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Capital Region News

As CDTA Finalizes Budget, Good News For Riders: No Fare Hike For Now

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WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Bus riders throughout the Capital Region can rest easy. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports the fare isn't going up under the CDTA's new budget.

An $84.5 million spending plan was adopted this week by the authority's board of directors. CDTA CEO Carm Basile ) says there are many moving parts to the new budget.   "Some of the activities that we're looking at in addition to Navigator, we're going to implement a regional bike-sharing program later this summer.  We're looking at two new bus rapid transit lines. One, the Washington-Western corridor that connects downtown Albany with UAlbany and Crossgates Mall and a second line which operates North-South would connect Troy, Watervliet and Albany with high-frequency bus rapid transit like we operate on Route 5.

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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CDTA CEO Carm Basile

Budget funding items include replacing some older buses, installing a new communications system, moving the heavily-used bus stop at Albany's Washington Avenue Armory farther down the block and groundbreaking at the intersection of 4th and Fulton streets in Troy for the planned Uncle Sam Transit Center.

CDTA board chairman David Stackrow tells the Daily Gazette his best guess is that a fare increase is about four years away.

Basile concedes it is inevitable riders will eventually be asked to pay more to board the bus.   "Every business looks at operating expenses and operating revenue and understands what its short-term and long-term future holds. And I think all our chairman was saying is that at some point we need to be thinking about customer revenue and ways that that might have to be modified to match resources to demand."

Stackrow told the paper any fare hike would coincide with expiration of a five-year state capital improvement funding bill, adding a new plan could replace it.

Albany 10th ward Common Councilor Leah Golby describes herself as a "big fan of CDTA," who finds the service invaluable.    "Part of the reason is because I can get things done while I'm on the bus, whether it's responding to emails or catching up with somebody on a phone conversation that I need to have, so, unlike driving or riding my bike, when I really have to pay attention to what I'm doing, taking the bus is a great way to get work done and know that I'll get where I need to go safely, and it's really an important part of our transportation network."

CDTA has rebounded from a ridership slump that happened in 2010 when fares were hiked 50 cents, and it admits farebox revenue falls far short of paying the bills to keep the authority afloat. It relies on transit aid provided in the state budget.

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Basile notes CDTA's new budget goes into effect as of April 1.   "It provides for stable services, provides for an increase of about 5 percent in our bus operator head count so there'll be more bus operators to provide high-quality service that the region has come to know and appreciate. It provides for modest increases in customer revenue as comes about because of more Universal Access agreements and renewal of those Universal Access agreements with companies and colleges that we have developed long and prosperous relationships with."

CDTA tallied some 17 million passenger boardings over the past fiscal year.  The authority currently employs 405 operators to drive its fleet of 225 buses.

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