CDTA’s Purple BusPlus v. NIMBY

neighborhood

cdta purple routeThis is one of those topics I would have put in my Times Union blog. But alas, it’s gone. Still, you folks not in Albany, NY, might find it interesting if something like it comes to your neck of the woods.

The Capital District Transportation Authority is currently building the Bus Rapid Transit/Purple BusPlus Line, which will run more frequently and make fewer stops. It will connect Crossgates Mall, UAlbany, Harriman, and Downtown Albany, mostly along Western Ave. it will be funded with federal money.

Recently, I signed a petition supporting the bus stop at the corner of Colonial Avenue/Eileen Street and Western Avenue. The petitioners believe the proposal will:
● Reduce traffic on Western Avenue, which can be quite congested.
● Provide better and higher quality access to transit in the neighborhood, potentially enabling many drivers to transition to public transportation. Sidebar: parking in downtown Albany is sparse and expensive.
● Make a busy intersection more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, something I always favor.
● Be a great asset for the neighborhood students relying on buses to get to North Albany Middle School and Albany High School.

The planned stop will be lighted and sheltered, with improved pedestrian access/crosswalks/beg buttons and heated sidewalks to melt snow and ice in winter. CDTA has committed to using it for tripper buses to bring kids to school.

Naysayers

A counterproposal from a few neighbors suggested relocating the stop to Brevator, where Western crosses over Route 85. That intersection has comparably little housing north of Western and has far fewer residents nearby. “Relocating the stops to this less centralized street will increase walking time to the stop and make it more challenging for residents to take advantage of the route.

“Looking at the proposed purple line from the CDTA website, the distances between Allen St. and Colonial (0.6 mi) and the distance between Colonial and the East Harriman Campus stop (0.6 mi) are already at the upper end of the distance that CDTA prefers between its BRT/BusPlus stops.

“If a stop is placed at Brevator instead of Eileen and Colonial,” which are central to the neighborhoods, “the distance between the two stops will be 0.8 mi, which is a very long walk for those who live between those streets; let alone those who have to walk a couple of blocks just to get to Western.”

I miss not being in the TU because I could point out the newspaper’s shortcomings in its article. It didn’t point out the benefit to school children or the university. Instead, it focused on the fervor of the discussion at a recent city hall meeting rather than the substance.

I figure I should bug CDTA, my city council member, my state assemblyperson, and anyone else I can think of.

Binghamton to Albany via Detroit?

Half a day.

I have the need to travel from Binghamton to Albany, both in New York State. It’ll be sometime later this year, via some sort of transit. This is a distance of 141 miles or 227 km, traveling northeast.

Back in the last century, and even the early part of this one, one could take the bus from Binghamton, through Oneonta to Schenectady and Albany, primarily Route 7 and later I-88.

The last time I needed to make the trip from my hometown to my current residence, perhaps in 2018, was on a work trip. I had to take the bus from Binghamton to Syracuse, due north, then take another bus east to the state capital. This involved leaving the Parlor City about 3:30 a.m. and then having a 2-hour layover.

But last I checked, to make the very same trip now, I would have to leave at 2:15 am and arrive in Syracuse at 3:30 am. Then I’d have to wait eight hours to take the only eastbound bus at 11:40 am, getting into Albany at 2:45 pm. Twelve hours on the road.

What about the plane?

BinghamtonThe cheapest flight was $397, and it involved spending 7 hours and 20 minutes in Detroit, MI. The shortest, and at $892, the most expensive, involved only three hours in Detroit. The other choices involved going through both Detroit and Chicago, IL. The trips would take as “little” as 7.5 hours and as much as twice that.

Unfortunately, there is no train service at all from Binghamton, which is a shame. Currently, no train service exists on Sunday from Syracuse to Albany. Now, the latter is likely to change – or so I hope – as more people are traveling. But I like to make plans ahead of time.

The great thing about some travel these days is that some carriers are much more willing to be flexible about ticketing. The Trailways bus folks, e.g. are willing to provide refunds in case of death of an immediate family member, illness, jury duty, or military service.

 

B is for the bike and the bus

It’s illegal to ride the bike on the highway.

One of the truly civilizing things about living in the Albany, NY area is the ability to ride the bike and the bus for certain trips. Someone noted that taking the bike on the bus to the bike repair place – broken spoke –
was the first time he had considered the value of having a couple bike racks on the bus. But in fact, I use the combo all the time.

Every 28 days, I have to go back to Corporate (frickin’) Woods, where I worked for too long, to get an allergy shot. I ride my bike through town to a rode called Northern Boulevard, then hitch the bike on the bus as it treks up that nasty Albany-Shaker Road hill.

Now, I could ride to the allergist, but time is the enemy here, for I need to catch a bus OUT of Corporate Woods, and since I have to wait 30 minutes AFTER the shot, I stay on the bus. On the subsequent trip then to work, I can ride at least partway to work, and faster than by bus alone.

There are several reasons to take the bike on the bus:

*law – it’s illegal to ride the bike on the highway. As the crow flies, the shortest route from my house to Corporate Woods is I-90, but it would be not only unlawful but dangerous to ride the bike on the interstate

*time – I COULD ride to Schenectady, the next city to the west, but that would take a while

*energy – that is to say, mine, especially when it comes to hills

*the weather – never was that more true than on May 18. I was planning on riding the two miles home, but a severe thunderstorm began. Walking to the bus stop, I got soaked. Putting my bike on the bus, I was paranoid about being electrocuted.

I think the first time I saw bikes on mass transit was back in the late 1980s, when one could put a two-wheeler on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, in San Francisco-Oakland, California. It made sense to me and I’m happy for the option.

Incidentally, Jen Reviews has put out a “detailed, up-to-date 7,000 word guide on how to choose a bike according to science” that describes “10 factors to consider.”

ABC Wednesday, Round 21

“Move to the back of the bus”

“We’re going to get to know each other a little bit better.”

The day after one of our snowstorms – snow in upstate New York in February? – a lot of us were taking the CDTA bus. Maybe some had safe parking spots they didn’t want to move from, while others perhaps had not dug out.

Someone had shoveled the snow in front of the bus kiosk. Unfortunately, the bus stopped beyond the kiosk, and we had to climb over a snowbank to get to the bus entrance. To his credit, the bus driver did apologize.

We’re going down Western Avenue. All the seats are filled. But the folks standing in the aisle only go to the rear exit of the bus, about 2/3s of the way back. I understand it, sort of; they want to be able to get off easily.

But we got to a stop around Quail Street, and at least a half dozen people couldn’t get on the bus. If the bus driver told the folks to move back, as drivers are wont to do, I didn’t hear him.

As those folks were left at the curb, this young blonde woman, probably in her mid-20s, worked her way to the back of the standees and chastised them for not moving to the back of the bus to make room for more passengers. “Do you understand what you did?” she said, very directly, to a couple of folks. “Those people are STUCK out there, in the cold.”

Then she took on the tone of a camp director. “We’re all going to move back to make room for others. We’re going to get to know each other a little bit better.” And instead of yelling at her, they actually did what she told them.

I was in awe.

As more people departed, she was seated, and I moved up to congratulate her on her moxie. She said, “Well, you in the back supported me.” I assume it was when she mentioned the stranded passengers being cold, I added from the rear of the bus, “And probably late for work.”

Anyway, I thought it was an impressive feat on her part.

L is for Lanes of Traffic

“When there’s no bike lane, you’re supposed to ride on the sidewalk.”

turn signal
1. In July, traveling north on that stretch of Interstate 90 in New York between the Pennsylvania border and Buffalo, closer to the former, there are four lanes of traffic, two in each direction.

The Wife is driving and is in the right lane. Another car is in the left lane, slowly passing us. Suddenly, a motorcycle darts between us! Another motorcycle is already ahead of the other car.

Then the motorcycles, in turn, proceed to drive between not one, not two, but FOUR pairs of cars, in about three minutes. I was happy no one got hurt.

2. I am riding my bicycle down my street. I am as far right as I can be, given the fact there is a string of parked cars. I can sense that there’s a car that wants to pass me, but there’s oncoming traffic, and this is not an option.

We catch a red light, and we both stop. I can pull to the right because there’s no car that close to the intersection.

The driver says, “There’s no bike lane.”

“OK”

“When there’s no bike lane, you’re supposed to ride on the sidewalk.”

“NO, sir!”

“That’s the law.”

“You are INCORRECT, sir. Check your drivers’ manual. There’s a section on bicycles in there.”

Seriously, I used to carry around the booklet from DMV for such interactions. In my state, it is ILLEGAL for me to ride on the sidewalk, unless I’m under 14. (Note: I’m not.)

Apparently, this is a problem elsewhere.

3. Still, I LOVE riding my bicycle in the city, because I often find change on the ground, where the driver’s side door might be. I’ll stop for even a nickel, but not for a penny. Though if I stop for a mixture of coins – it has happened – I’ll get the pennies as well.

4. August: I was waiting for a bus, when a young man, probably in his twenties, asked me if I could “spare some change” so he could ride the bus. I told him that I could “spare a 50-cent change card” that I happen to have. (The fare is $1.50, and if I put in two $1 bills, I get the change card.)

His eyes narrowed as he said, teeth clenched, “Have a nice day.” I don’t think he was being sincere.
***
Now I Know: Slow and Steady Wins the Lottery

The Calculus of Bad Driving

ABC Wednesday – Round 19

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