SARATOGA COUNTY -- A new survey is looking to find out where residents of southern Saratoga County would be interested in a flexible, on-demand bus service if it were provided through the Capital District Transportation Authority.
The survey, available online or in print at a number of locations in the Mechanicville area, is being distributed through the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center and is aimed at residents and employers in the Mechanicville, Halfmoon, Stillwater and Clifton Park areas, which have no public transit service now.
The CDTA wants to run a pilot flexible service in the southern part of the county, but is looking to determine where the van route should run. The survey is being done jointly between CDTA, the community center, and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
The demand for transit is there from people who need to get to jobs or to shop, said Megan Quillinan, executive director of the Mechanicville community center. “I think this project could be life-changing for a lot of people who are trapped without a car or who can’t drive any more or need help," she said.
CDTA recently started a pilot flexible bus project in the Guilderland, Colonie and Latham areas, and officials at the authority are pleased with its initial reception and ridership. A pilot in the Mechanicville area would let CDTA see whether the concept also works in a more rural-suburban area.
The goal is to determine how often residents of Mechanicville and the surrounding towns would use a bus if it were available, and where they would want to go -- the Clifton Park/Halfmoon Northway exit commercial zones, the Waterford area, or commercial destinations in Colonie like Latham Farms, and also what times of day they would prefer to travel.
CDTA spokeswoman Jaime Watson said CDTA recognizes that southern Saratoga County doesn't have much bus service.
"When we knew we wanted to introduced flex to this area, we recognized that that part of southern Saratoga County has been underserved," she said.
The Latham-Guilderland flex service, which started in early January, uses two eight-passenger buses, and works similar to a ride-hailing app. Customers download a smartphone app that lets them tell CDTA where they want to go and when; for now, the flex service is free to customers.
The destinations the service travels include Crossgates Mall, Wolf Road, Albany International Airport and Latham Farms.
"The term in the industry is micro-transit, where a 40-foot bus won't work or won't be practical," Watson said. "We're in it to get enough data to make a long-term decision. We have two vehicles in operation and we are getting more and more ridership every day."
Depending on the survey results, Watson said CDTA could launch a flex pilot with eight-passenger vans within a few months.
Print copies of the survey are available at the Mechanicville Community Center, Mechanicville City Hall, Mechanicville Public Library, Mechanicville Senior Center, Mechanicville Public Housing office, and the Express newspaper office.
The community center hopes for a significant response. "The more who complete it, the more accurate representation of need," officials there wrote in distributing the survey. "Feel free to share the link with others who struggle with transportation."
"If you don’t have a car, it’s really hard to get around. There’s complete lack of public transportation in this area," said Quillinan, at the Community Center. " A full-on bus is not cost-effective for the number of people we have, but this is more like a cross between bus transit and an Uber."