Monday, November 17, 2008

Albany transit: present, past, future...

The fall conference of the New York Public Transportation Association (NYPTA) doesn't usually get mentioned in a New York Times op-ed. While reporters at the conference were hoping for info about Hillary's place on the Obama short list for Secretary of State, I'm more interested in the following:
  • Where was my invitation to the affair? Lost in the mail, I assume. Actually, transit riders, including so-called superheroes, are not standard NYPTA members.

  • CDTA's Executive Director, Ray Melleady's rise to the President of this organization. I hear before he came to our neck of the woods, Melleady started out as a mechanic for a Pennsylvania transit authority.

  • Whether anyone from Rochester Transit shared their strategies for reducing bus fares to $1 per ride...looking at the program, the answer to that question would be, "Not this time around."

Can anyone tell me if the wonders of modern day trolleys were discussed at the meeting? I know trolley, train or other transit service that moves us along faster than our current system, is part of my hope for the future of public transportation for our region.

Speaking of trolleys, I learned some Albany history from my good friends Gregg and Nancy on a recent night out. They told me my favorite CDTA bus line, the Number 3, follows the route of one of Albany's original trolley lines - and I was totally unaware that I walk by one of the old electrical posts every day on Quail Street. [UPDATE: Greg's comment below reminded me that I neglected to mention the location on Quail Street where you can find the old trolley post - it's near the corner of Western Avenue - on the south west side of Quail Street. I also learned from the historically astute Nancy and Gregg that there's one other old trolley post still hanging around on Hamilton Street just off Lark, thanks to some vociferous neighborhood preservation folk.]

Meanwhile, in current local transit news, Roger Green tells us that Citizens for Public Transportation will hold their monthly meeting this Wednesday, November 19, at 7 p.m. at the Albany Public Library. Topic: Fare Hike.
Consider this your invitation to the meeting. I'll be there to put in my two cents about CDTA's proposed 50% fare hike -I hope you will too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Night with my Daughter

Most election nights, I go out and watch the returns with my fellow campaigners.

This year was different. My daughter declared the first week of school, "I'm studying Barack Obama and John McCain." And so it was...the first Presidential election where she was engaged in the race -- big time. My child was much more certain than I was of an Obama victory; all of her polling told her so. There were only 2 kids in her class of sixteen supporting McCain. The 4th and 5th grades held a mock election at school and Obama won by an overwhelming majority. Finally, she argued, according to the Nick online poll, Obama won -- so duh, Mom... Obama was clearly going to be our next President.

My African American daughter heard me talk of the Bradley effect, but really, she doesn't get racism...yet. Not the way that I do, certainly not the way that her dad does, absolutely not the way her grandparents, who grew up "Negroes" in the segregated south do.

Priorities. I made a decision to stay home and watch the returns from the couch with the kid.

Early in the night, I was feeling hopeful. The news from Pennsylvania -- a good indicator of things to come. In addition to the Presidential race, we were interested in a number of local elections, as the 4 remaining lawn signs on the little patch of grass in front of our house indicated. At one point, there were 5 signs. Our Obama sign was stolen about 3 weeks before the election.

My kid was confident and tired. She fell asleep around 10 p.m. on the couch.

I was the lone awake one in the house, t.v. going in the living room, NPR in the kitchen. At 11:01, I was keeping busy in the kitchen when I heard the news of a declaration of our President-Elect. Followed by a burst of hoorahs from someplace outside. I smiled. The last time I heard hoorahs in the streets was for a Yankees victory in the World Series. I ran into the living room to tell my sleeping beauty the good news. She seemed to acknowledge me, but was more interested in continuing her dream.

And so, I waited for the great orator to give his speech. And watched. And sat at the computer, checking the TU site. And sent "Yes we can" texts to a few of my friends. And I was elated.

I thought about the conversation I'd had that afternoon with a woman who called me to discuss the school board race. I was supporting two candidates (one of them, the only African American candidate in the race), and she had questions. This is a very intelligent and very idealistic white woman. This is a woman who has trouble believing people are still judged by the color of their skin. She told me she hoped with this election, that would end. I told her I thought it would take more than this election, but that if Obama were elected, it would be another very good step in the right direction.

I thought about the conversation I'd had that day with an African American male friend whose young children moved to a rural Capital Region town with their white mother. As soon as the family moved in, confederate flags went up at certain houses.

I know there's still racism. It can be scarily subtle and it can be in-your-face-obvious.

The beautiful thing is that we outnumbered them at the polls on November 4th. Not that I believe every vote for McCain was cast out of racism, but I've heard enough to know, that (to tweak PE for a minute) Fear of a Black President brought many to vote against Obama because of race.

November 5th, I was walking on air. The first time ever in a Presidential election year, that every single vote I cast was a winning one-- from the school board, to a local proposition, right on up to the President! It was one of those days where nothing was going to get me down. I walked my daughter to the bus stop in the morning, newspaper in hand. I asked one of the kids with a great big smile on my face, "Who's going to be the next President?"

"Obama!" he responded.

One girl asked, "We know who the President is already??"

I showed her the front page of the newspaper, and I watched her young face light up as she looked at it.

That afternoon, I got on the Number 10 at the end of my workday, and I noticed a bright red seat directly behind the driver's seat. I'd seen the seat before, but had never paid attention.

Then I noticed there was more than a seat... there was a commemorative plaque.

The plaque noted the red seat was in honor of Rosa Parks.

A very good reminder that the Presidential victory of the previous day was only possible because of the courage of Ms. Parks and thousands of other Americans whose names I'll never know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

VOTE in Today's Historic General Election

Considering the number of hits to this site yesterday from people looking for polling times - here you go:

In Albany County, the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. If you are unsure of your polling location, you can use this quirky tool on the Albany County Board of Elections website, or call the Board of Elections at (518) 487-5060.

Voting in the City of Albany? Don't forget Proposition 2 and the school board race. The school board candidates and the proposition will not be in the obvious upper left section of the ballot with all the "big stuff" -- so you really need to look for them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What to do Election Eve? Check out this cool FREE film...

The Pine Hills Neighborhood Association is screening Contested Streets tonight at Steamer 10 Theater - 500 Western Avenue -7 p.m. It's FREE.

Looks cool.

Wish I could make it there.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

CDTA Posts Fare Hike Details

I popped over to CDTA's website this morning, and I see they've finally listed information about the proposed fare hike. The information is quite robust, and includes many more details than last week's TU article about fares on the rise. The article noted that over 50% of the boardings are pre-paid, and I'm assuming that includes the use of the $3 Day Card, which after the initial purchase becomes pre-paid media. It's important to remember that CDTA no longer offers transfers, while MTA does, and so if you plan on taking a bus more than 3 times in one day, it pays to purchase a Day Card. I'm interested in learning the breakdown in pre-paid fares by media type -- e.g. daily percentages of 7-day monthly swipers, 5-day monthly-swipers, Day Cards, etc.

I've got lots of opinions and ideas about this proposal, and as regular readers have probably picked up, I'm flat-out opposed to the fare hike. I think it's too steep and will hurt those who rely on CDTA the most, and I'm dumb-founded that Rochester (similar-sized fleet) was able to cut their base fare down to $1 per ride during the same month that CDTA decided they had no choice but to impose a whopping 50% base fare increase on its riders. How is that possible? What is CDTA not doing right?

If the proposed fare hike is implemented as planned, your local transit-riding superhero is urging CDTA to make the following adjustments to their fare sales (actually, these adjustments would be welcome regardless of a fare hike) :
1. Re-instate transfers to be distributed the same way MTA distributes transfers.
2. Change both types of monthly passes to be valid for 30 days from the time of first use so that bus riders can purchase the cards on whatever date is most convenient for them.

Meanwhile, if you believe the proposed fare hike goes overboard and would like to work for a more reasonable solution, send me a note via the email link on the "Contact" section on my profile.