CDTA’s Purple BusPlus v. NIMBY


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.


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.

M is for mass transit systems

“While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not.”

Northampton Subway MapWhen traveling, I tend to judge a city, in large part, based on the robustness of its mass transit system. When I lived in New York City for a mere four months in the summer of 1977, I became rather adept at getting around via the subways.

From the Citylab article Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars): “One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.”

In NYC, the aging infrastructure has caused much of the L line in Brooklyn to be overhauled. This will be a major disruption to the businesses in the area.

The Boston Globe notes: “Dozens of T stations are crumbling, corroding, and leaking, as revealed by a new, detailed inventory the feds now require transpo officials to keep. As reporter Adam Vaccaro writes: ‘…hundreds of MBTA properties — stations, garages, and parking lots — are in disrepair, from equipment that seems permanently broken to shabby surroundings that make the daily commute that much more unpleasant.'”

From the Citylab piece: “This [abandonment] has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not… [They slashed expenditures instead of] improving service to stay competitive. This drove even more riders away, producing a vicious cycle that led to the point where today, few Americans with a viable alternative ride buses or trains.”

I’ve gotten around fairly well without a car in San Francisco (1988), Atlanta (1995), San Diego (2003), and Washington, DC (2018). I can get around much of Albany sans motorized vehicle if I have to, though Sundays are tougher. Having a car in Toronto (2011) was actually a hindrance. The car was parked in the hotel lot, and we didn’t use it for five days.

Unfortunately, the American attitude, as Shooting Parrots pointed out, inspired an American company to come up with their Seat Saver’ range of fake food and drink spills “to discourage people sitting next to them on public conveyances.”

For ABC Wednesday

Getting Around and Getting Along in Canada

Most of the bicyclists were not wearing helmets, which I think is crazy, but such is the confidence he pedalists have in their drivers.

I don’t want to say that everyone we saw in Canada was nicer than the folks in the United States. A couple of the folks at the first hotel were, let’s say, indifferent. And the very first person we dealt with on the subway was clearly frustrated that we didn’t understand her incomprehensible instructions.

By and large, however, I found it a joy to be in Canada, especially Toronto. Other subway workers in the big city were quite helpful, and even complete strangers initiated contact to assist us when we looked confused.

Once we got the hang of it, we found the Toronto subway to be quite usable. Reasonably clean, mostly on time – except for that delay on the way to the zoo – and the riders were not openly hostile, as I’ve experienced in more than a few major American cities.

The bus trip to the zoo was actually fun, with people generally compliant with the signs to move back. We were near three high school girls from the suburbs who were native Chinese speakers but were studying English words for some major comprehensive test, perhaps the SATs.

Apparently driving out of Toronto in the afternoon is OK until about 3:30 pm, except on Friday afternoons in the summer, which is when we departed at 2 pm and got into a major traffic slowdown east of the city. That’s why, I suppose, the highway has all of those LED road signs imploring people to Try Mass Transit, or Use Mass Transit. And when a merged lane sign shows up, the drivers were generally quite content to let a driver in, taking turns.

In Toronto, I’ve never seen so many people riding bicycles in North America in my life. And unlike in Albany, NY, the drivers weren’t hostile to them. Most of the bicyclists were not wearing helmets, which I think is crazy, but such is the confidence the pedalists have in their drivers.

Oh, and cars yield to pedestrians – what’s THAT all about? I was practically in shock when cars stopped at the intersection and waited for the people to cross the street, even folks who were not at the intersection before the auto was. This would never happen in Albany. The one sign of impatience is when the drivers ARE making their right turns, either with the light or especially right on red, they will usually have one or two drivers turn after the light is red. So don’t step off the curb right away.

I even liked a lot of Canadian television, the little we saw, generally in the morning and evening. There was some morning show that gave a lot more of what I consider REAL news than the US equivalents do after the first half-hour. One segment was about homelessness in Canada, and the host showed real concern. Oh, and my wife got to see a performance by one of her two favorite singers, Diana Krall.

My favorite moment in Toronto: we were at the Ontario Science Centre. We bought a one-use camera for the Daughter, which was reasonably priced, BTW. She proceeded to misplace it. When I finally noticed this, I contacted the nearest employee and asked what I could do. He said, “Wait here,” walked over to the Lost and Found and in a few minutes, brought the camera to me. Usually, in such situations in the past, at best, an employee would direct me to the Lost and Found, where the camera might or might not have been returned. This outcome was, as they say, way cool.

So I was quite surprised in reading a comment to this blogpost by Arthur about the most livable cities. One of his LOCs stated: “I hope Toronto is not in the top ten! I was transferred here 6 months ago and as someone who has traveled all over and lived in South Africa, Australia, DC, LA, etc – I can tell you Toronto is not in the top ten!! Angriest people in North America, expensive, horrible weather. 6 months to go if I can make it.” (It’s #4, BTW.)

Now I did not live there. It was only four days. But there was a point, walking by the Royal Ontario Museum on our second day there when I said to my wife: “I think I could live here,” assuming that we had employment, etc. Good mass transit, bikes, educational capital, intellectual stimulation, massive multiculturalism; there were plenty of places we DIDN’T get a chance to see. And there are angrier people in lots of US cities I’ve been to, starting with Albany, NY.
Heather Morris’ Staples Canada Back To School Commercial. Heather Morris, from the TV show Glee, is not from Canada, BTW.

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