SCHENECTADY -- It's going to be free to take a trolley bus between downtown attractions like Proctors and the new Rivers Casino & Resort.
A new Capital District Transportation Authority service will run between downtown Schenectady and the Rivers Casino, starting in late March, CDTA officials said Wednesday.
The "Downtowner" service will provide free trips to the general public, while a separate universal access agreement will allow employees of the casino to ride CDTA buses for free, said CDTA CEO Carm Basile.
Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority is organizing the underwriting of the shuttle service, at an estimated cost of $125,000 per year. The casino will pay for the access agreement for its employees.
The service will connect Schenectady's increasingly vibrant downtown with the casino, which is scheduled to open Feb. 8. It will also incorporate a stop at the downtown city train station, which is expected to be rebuilt in the next couple of years.
"The trolley will be perfect between (the train station) and the new hotels," said Norman Miller, a Schenectady County representative on the CDTA board.
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen confirmed Metroplex is working on plans to subsidize the service.
"We are working with the Mohawk Harbor developer, Proctors and others to link downtown to the harbor with a trolley bus," Gillen said in an email. "The local cost share would be around $125,000, and we are looking to raise that from multiple groups, including Metroplex."
Downtown and the casino site are less than a mile apart, but anyone walking would have to do so along busy Erie Boulevard.
The trolley buses will be similar to those now used during the summer months in Saratoga Springs. They resemble a historic street trolley but are built on the chassis of small buses. The trolleys are smaller than a regular commuter bus, designed to carry fewer people.
Two established bus lines will also serve the casino site.
Meeting Wednesday in Albany, the CDTA board approved the purchase of two trolley buses at a cost of $304,184. Delivery is expected in late spring, but service will probably start before then, using the two Saratoga trolleys, which won't be needed for summer service there until early July.
Under a separate agreement, Rush Street Gaming -- the parent company of the Rivers Casino -- will pay for its employees to ride CDTA buses for free throughout the four-county bus system. More than 1,000 people are expected to work at the casino, which is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 8.
Basile said the employee access agreement will go into effect on Feb. 5.
Basile said negotiations with Mohawk Harbor developer the Galesi Group began about two years ago. He cited it as an example of a developer working closely with CDTA.
"Way before shovels were in the ground, we were talking to the developer," he said.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, the board approved $7.9 million in new bus purchases, including the acquisition of four new articulated buses: 60-foot vehicles that bend in the middle to give them the capacity to carry more people than standard 40-passenger buses. The authority received its first two articulated buses last year.
Basile said those buses -- which cost about $800,000 each and won't be delivered until late this year -- will be used on existing routes with high-service demand.
CDTA is carrying slightly fewer riders than it did a year ago, when it had a record 17.1 million riders. But Basile said total ridership is still likely to be near 17 million when CDTA's fiscal year ends on March 31.