As CDTA moves into its next phase of route restructuring, we are looking at the effects of the new phase on the riders and also following up on the issues from our last article.
Phase two of this restructuring plan is touted to provide new connections to transfer routes and add on more late night and weekend runs throughout the area. The plan will primarily be affecting the Northern and Western sections of Albany and the immediate adjacent towns.
The first major and noticeable change was the removal of the 10X. This express route had provided commuters from Altamont, Guilderland and Voorheesvile with transportation to downtown Albany businesses and state offices. Time on the bus was about 20 minutes. Replaced by the 719, the passengers no longer have the shorter and quicker transportation. While the 719 still starts the run at Crossgates Mall it no longer uses Interstate 90. Instead it takes State Route 146 through Guilderland and Altamont. Continuing on through Voorheesville and Bethlehem. Arriving at the Empire State Plaza across from the NYS Library the commute takes about one hour and 10 minutes.
According to state workers at the Empire State Plaza agency buildings this has increased the commute time by about 40 minutes even with a minimum of pick-up points and few passengers. The return run in the evening is no better. One passenger, who prefers to only go by the initials H.N., had this to say when asked about the evening return on Nov. 14, "Not too good. It is not very full. Not many Voorheesville or Delmar people. The way in isn’t too bad. but the way home is horrible. The first night took 73 minutes to get to Alatmont and last night took 63 minutes."
There has been an increase in the number of runs during the peak travel hours but it has also increased the time on the bus causing riders to begin their day earlier than before.
Some of the more positive changes from both Phase one and Phase two have been the introduction of the Bus Plus, a semi-express run from Schenectady to downtown Albany with only a limited number of stops. Though the time of the ride is somewhat reduced the passenger load per run has increased. New bicycle racks have been added to the stops for people in the cities proper to use for connection but seem to be lightly used.
An express service has been added to increased frequency on the routes to Watervliet, Cohoes, Troy and points north. There are also new services running to Albany International Airport.
In following up on the removal of Rt. 232 from the East Greenbush area during Phase one we spoke to one of the commuters, Cindy S., who has medical disabilities that leave her susceptible to dizziness and seizures. She must now call up for the STAR bus, which does not always have a regular pick up time. The route and number of patrons can change from day to day. She now gets picked up somewhat earlier, around 6:30 a.m.
The bus picks up other passengers on a route which changes from day to day. The passengers are not dropped off according to needed arrival times. She must now endure a longer ride and often arrives either too early or late for work. While she says that they have been better at picking her up at the end of the day, her commute time in both directions has now doubled.
We have tried to contact CDTA as to the impact of Phase one in terms of customer satisfaction, comments or company follow-ups. As to the financial outcome of the changes: was there an increase in ridership and revenue during this period. What criteria were used to develop these changes? Will there be further Phases to follow? To date we have not received a reply to our e-mails.
Next we will take a look at how the most recent changes have affected commuters and what any upcoming restructuring phases may entail.