Tuesday, March 25, 2008

CDTA Needs More Consistent Service on Number 13 Route

Yesterday, I had an appointment at the doctor's office here. The bus goes into the parking lot, sometimes. But, not all times. The stop is called Mercycare on the bus schedule, the bus system and Trip Planner even though the name of the building is Slingerlands Medical Arts. Once upon a time, I believe there was a building there called Mercycare, and I think it was affiliated with St. Peter's Hospital. But, that's about as relevant to the average CDTA bus rider today as what the bus fare was in 1990. What's relevant now is that it's confusing to have a stop named Mercycare throughout your system, but no building at the location with such a name. A pet peeve of mine that I've called CDTA about, to no avail.

Yesterday, I missed the bus that goes into the parking lot at 1240 New Scotland Road, otherwise known as Slingerlands Medical Arts. I probably missed the bus because I was sitting at my computer for too long ending my short-lived love affair with CDTA's Trip Planner .

I took the next bus, the bus that doesn't go into the parking lot and I had to get off here. Hopefully you can manipulate the view to see that there is a sidewalk to cross the bridge, and then that's it-- the sidewalk ends. Just the side of the road where you hope the cars won't cross that white line. There are signs posted with a speed limit of 30 mph, but I didn't sense a single car whizzing by me at such a speed. It was dangerous, yet I made it to the office without injury.

When I was finished with my doctor's appointment, I had a choice, I could do the safe thing and wait about an hour in the parking lot for the next bus, or walk back out to the bus stop, and only wait about 10 minutes. Would you like to guess which option I chose?

When I made my way to the stop heading back into Albany, there was a bus on the other side of New Scotland Road, someone getting out at the same stop that I had used a little while before -- obviously, he also missed the bus that goes into the parking lot. The passenger was taking a long time getting off the bus, cars were lining up behind the bus, and I was watching, wondering what was going on. When he finally got off the bus, I understood what took so long. He had a limp and a cane... and he crossed over to my side of the street-- very slowly. I think my heart skipped a beat watching him, I was quite worried about him making it across the road, worrying that a driver of a car behind the bus might be getting impatient and decide to gun it. He crossed the street without incident and he hobbled off down the dangerous road towards the doctor's office. The road with no sidewalk, holding his cane. A few moments later, a good Samaritan noticed him hobbling, turned his car around, and gave the man a ride to his appointment. I know this because that same good Samaritan drove up to me when he finished good deed number one to see if I wanted a ride. I graciously declined since the Number 13 bus was right behind his car, and I'd have another opportunity to be sure I milk my $44 per month for every penny it's worth.

I do wonder if it's time to re-route all Number 13 buses into the Slingerlands Medical Arts Building parking lot.

The Drive to drive

I LOVE driving. I've always loved it. Short drives, long drives, country road drives, maneuvering through a city, heck, I even enjoy parallel parking on the left side of a one-way street. I think there are only two kinds of driving I don't like (i) sitting in a traffic jam and (ii) wandering around a city I'm not familiar with... lost. Overall, I'm in a special groove when I'm behind the wheel. I'm seemingly in control of my destiny... or at least my destination.

So, why did I stop doing it on a regular basis?

In the short term, economics.

In the long run, a lesson for my kid -- a challenge for myself. A healthy dose of self-torture. And doing my little part for the environment, of course.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Some Disparaties in Shopping

I do love my shopping cart, but it's been out of commission lately

thanks to the icy sidewalks like this one.
It's been a little easier to shop lightly with a back pack and a couple of canvass shoulder bags than to risk balancing on the ice while pulling the cart along behind me. With today's rain melting away the ice, I could be bringing the cart out for a trip this weekend.

Usually, when it's time to go the store, I head to the food co-op, one of the Price Choppers or Hannaford, but the other day, a friend of mine was taking her mini van to go grocery shopping and asked if I'd like to join her. I thought about the near-luxury of buying a jumbo pack of paper towels and perhaps some laundry detergent and having it driven right to my front door, and I didn't hesitate to take her up on the offer. When I got in the car, she asked if I'd like to go to the Price Chopper on Central or the one in Slingerlands. Decisions, decisions. We went for Slingerlands, and BOY what a difference -- what good service they've got in the suburbs -- we were astonished.

There were two major points of exceptional service that we both noticed.

  1. Upon walking up to the store's entrance, a Price Chopper employee in charge of carts was wheeling back a number of carts from the parking lot, and putting them into the location for shoppers to use. The employee saw us coming, pulled us each out a shopping cart, checked the cart for debris and removed the debris from the carts, then handed us each a cart. Wow. Here in Albany -- this just doesn't happen.
  2. During checkout they have quite a system of packing. Each cash register station must start off their day with an extra cart. So, when your items are being bagged, you don't have to wheel your cart to the front of the cashier to be loaded with your bags because they already have a cart there ready to go. It's a little thing, yes -- but the system is what's noticeable. I really noticed a team spirit among the people I saw working there. Granted, I have seen this type of packing before -- but NEVER at a Price Chopper or Hannaford in the city of Albany (and it wouldn't happen at the co-op because there just isn't room...yet.)
Of course, the store was also more brightly lit and much cleaner than the stores we have here in the city.

Why is it that folks in the suburbs are treated to brightly lit stores with better service than those of us who reside in the city?

Well, I had fun on my outing, but I'm not moving out of this pretty city any time soon. Of course, the Number 13 bus does go to the Slingerlands Price Chopper, so I could return on my own, and bring my shopping cart along for the ride!