increase the frequency of the runs on that route and several others to meet rider demand. Service changes are scheduled to be implemented in late January.
Basile said the ridership increase is also fueled by the number of colleges that now have agreements with CDTA that let students ride for free. Hudson Valley Community College in Troy was added this year.
Basile said the authority’s STAR service — which provides individual van rides to people who have disabilities that prevent them from using the bus — will see more than 300,000 users this year, which will set a record. He said increases in STAR ridership are due mainly to the aging of the population.
The CDTA board Wednesday also took steps toward establishing two other bus rapid transit routes to and from downtown Albany.
It approved a preferred design for a new BusPlus corridor along Washington and Western avenues in Albany. The plan includes a dedicated bus lane between the Harriman office campus and the University at Albany and a major transit center at Crossgates Mall.
The design approval will now be submitted to the regional federal transportation funding agencies for consideration. The estimated cost of the new line would be $48 million.
A third bus rapid transit line, through Hudson River communities from Cohoes to Albany through Troy, is also being planned.
The board Wednesday hired Creighton Manning Engineering of Albany to do initial engineering work for that plan at a cost of $200,000. It also voted to hire the IBI Group of Albany to do necessary planning work, at an estimated cost of $60,000.
The cost of developing the river route has previously been estimated at between $10 million and $20 million.