Thursday, August 16, 2007

Altamont Fair Nixes Bus Riders to be Cost Effective

I've been spending so much time waiting for the bus, that I haven't been posting as much as I expected this summer. There have been a few items in the news the past week that I need to comment on, but the 13th hour news about NO FREE BUS SERVICE to the Altamont Fair is devastating -- and must be discussed now.

Apparently, it was a business decision to by the fair to renege on the agreement with CDTA to provide free bus service -- as the TU stated, and as Andrew from the Altamont Fair told me when I called, it wasn't cost effective to continue with the current agreement with CDTA. When I asked when the decision was made to not go forward with the CDTA contract this year, he told me he was not going to discuss their business decisions. Okay, so I checked out the Altamont Fair's website, their homepage states the following, "The Altamont Fair is a three county fair representing Albany, Schenectady and Greene Counties. It is a non-profit, public educational and historical society supported entirely by admissions, rentals, contributions and the assistance of hundreds of volunteers."

Hmmm... the Altamont Fair is a non-profit educational and historical society, they exist to serve the public, yet this year made a business decision to only serve the public who can get there by means other than the bus. Outrageous.

I also called CDTA yesterday, and spoke to a customer service representative where I left my request for CDTA to provide regular fare service to the Fair. This should not even be a question. When the Altamont Fair pulled out on their agreement, it didn't relinquish CDTA's responsibility to serve the public who expects service.

I've been telling my daughter for WEEKS that we'd take the bus to the fair. She looks forward to going every year, it's one of our summer traditions -- like going swimming at our city pools, walking to Washington Park for the Park Playhouse show, and not having to stress about homework. It's the only fair we attend- as Albany residents, it is OUR county fair, though perhaps this year, we'll need to switch to the Schaghticoke Fair since there will be bus service to that one. Of course, we have our bus passes that we've already paid for so I wasn't concerned about the service being free -- though free is good. I always like free. We took the bus to the fair a few years ago when our car wasn't working, it was great. Didn't have to deal with parking or getting stuck in traffic and the car overheating (which also happened one year). The buses ran regularly, all day long, until pretty late in the evening. More frequently, actually than some regular CDTA bus lines that just don't run at all on Saturdays/ Saturdays and Sundays (a topic for an upcoming post.)

A friend of mine gave me a CDTA bus map which is also available online, though not in the most usable format. It does appear that if I wanted to go to Altamont on a weekday (no weekend service), I could have gone there via the Altamont Express line (bus 21) last night-- leaves downtown Albany at 4:30 and 5:15 each weekday --that's it! So, my daughter and I could have made it to the fair Thursday evening, camped out someplace in Altamont, and woken up this morning to catch that Altamont Express to downtown Albany at 6:55. If we'd done that I'd be running home now to shower, and I could still make it to work today. Now, that would have been an adventure.

So, I take away a couple of questions from this...

1. Is the Altamont Fair in the business of being cost effective at the expense of serving the public?

2. Where is CDTA's leadership in providing transportation to our region regardless of agreements with other entities?