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Bus line proposal for upscale Albany neighborhood is scuttled by local opposition

A CDTA Blue Line bus and shelter.
A CDTA Blue Line bus and shelter.

The Capital District Transportation Authority has backed off a plan that would have installed two rapid-transit bus stops along Albany's Western Avenue.

CDTA rolled out its "red line" BusPlus rapid transit service in April 2011 along the Central Avenue corridor, connecting Albany, Colonie, Niskayuna and Schenectady. A second BRT, the "blue line," connecting downtown Albany with Troy, Cohoes, and Waterford, began operating in November 2020.

Planning is underway for the "purple line," which would traverse the Western and Washington Avenue corridor, connecting downtown Albany and Crossgates Mall, with stops at the College of Saint Rose, University at Albany and the Harriman state campus. CDTA spokesperson Jaime Kazlo:

"So the plans and talking about the purple line have been out there for quite a while," said Kazlo.

But the "purple line" hit a speed bump: residents along Western Avenue balked at two planned bus stops. BRT shelters sometimes feature associated amenities such as heated sidewalks, new crosswalks and traffic signals, as well as CDPHP bikeshare hubs. Some were unhappy after learning in February CDTA planned to install two shelters where Colonial Avenue and Eileen Street intersect with Western Avenue. They feared the structures would be out of character for the neighborhood.

Kazlo says CDTA briefed residents in the spring.

“And that's kind of where the process the suggestions and feedback and, you know, the people for the project, the people against the project, that's where we started hearing more from neighbors on, their thoughts on what the proposed plan for that stretch of Western was,” Kazlo said.

Catina Mavodones with the Melrose Neighborhood Association criticized CDTA at a July 18th at an Albany Common Council meeting, saying residents initially were shown a diagram that did not specify any shelter locations. And the residents’ suggestion of placing the stops at Brevator Street fell on deaf ears.

“When we had subsequent emails and meetings with CDTA, none of our additional questions were answered or responded to in a timely fashion," said Mavodones. "Moreover, there was no public outreach to the property owners affected.”

Kazlo says CDTA got to a point where it was hard to come up with a solution that wouldn't divide neighbors.

“Sometimes you do run into issues where it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's time to go back to the drawing board to see what we can do in this area, to enhance bus service in the area, without going to the length of putting a station or a shelter in this particular stretch of Western,” said Kazlo.

Not everyone opposed the bus stops. Evelyn Berry told the Common Council amenities CDTA shelters offer would enhance any neighborhood.

“I think that a heated bus stop is a great idea," said Berry. "It makes taking the bus easier, cheaper and just a better experience for everyone. I don't understand why people wouldn't want that. Like if I could have a bus stop in my front yard. I feel like I’d really want that. It'd be great.”

But in the end, the residents who lobbied hardest and loudest got what they wanted. No shelters.

Kazlo says the neighborhood shunning will not slow CDTA down.

“We do deal with this a lot, maybe not to this scale, where it ends up being the front page of the newspaper," Kazlo said. "But we do, we deal with issues like this all the time. Typically we can come to some sort of a resolution that is, you know, that's good, good for all. This one, unfortunately, it’s back to the drawing board to figure out, okay, what is our next best step? “

Kazlo says CDTA is confident a solution will be found that enhances transit service along that corridor. She adds the authority expects the "purple line" to be up and running on schedule in autumn 2023.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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