Monday, June 23, 2008

Albany is to Austin as CDTA is to Capital Metro?

If you've been around this region for a little while, you've probably heard comparisons to Austin, Texas. Not because of the climate, the natural resources, or the mayor, but because of Austin's growth and expansion in the tech sector which started in the 1980's. As a matter of fact, a bunch of folks from NY's Capital Region took a field trip to Austin in 2003, and gathered some information. There's the still-unfolding Sematech story, of course, as well as buzz in the nano industry about what that tiny technology is doing for Albany and Austin.

What about Austin's public transporation?

Currently they've got buses, with big plans for expanding into train service.

I'm sure the good folks at CDTA and CDTC are keeping abreast of trends in transportation. As a matter of fact, Austin's Capital Metro website has many of the same features as CDTA's site.

Here's something they have that we don't.

A new blog run by the staff at Capital Metro -- sounds daring to me. Meanwhile, I can't imagine CDTA planning to launch a blog when the board's governance committee recommended at the last board meeting to stick to the status quo and keep their meetings running without a public comment period. You can watch the video of that entire meeting on the CDTA website. BTW, Austin's Capital Metro board meetings do have public comment periods, with lots of rules.

AND HEY! National Dump the Pump Day was June 19th.

Over 100 transit agencies, including our very own, participated in the push to entice consumers to choose public transportation over personal vehicles. From Washington State to Kansas and the Ozarks to Florida, transit organizations provided facts and gave away lots of rides, cookies and even cash to willing participants.

CDTA is giving folks in our region until today, June 23 to enter to win free rides -- and you don't have to be a new rider to enter. Read all about it here, and I hope you are one of the lucky winners so we can catch up on the bus!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CDTA Dismantles Circular Reasoning in Time for the Truckers

I'm in the habit of checking the TU website periodically throughout the day. A few minutes ago, I noticed a headline on the newspaper's re-designed home page, "Truckers rally reroutes buses". The article gives some general information about the reroutes, and notifies the public that "CDTA supervisors will be stationed downtown to help customers with boarding." Cool. The article also refers the public to CDTA's Customer Information Line or the CDTA website for more information.

Just eight days ago, I ranted about CDTA's circular reasoning when it came to notifying the public of bus reroutes.

So, when I went to the website, I assumed it would be more of the same circular reasoning.

But no.

The service alert announcing reroutes for Thursday's Truckers-in-town included the reroute details for each of the affected bus lines in the press release, posted right on the website for riders to view.

Never mind that it uses the phrase "staging area" which I cannot write without hearing Donald Rumsfeld's voice in the back of my head.

It's great to have the information with a couple of clicks -- thank you CDTA!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dreaming of Light Rail

The long bus commute is taking its toll on me.

The 40 minutes to an hour each way is time that could be spent much more productively, especially when it would take only 15 minutes each way driving! If I drove to work, I'd have more time to try to pick up that freelance work I really need so the bills get paid, or catch up on one of the ten volunteer projects I've fallen behind on, or clean my house, mow the lawn and do laundry.

Then I spend about 10 seconds contemplating the jump back into the daily car culture --the upfront purchase cost of a vehicle, the cost of insurance, upkeep, and the rising price of gasoline. Meanwhile, I'm in no position to purchase a hybrid, so I pile on the guilt associated with my carbon footprint. This is no time for me to return to car ownership, upkeep and daily gas guzzling.

Today's TU Getting There column and All Over Albany's reference to this article in the Saratogian got me thinking about car pooling. There are folks I could car pool to work with, but my schedule is so erratic, I don't see it as a viable option for me right now.

In reality, I long for the well-functioning good service of my truly beloved MTA subway lines.

There's been chit chat here, there and everywhere about how this region is ripe for some light rail. Supposedly, CDTA's Bus Rapid Transit (go to p. 3 for story) (BRT) would run "similarly" to light rail, though I don't buy it for a minute since the buses will still be subject to traffic and stop lights.

I may have been dreaming one recent Saturday morning at 6:30, when my daughter woke up early and flicked on the T.V. Someone whom I believe to be Joe Condon was interviewing Mayor Jennings. I don't know what channel it was, and I wondered whether we finally now have public access TV here in Albany, but I don't think that's what I was seeing. During my absolute favorite part of the interview our Mayor mentioned how there's been discussion of putting a light rail in on Western Avenue!


Was I dreaming or might this actually happen? Could Albany enter the 21st Century before the first decade is up?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Adventure to Patroon Creek

I had some personal business to take care of at CDPHP recently. The insurer has a beautiful office building off Washington Avenue at 500 Patroon Creek Boulevard, by the State Office Campus.

Anyone who has dealt with CDPHP's leadership will tell you how wonderful recently-retired, Dr. Bill Cromie is -- he's just one of those very genuine, down to earth, all-around great people. Plus, they say CDPHP is a nice place to work, with good benefits, a fitness center, a massage therapist and a cafeteria that even serves it up organically. When you enter as a customer, the reception area is pleasant with comfy seating, and complimentary coffee.

What CDPHP doesn't have yet is safe access to public transportation.
I guess all of their employees drive or carpool to work each day, because I can't imagine anyone making the trek to work by bus, especially in the brutal and icy Albany winter.

In preparation for my recent trip to the CDPHP offices, I decided to once again use CDTA's Trip Planner , but I didn't get very far because the software doesn't recognize Patroon Creek Boulevard as a valid street, yet Google Maps does.

Knowing the offices were off of Washington Avenue, I made my way over to Washington Avenue and hopped on a Number 12. Upon boarding, I asked the bus driver when I needed to get off to go to CDPHP.

He explained to me that the bus didn't go into Patroon Creek Boulevard, but that they were building condos there, and that once the condos were completed, he believed occasional buses would stop there. He then went on to tell me that there are certain buses scheduled to go into the State Office Campus, and I might find it easier to walk to Building 8 (of the State Office Campus) to catch a bus on my way back.

I decided to keep my absolute clueless-ness about the State Office Campus to myself. I don't know where Building 8 is, nor is it on my list of things to figure out in the near future. Every time I drive into the State Office Campus, I get lost, and I can't imagine hoofing it in search of Building 8 to be any easier. Of course, there are big plans in the works for that whole area as this recent article reminds us... no one knows yet what shape they'll take.

The nice driver explained to me that I'd need to get off the bus before the bridge because he couldn't make any stops after it. And so I did.

Then I walked... where there are no sidewalks... along this road here,

and past the lovely satellite dishes.

I waded through the high grass and came upon the sign that the condos were being built,

and saw the condos in progress.

Thankfully, it was a nice day for a very, very long walk.

I find it unconscionable that a huge employer like CDPHP, the multiple medical offices located off Washington Avenue and the credit union, SEFCU have been growing and growing without demanding access to public transportation for their customers and employees -- and that it's all within city limits makes it all the more appalling!

Apparently, long-term plans are in the works for transportation to service the expansion throughout the area -- CDTA has "newsletter" about a linkage study posted on their website which even discusses zipcar as a car sharing option. Currently, though if you don't have a car, you're up ____'s Creek without a paddle when you have to get to Patroon Creek.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Circular Reasoning brought to you by CDTA

CDTA sends out media alerts when there is a scheduled re-route of a bus line for events like parades, runs, festivals and road pavings. This is a good thing.

The Times Union prints the information in the newspaper in articles like this one. This is also a good thing.

Note the last line of the article, "Riders can get more information about the route changes by visiting or by calling 482-8822."

"Cool," I say to myself, "I can go to the website and see a map of the temporary routes!"

With a few key strokes and a couple of mouse clicks... I go to this page on CDTA's website, which not only has recent re-routing information, but for all those folks clamoring for a three-year history of CDTA re-routes, our transit authority provides that too! I click on the re-route link, "CDTA Announces Re-routes to Accommodate Albany Paving Project" and what do I get? Basically the same information provided in the newspaper article. As a matter of fact, the link is the press release sent to media outlets, and nothing more. There are no visuals, no map, no naming of re-route stops, no estimated time changes.

The link refers me back to CDTA's home page so that I can find the same information all over again... sending me in circles.

This is not a good thing.

So, really and truly -- the only way to get information is to call the CDTA information line, 482-8822. I didn't do it this weekend -- but I'm assuming the operators were provided detailed information to assist anyone who called with questions.

But, wait --- if CDTA's customer service operators are given detailed re-route info-- how much more work would it take to tweak that to be posted on the website?

Come on, CDTA -- I know you can do better! Stop sending your riders in circles and get us usable re-route info on the website.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Saving the Neighborhoods

Updates on the tragedy of Kathina Thomas...

- Corey Ellis' "Save our Neighborhoods" campaign is hopefully gaining momentum

- Support from throughout the city, throughout the region, continues.

- Reward amount has increased from $1,000 to $11,000, but nothing will bring back Kathina.

- While, in Schenectady, a visiting eighteen year-old was shot to death in a "targeted" attack.

- Tedisco talks of increasing penalties for killing children, but still nothing will bring back Kathina.

- In Troy yesterday, people marched for another life lost to gun violence.

- A bright Mom I know thinks elected officials are too mired in old political battles to help anytime soon, and wants a movement among mothers across divides (racial, neighborhood, economic) to end the violence, and save our children.

- Tonight, the Albany Common Council meets at 7 p.m. -- I hope they get an earful from the community.

- Tomorrow , the Gun Violence Task force meets - 4-6 p.m., "First" Israel AME Church, 381 Hamilton Street-Albany

It's time to save our neighborhoods, so that our children can become adults one day.