Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just in time...

I'm getting ready for a busy week of holding rehearsals at New Scotland Elementary all in preparation for the 3rd annual Turnoff Week Talent Show this Saturday night. I take Turnoff Week seriously and don't use the computer for recreational use - this blog -- well, it just doesn't count as work.

I couldn't let myself start Turnoff Week without sharing the great news. Here it is:

I have a bike!
(it's the one on the right - the teal one-- first trip to the Normanskill for my new bike today)

After relying on my sturdy feet, CDTA and not using a car to get around regularly for almost 2 years, to finally have a set of wheels is incredibly liberating. I haven't stopped smiling.

(My bike on its first bus - at least in its new role as my bike)

I've zipped around town every day since picking up the bike (and helmet) Wednesday after helping to repair it on Tuesday down at the Troy Bike Rescue here in Albany.

(The check-in sheet that we diligently completed when making sure my bike was ready to roll)

Thanks to Mary Lou and Chris and all the other volunteers down on Trinity Place.

So, just in time for Earth Day and even before Bike Month, I have a bike.

Living in Albany without a car just got a whole lot easier.

3 Days with a Car

I've just about made it through spring break.

My almost 10-year old daughter, Sierra has an hourly mantra. It goes like this: I'm borrrrrred!

I've built up an immunity to the whiny sounds that periodically spew from her mouth. I think it's the only way I'll survive the next few years.

Sierra wanted to go someplace during spring break. Fair enough. I'd love to go someplace too.

One of her friends ventured to California for the entire break. Another took a two-day holiday to Mystic, Connecticut.

The first night of school vacation, Sierra asked if we could go to New York City. That can be a pretty economical trip considering my sister still lives in the apartment we moved to when I was 10 in the West Village, my awesome uncle is in the apartment in Brooklyn Heights that he's had since I was younger than my daughter, and my mom is in those co-ops in the 20s on the west side built in part by the ILGWU. Always a place to stay, and always a good meal.

I checked the Mega bus to see if I could get any deals -- nothing great.

I checked Enterprise to see if they had any of their weekend deals. Yup. 50% off for three days.

Then, I checked the weather forecast for the weekend in the city. Pretty grim. I told Sierra I was still up for the trip, but she decided since it wasn't beach weather and because I erroneously thought Coney Island was now closed, Sierra preferred that I rent a car and we use it to do things around here that we don't usually do together.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized it had been more than a year since I'd rented a car to just hang out around town.

Friday morning, the Enterprise employee pulled up on our block and drove us to their Central Avenue location. The total 3-day rental costs including the damage waiver insurance came to under $90. I wound up spending about $20 on gas --total. Not bad.

Sierra wanted to see a movie. Okay with me, but the weather was beautiful and I wasn't setting foot inside a movie theatre until it started to get rainy. We went to Colonie Center in the early afternoon to purchase tickets for the 6:40 show, and since we were out that way, I suggested we check out the Pine Bush Preserve and/or visit the Pine Bush Discovery Center.

There wasn't really enough time to do both since we were scheduled to pick up one of her friends in about an hour and a half. Since we were close to the only preserve location that I knew of without looking anything up, I pulled into the parking lot off of Fuller Road. As it turned out, we were there to witness the lake being stocked with trout. I don't find that particular section of the preserve peaceful -- the whooshing sound of cars all around me was a bit unnerving.

We left to pick up her friend.

I gave them a choice.

Central Park in Schenectady or the Crossings in Colonie. Schenectady was the winner. I was happy with that. I hadn't looked for groundhogs playing in the grass on Thruway along the drive to Schenectady in a long time.

Some of the equipment at Central Park looks like it's been around since I was a kid.

Big and sturdy and lots of fun.

I like the fact that there are huge trees amidst the play equipment at Central Park.

The ice cream truck showed up while we were there -- so for the kids, it was a winner of a choice.

And then it was time to go. Short and sweet trip to Schenectady's Central Park.

I survived the movie -- though my wallet was significantly lighter when we left Colonie Center that night --ouch.

The next day Sierra decided she wanted to go to Hancock Shaker Village. She's a sucker for baby animals, and yes, it's that time of year.

And she still likes playing dress-up.

When I got home that night I was wiped out. Driving. Baby animals. More driving. I'm not used to it.

The next day it was time for me to have a play date -- it was so weird to drive over to Barry's house. Oxymoron in action. Barry has told me more than once that he hates cars.

He recently discovered the Mohawk and thought it would be fun for us to drive to Vischer Ferry. And so we did. I'd never been there.

I always thought Clifton Park was nothing more than suburban development, big box stores, and a mall. Alas, I was wrong. There are parts that are quite beautiful.

And we saw a whole bunch of birds.

But the driving was bizarre. Barry and I usually have a comfortable rhythm and rapport when we hang out. But, as I took him up the Northway and we looked for places to pull over and check out the water with my foot on the gas pedal making the car go "whoosh", I found myself feeling out of sorts.

Once we parked and our feet were firmly planted on Earth -- I was much more at ease, and we returned to our normal outdoor exploring rhythm -- looking at lichens and birds and all kinds of plants.

I think it's all about what you're used to. And it has happened. I am now very used to getting around this region without driving a car.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

10-Trip Deal was for Real

In case you saw the post on AOA, and weren't sure whether or not to purchase yourself a 10-trip Swiper (or two...) prior to April 1 to perhaps save $3.50 per Swiper.

I tested it this morning.

It worked just fine.

My grandmother would be proud.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day Fare Hike Arrives

The day of the astronomical fare hike is upon us.


As mentioned elsewhere, I couldn't decide what I was going to do -- would I really continue to purchase a 7-day monthly bus pass when the retail price was going up a whopping 50%? (Woodruff's TU article states, "Increases in pre-paid Swiper cards and other fare payment methods also take effect, though those increases will generally be less than 50 percent." -- I think she might need a math tutor -- most fares, no matter how sliced are going up 50% or more.) That 50% increase really got me pondering the value of a 7-day pass, and in fact, the name itself, 7-day Swiper. C'mon CDTA, can you really call it a 7-day Swiper, when at my last count (and things have changed a bit) there were 35 "Albany" bus lines, and only 11 run on Sundays? Not to mention, some of the lines that do run stop service by 6 or 7 p.m. on a Sunday!

I live closest to the Number 3 and Number 4 lines -- no weekend 4 service at all and no 3 service on Sundays.

I spend a lot of time in the Delaware Avenue neighborhood, but ask anyone who lives in that neighborhood about bus service and you'll get an earful of complaints. no 18 or 9 service on Sundays.

I use the 13 a lot -- but on Sundays, the last 13 to leave downtown Albany is at 5p.m. - the last one to leave the Slingerlands Chopper, 5:40 p.m.!

The harsh reality of the fare hike makes me realize just how much Sunday service is the bare bones of CDTA. In this economy that $10 saved by purchasing a 5-day pass rather than a 7-day could go towards something of greater value.

Then there were these thoughts running through my brain:

  • It is spring after all, and I have been talking about getting a bike for over a year now. Not to mention that my clothes are feeling a little too snug, so walking more on weekends would be good "for my figure," as my 97 year-old great Aunt Sylvia would say.
  • My conversation with the teller at the downtown KeyBank on Monday as noted on AOA. The friendly bank teller tipped me off that by purchasing a 10-trip pass before April 1 at $9.50, I'd (hopefully) still be able to use that pass for 10-trips once the increase went effect.
It was evident, all roads were pointing me towards trying out the 5-day pass, good Monday thru Friday-- at least during this first month of the fare hike. I could put the unspent $10 in my not-yet-started "save for a bicycle" box.

At about noon on March 31, I decided it was time to search for some kind of a break on the retail price.

I work for an organization that's affiliated with Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home -- actually, my office is right next door. I recalled that the nursing home does a bulk purchase of Swipers for employees, and thought I'd walk over and see if I could get in on the deal.

When I arrived, I learned that I can indeed purchase my bus pass through them -- but, the woman in charge of selling passes told me she was completely out of 5-day passes. She only had 7-day passes left - she could put in an order for more of the 5-days, but it would take a few days for them to arrive. She showed me the thick bundle of green 7-day passes that were available for sale saying that usually, at this point in the month she's out of 7-day passes, not 5-days!

I wasn't surprised to learn that with the huge fare hike, 7-day passes were no longer the hot item for the car-less employees of Daughters of Sarah. My guess is that CDTA is seeing a drastic reduction in sales of the 7-day Swiper pass. I'm also thinking ridership is going to drop. The fare hike is simply not affordable for the average CDTA rider.

So, for April, I was a bit of a fool...using my Daughters of Sarah discount, I spent $61 on a 7-day swiper instead of the $65 retail price.

It's definitely time to make my way down to the Troy Bike Rescue and learn a thing or two so I'm equipped to get around during Bike Month!