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What you need to know for 10/19/2017

CDTA lays out plans for next five years

CDTA lays out plans for next five years

A new transit terminal in downtown Albany and major upgrades to bus terminals in Schenectady and Tro
CDTA lays out plans for next five years
A CDTA bus waits for passengers last at a stop on State Street in Schenectady in 2012.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

A new transit terminal in downtown Albany and major upgrades to bus terminals in Schenectady and Troy are part of the Capital District Transportation Authority’s plan for the next five years.

With its ridership growing, the regional mass transit agency is looking to increase the amenities it offers riders, while planning an upgrade in fare collection technology for the end of 2015.

The proposals are part of a Five-Year Transit Development Plan adopted Wednesday by CDTA’s board of directors.

“It’s a significant planning tool for us,” said CDTA board Chairman David Stackrow.

The plan includes the most concrete discussion to date of plans for downtown transit terminals that could include on-site CDTA staffing and access to food vendors, retailers and bathrooms.

“Transit hubs and centers, which will be proposed for high-volume areas, will offer enhanced waiting areas, the opportunity for fare media and other customer amenities,” the plan states. “We envision that these centers could include retail and commercial space and perhaps parking facilities to meet local demand.”

The new plan is an update of one adopted in 2008, which contained recommendations that since have been implemented, including starting the BusPlus route established in 2011 and a county-by-county reorganization of routes.

That plan also mentioned a downtown Albany transit center, but it became tied to the often-delayed plan for an Albany Convention Center. The convention center location most recently was moved several blocks away, but CDTA continues to focus on establishing a new bus transit hub in a new mixed-use building that would replace the aging Greyhound station on Broadway. Architectural drawings are now being prepared.

“The transit center initiative continues to advance,” said Carm Basile, CDTA’s CEO.

Similar transit terminals have opened in Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Pittsfield and other regional population centers, CDTA planners noted.

The center would serve as an anchor for the BusPlus service between Schenectady and Albany, and would also anchor the proposed BusPlus services from downtown to Cohoes-Troy and to the Crossgates-University at Albany areas. Both those routes could get started in the next five years, assuming funding becomes available.

Progress on the Albany project, and plans to expand existing transit hubs in Schenectady and Troy, depend on obtaining funding and acquiring the needed land, said CDTA spokeswoman Jaime Watson. “It’s still in the very early stages,” she said.

The new Schenectady downtown rail station, construction of which may start this year, would have a lighted pedestrian connection to an expanded BusPlus station, according to the plan. CDTA is a partner in the rail station, but the state Department of Transportation is leading the construction effort.

CDTA is currently on course to carry more than 16 million passengers when its fiscal year ends March 31, up from 13.8 million five years ago.

That’s despite what turned out to be a temporary 10 percent drop in ridership immediately after an increase in the basic fare — from $1 to $1.50 — in 2009. The BusPlus system along Route 5 has drawn hundreds of thousands of new riders despite charging a premium $2 fare for buses that are more comfortable than most, provide Wi-Fi and make only a limited number of stops.

Future rapid-transit services are also likely to have a higher fare, and the authority is considering upgraded coach-style buses for some of its longer park-and-ride routes.

In 2015, a new electronic fare collection system is scheduled to go into use, one that will allow the use of “smart cards” and other new technology.

In addition to the proposed downtown transit terminals, the plan calls for improved passenger facilities at Crossgates Mall, Colonie Center and in Troy, and upgraded transfer stations at Latham Farms, the Exit 9 park-and-ride in Clifton Park, at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs and at Hudson Valley Community College.

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