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CDTA provides yearly update on ridership trends

 CDTA vehicles on display at the "State of CDTA" presentation in Albany, March 2, 2023.
Dave Lucas
CDTA vehicles on display at the "State of CDTA" presentation in Albany, March 2, 2023.

The Capital District Transportation Authority says things are getting back to pre-pandemic normal.

The annual "State of CDTA" in Albany showcased the Authority's accomplishments over the past year and future expansion plans. CDTA Board Chairman Jayme Lahut says ridership has rebounded to 90% of where it was before COVID. He thanked CDTA employees for navigating "through three really tough years."

“They came to work every single day and kept our community together," said Lahut. "They were asked to do new things, different things, and they did it, and CDTA is better and stronger today because of their work. And as we move forward, we know the important role we play in development in our region. And that's a charge we take very seriously. From the introduction of our new electric car share program, to our Bus Rapid Transit lines, expanded Flex service, and more CDPHP cycles, we're adapting to the changing mobility, landscape and giving the region new ways to travel, we are changing our mobility dashboard, the metrics that we use to measure our success and areas that we need to work on.”

CEO Carm Basile says CDTA is about to roll out its third Bus Rapid Transit line. It will run along an eight-mile corridor on Western and Washington Avenues between Albany and Guilderland connecting downtown Albany and Crossgates Mall. The Purple line will also share selected stops with the Red and Blue lines.

“The Purple line that will connect downtown Albany, Harriman Office Campus, University at Albany and Crossgates Mall, coming the fall of 2023," Basile said. "As part of the project at UAlbany, we are building the first of its kind in this region, I think upstate New York, exclusive bus way for our buses to operate through the campus and move students and staff and faculty in a much more efficient way. At the same time, we're also improving our Red Line, our first Bus Rapid Transit service, which started in 2011, with a complete refurbishing of stations, buses and technology that hold the whole network together. So take a peek at the map. If it looks like a subway map, yeah, it's intentional. Because Bus Rapid Transit is really a light rail service on wheels for a region that really deserves an upgrade over traditional transit service.”

A merger this year will fold the Greater Glens Falls Transit system into CDTA. Last August Montgomery County merged with the CDTA. Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti:

“Development in Amsterdam is picking up, and it ties into what CDTA has done for us," Cinquanti said. "You know, an organization comes to a community and they want to develop something, one of the things on their scoreboard is public transportation. And we didn't have any. And now we do. And it's been a big driver of interest in our community in a lot of ways. “

Plug Power Workforce Development Manager Matt Grattan notes many new employees at the company’s Slingerlands factory are using public transportation, which he says can open a door of possibilities to people living in academically and economically disadvantaged communities.

“And the connection of mobility and ensuring that those individuals can get to a community college, get their ID from their community college, and that serves as their bus pass," said Grattan. "They're acclimated, familiar of how to use the public transportation system through CDTA and then can seamlessly transition to an employment opportunity with Plug Power or any of the great companies here that should be taking advantage of the Universal Access Program and more, to be able to then transition into, you know, just shifting your bus route, to be able to get to my job, you know, to us, trying to again, make those handoffs to be seamless , so that we're providing the support, it also demonstrates and shows that we're invested in our workforce as well and have to do that to be able to retain them.”

Basile adds that conversations continue with business and community leaders in other parts of upstate New York.

“We can use Warren County as an example, we aren't officially there," Basile said. "But we're to the point already, where we're deluged with calls and requests for meetings, about involving us in conversations about connecting that community. I mean, the word’s out, there's no secret anymore, about our intentions, and what we want to do. And the need for the connections and community is out there. the secret’s out there.”

Basile says that CDTA has a budget of $115 million dollars, 750 employees, 330 buses and vehicles that travel 10 million miles annually on more than 50 different routes.

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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