Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kissing 2008 Goodbye

Back in May 2007, when the car wouldn't start and I decided to make better use of my time than waiting around for AAA to show up, I never would have imagined that over a year and a 1/2 later, I'd be without a car -- on purpose. Yes, I often ask myself, "Why am I doing this completely insane and very time-consuming experiment??" The truth is that I'm having a whole lot of fun while doing it.

As 2008 comes to a close, it's time for me to jump on the year-end reflection bus... below are a few things TQL noted in 2008.

1. The CDTA Trip Planner seemed nifty when it was first introduced. On closer examination, I noticed it was rather clunky and didn't provide clear information on the shuttle stops.

2. The CDTA monthly pass (called the Swiper) could be a lot more consumer-friendly by (i) changing the valid dates to be good 30 days from the first day of use, rather than based on the calendar month, and (ii) offering refunds for lost or stolen cards. Both of these are standard over at the MTA.

3. My good friend took me grocery shopping at the Slingerlands Chopper. We noticed some major disparities in customer service between the city and the 'burbs. I've since traveled back there a few times via bus. The best thing about letting CDTA take me to the Slingerlands Price Chopper is that I don't have to get confused by the obtuse signage of the Slingerlands roundabouts.

4. I experienced the overcrowded Route 5 corridor first-hand one Sunday night when I was late picking my daughter up from a friend's house.

5. In the final days of my relationship with CDTA's Trip Planner, I noted that CDTA didn't program the Trip Planner with the holiday schedule over Memorial Day. I was thrilled to start something new with Google Transit which seemed to make my life easier. When Labor Day rolled around, I ran another test of inter-office communication, which yielded different results than the Memorial Day experiment.

6. I dreamt of light rail, contemplated car sharing, and kvetched about CDTA's circular reasoning (which they occasionally dismantle, but not consistently).

7. I'm not nearly as productive a blogger as I could be, and I've been happy to share info with the fab folks at AOA -- including CDTA's new jingle and the innovative partnership between the Affordable Housing Partnership and CDTA that my friend "Lucy" tipped me off about.

8. I highlighted a few bus adventures and encounters. Some fun. Some not so fun. I contemplated neighborhood planning and learned a bit of Albany's trolley history from my friends, Nancy and Gregg.

9. Gun violence surged in the city. The death of a 10-year old girl sixteen blocks from my home in May and the killing of a college student two blocks from home in October spoke volumes to me about how Albany's neighborhoods have been neglected.

10. I worked with a bunch of great people to fight CDTA's fare hike. The fun all started when I called my friend Roger November 30 to discuss taking action against the hike. I dragged an anti-automobile boy to the public hearing on December 4 (with the plan to get some Crisan gelato after the hearing no matter how cold it was outside), and we met a few people who were ready to work to Stop the Hike. Unfortunately, the board passed the revised fare increase without considering that they could have real options not far ahead if they would only push for them (yes, the 7th Avenue subway line needs help-- but Capital Region residents and visitors deserve affordable mass transit too!) ... still, I look forward to working with Ray Melleady and the CDTA crew in the future.

As for my thoughts for 2009 - check out what I told my friends at All Over Albany.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Capital Region Transit Advocates Launches Blog

Check it out.

There's a link to an online petition.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

iRide Green when weStop the Hike

I've been busy pondering the fare hike - talking to friends, shooting emails back and forth, and trying to focus on the core issues that a broad coalition of transit supporters (with varying pet peeves) can agree upon when it comes to taking a position on CDTA's proposed fare increases and its impact on riders. (Yes, I wrote that article.)

We're getting a petition together (hoping to have it available in hard copy and online by the weekend) which we'll submit to CDTA on December 12 - the last day to submit written comments.

Here are the points we're focusing on:

1. The proposed 50% fare hike and service cuts are too steep and will hurt low income people who depend on CDTA as their primary mode of transportation.

2. The proposed 50% fare hike will likely send many of CDTA's new riders who take the bus by choice, right back to their cars.

3. CDTA argues that higher fuel costs are part of what is driving up operating costs, with the recent drastic drop in fuel costs, it doesn't appear that a 50% fare hike can be justified.

Our coalition understands that CDTA is under-funded, and we are calling for government to make an investment in mass transit so that fares stay affordable for those who depend on it, and attractive to those who might want to give the bus a whirl.

Public Hearings have started already -- they were held Monday in Saratoga County, yesterday in Rensselaer County... if you've got reports from either of those locations, send in comments. I'm eager to hear about the turnout and the fare increase feedback from the public.

Tomorrow is Albany County - 4:30 - 8 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Albany Public Library. Your so-called transit riding superhero will be there.

Monday, December 8 is Schenectady - 4:30 - 8 p.m. at the Schenectady County Public Library.

I was under the impression that the hearings would provide details on the proposed service cuts. But I've seen no reports, there's nothing about the specifics on the website, and when I asked a bus driver this morning if he'd heard about pending service cuts, he said he'd heard nothing. So... when are they going to tell us? If you know, please share.