With so much attention currently focused on the MTA capital program, it’s easy to overlook the challenges and achievements of lesser-known Upstate transit systems. Today, TSTC intern Sandy Johnston presents part one of a two-part feature exploring the Capital District Transportation Authority.
Over the past five years, CDTA has introduced a series of innovations, including a new fare payment system, route restructurings, and most importantly its new service, branded as BusPlus. The first BusPlus route, which opened in 2011, connects downtown Albany and downtown Schenectady via Route 5 (Central Avenue). BusPlus introduced to Upstate several of the important features of BRT, including special branding, less-frequent stops, speed enhancements such as Traffic Signal Priority and queue jumps at busy intersections, and more amenities at stations. The new service has decreased end-to-end run times in the corridor and has seen significant ridership gains.
CDTA also has plans to introduce two new BusPlus routes in the coming years, forming a network the agency is labeling “40 Miles of BRT.”
The more advanced of the two future lines, the Purple Line, will connect downtown Albany with several of the region’s biggest traffic generators, including the College of St. Rose, both campuses of the University at Albany, the Harriman State Office Campus, and Crossgates Mall, where it will terminate at a major transfer station to be built as part of the project.
The Blue Line, or River Corridor, will run perpendicular to the other two lines, connecting the Port of Albany and Albany’s South End with downtown Troy and the river towns of Cohoes and Waterford via downtown Albany, Menands, and Watervliet. The Blue Line will connect with the Red and Purple Lines at Albany’s cornerstone intersection, State and Pearl, and CDTA is seeking to build a major transit center to be known as the Uncle Sam Transit Center in downtown Troy as well.
When all three BusPlus lines are complete, CDTA will have covered all three of its highest-ridership corridors with high-frequency, high-quality limited-stop service that will significantly reduce travel times for many riders. The BusPlus network will connect all three of the region’s dense downtown cores and almost all of its other significant employment, cultural and educational centers.
BusPlus certainly isn’t as comprehensive a rapid transit system as, say, New York City’s subway, but when fully built out it will represent a quantum leap forward for non-automotive mobility in the Capital District. And for Upstate, that’s a big deal. New York City’s transit system deserves all of the attention—and more—that it gets. But CDTA’s efforts remind us that New York is a big state, with a lot going on outside the metropolis.