Town officials have had preliminary discussions with the Capital District Transportation Authority about starting local bus service in southern Saratoga County.
Clifton Park town Supervisor Phil Barrett said bus service would help cleaning staff and other lower-wage employees get to jobs at the new hotels that have sprung up around Northway Exit 9.
Barrett raised the topic with CDTA CEO Carm Basile during a recent meeting, and CDTA is willing to at least study the idea..
“I think there is a thought process that there are some developing opportunities in southern Saratoga County,” said CDTA Director of Marketing Jonathan Scherzer.
Barrett said the half-dozen newer hotels in town have brought the issue to the forefront, because their employees are often coming from outside communities such as Mechanicville and Halfmoon.
“We hope the time is coming when Clifton Park is ready for or almost ready for additional service,” Scherzer said. “It might make more sense for it to run east-west rather than north-south.”
Saratoga County has historically had less service from CDTA than Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer counties, all of which have the kind of core cities where mass transit historically operates.
In Saratoga County, the authority provides local bus service in and around Saratoga Springs; along the Route 50 corridor; and it supports an Albany commuter service along the Northway.
But Clifton Park has no local bus service, even though it is Saratoga County’s largest town with 40,000 residents.
An effort to establish bus service on Route 9 between Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs was launched in 2010, but abandoned a year later for lack of riders.
But, officials said, an east-west service might work, since the Exit 9 area functions as a downtown commercial district for the southern part of the county.
The area has a collection of shopping centers split by Route 146 and is a notoriously difficult area to walk in. In recent years, chain hotels have begun setting up in the area, offering a generally less-expensive alternative to lodging in Saratoga Springs and Colonie, and located centrally between Schenectady, Albany and Malta.
Pete Bardunias, president of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga, said finding employees is a challenge for some of the hotels and other new businesses, and many of the workers are coming a distance. He said they are coming from places like Mechanicville and may not have reliable vehicles.
“If mass transit was available, that would be another option for people,” Bardunias said.
He said the developing manufacturing zone south of Mechanicville might also benefit if bus service was available from the Troy and Cohoes area.
“I’m sure these things take a long time to develop, but it makes sense to have more mass transit,” Bardunias said. “These are growing communities, and if CDTA can find a way to provide more service, that makes sense.”
For the CDTA, it’s a matter of determining whether it can fill buses with riders, as well as what providing the service would cost.
“It’s a good idea, and we’ll try to dig in and see if it makes sense at our end,” Scherzer said.
The regional transit authority in its last fiscal year carried a record 17.1 million riders.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.