IX. Transit


Development of plans and programs -To accomplish the objective stated in paragraph (1), metropolitan planning organizations designated under subsection (b), in cooperation with the State and public transit operators, shall develop transportation plans and programs for urbanized areas of the State.

23 U.S.C. 134(a)(2)


Text Box: M to serve a regional transportation district encompassing Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties. 0

PO coordination with the transit operators of a region is critical for effective and comprehensive transportation planning and programming.  The CDTC and the transit operator for the Capital District area are successful in achieving this coordination.


The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) is the major transit operator for the Capital District area.  Created by the New York State Legislature in 1967, CDTA’s legislative purposes are to “…the continuance, further development and improvement of transportation and other services related thereto within the Capital District Transportation District (Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties) by rail road, omnibus, marine and air. …”  The legislation gave broad powers to the Authority to fulfill its purposes in the four county area, with provision for other counties to elect to participate.


Figure 15: CDTA Logo

CDTA, with a $47 million annual operating budget, operates fixed route bus, demand responsive complementary paratransit, shuttle van and school transportation contract services.  According to its 2003 Annual report, CDTA operates 245 regular route vehicles, 41 paratransit vehicles and 36 shuttle vehicles.  All vehicles are accessible under the American with Disabilities (ADA) regulations.  The annual bus mileage is approximately 6 million miles, and the annual customer boardings are 11 million.  CDTC employs approximately 500 people.


There are several other bus companies that provide bus service to the Capital District and surrounding communities:


  • Upstate Transit: weekday commuter service from Saratoga County to Albany County
  • Brown Coach: weekday commuter service from Montgomery County to the City of Albany
  • Schoharie County Public Transportation – weekday commuter service from Schoharie County and western Schenectady County to the City of Albany
  • Yankee Trails – weekday commuter service from Bennington, Vermont and parts of Rensselaer County to the City of Albany
  • Columbia County Public Transportation – weekday commuter service from Columbia County to the City of Albany.


These companies are included in the process through working groups, TIP project solicitations and long range plan development.




The CDTA is an organization widely recognized for its professionalism.  It is a voting member on the CDTC Policy Board and it is the host agency for the CDTC Central Staff.   CDTA has been very supportive of the transit service recommendations produced in the series of New Visions plans.


CDTA has also taken a very responsible role in enhancing regional transportation capabilities.  CDTA has assumed sponsorship of Upstate Transit vehicle projects and oversight of Upstate Transit service design; this puts CDTA in an oversight role of major private transit operations, a position recommended by CDTC as the preferred model.  In recent years, CDTA assumed the difficult lead role in advancing the Rensselaer Intermodal Center.  Until the Rensselaer Rail Station construction project, CDTA’s primary focus was the delivery of bus transit services.  This new oversight responsibility (including homeland security concerns at the station) has been a difficult and sometimes thankless endeavor, but it was been very beneficial to the Capital District.  If CDTA has not stepped forward to do it, it probably would not have been done.  CDTA has also taken the lead in constructing the I-87 Exit 8 park-and-ride lot, has established the regional brokerage, taken on oversight of the Saratoga Springs rail station, and it has agreed to assist four school districts construct a common bus garage.


CDTA is commended for this effort, especially since in none of these efforts is CDTA transit service a central feature or is there a compelling reason for CDTA to take responsibility.

Bus Rapid Transit Study

A recent example of effective collaboration between the transit operator and the MPO is the on going planning and implementation of elements of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along a major regional corridor (NY5) between the cities of Albany and Schenectady.  CDTA has been agreed to assume responsibility for a $5 million NY multi-jurisdictional Abest bus@ and highway signal ITS project along Central Avenue.


Figure 16:  Bus Rapid Transit

The BRT concept comes out of the NY5 Corridor Land Use & Transportation Study, which is a study of 16.5 miles of Route 5 between the Village of Colonie (Albany County) and the City of Schenectady. Once the Capital District's "main street," the Route 5 Corridor's vitality has been eroded over the last 50 years due to a combination of land use, transportation, social and market shifts in the Capital Region.  The CDTC, CDTA, NYSDOT and the five jurisdictions along the route precipitated in the study effort.  BRT incorporates frequent service, formal transfer stations, priority treatment (including signal preemption and dedicated transit lanes), off-board fare transactions, real time electronic arrival information and connecting feeder services.  CDTC is continuing evaluating the further development of best bus concepts, with the goal of identifying, locating and costing BRT stations.  The study effort is expected to be complete by fall 2004.


There are various CDTA initiatives that are already underway that will function as key components to BRT service.  Intelligent Transportation System Signal Project is a joint effort between CDTA, NYSDOT and the cities of Albany and Schenectady to install new coordinated signals along the corridor providing better flow for all traffic and the ability to provide transit vehicle priority under specific conditions.  Global Positioning System (GPS)-based Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) equipment on buses tied in with door status information and schedule information will optimize bus signal priority.  The AVL system will also be tied into both transit operations/dispatch and the regional Traffic Management Center.


Commuter Ca$h

The Commuter Ca$h program, funded with CMAQ monies, kicked off in October 2003.  Its concept is from the New Visions plan.  The effort was a joint one - the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID), CDTA and CDTC.   It is a six-month pilot program providing generous subsidies for employees choosing to use public transportation while traveling to and from work.  Employees working within the BID who commute to work using the CDTA bus system receives $20 coupons toward the cost of monthly Swiper passes.  Employees who commute via regional coach services receive one $20 coupon per week that can be applied toward the cost of ticket books on Brown Coach, Columbia County Public Transportation, Schoharie County Public Transportation, Upstate Transit and Yankee Trails.  


The Commuter Ca$h program is an outgrowth of a highly successful pilot program with NYSDEC at downtown Albany.  In September 2003, the DEC celebrated the following results:

·       A reduction of 1 million miles of commuter travel into downtown Albany since the inception of their pilot program in June 2001

·        14 miles of travel have been reduced for every program dollar spent

·        0.6 gallons of fuel have been saved per program dollar spent

·        Accident costs were reduced $2.60 for every program dollar spent

·        Commuters saved $5.30 in vehicle ownership and operating expenses per program dollar spent.


One of the greatest hurdles in most travel demand management programs in the Albany area is to make inroads into State Government.  IRS rules are crucial to employers.  The pilot program demonstrated that people will give up parking spaces downtown when it is demonstrated that the concept works.


Commuter Ca$h will expand the program to all employees within the Downtown BID and will include two additional coach services, the program hopes to achieve similar numbers to the DEC in ¼ to .12 the time.  A reduction of 1 million miles of commuter travel translates into savings of approx 455 tons of emissions and 45,000 gallons of gasoline.



Queue Jumper

   The CDTA and the City of Troy recently unveiled the first “queue jumper” in upstate New York – a high-tech innovation that will make bus travel faster and safer.   Queue jumpers are signal devices that give buses priority at intersections by permitting them to move ahead of other motorists in parallel lanes.  The end result is improved traffic flow and enhanced transit safety.   

The queue jumper project is part of the Troy Fulton Street Improvement project initiated in 2001 as a cooperative venture with CDTA and the City of Troy.  Improvement project plans include a new CDTA transfer center at Fulton and 3rd Streets and another at Fulton and 4th Streets, the two highest volume bus stops in Rensselaer County.  The queue jumper works in a “bus only” lane, next to the Troy Riverside Park, which consists of two stop bars and room to accommodate only two buses at a time.   The bus stays behind the first stop bar near the bus shelter for customers to alight and disembark.  The queue jumper is activated as a bus approaches the second stop bar in the “bus only” lane.  The presence of the bus triggers special sensors (loop detectors) in the pavement, which in turn triggers the dedicated traffic light to cue bus operators when to leave.    When the solid white plus sign is illuminated, the buses are free to go.  This phase lasts for 6 seconds.  The flashing yellow light alerts bus operators to stay in place unless they are beyond the second stop bar and the red light means the operator needs to stop until the white light is lit again.   The other vehicles wait for the green light from the intersection traffic light before proceeding.     



Dennis J. Fitzgerald

We wish to acknowledge the significant contributions to the Capital District communities as a whole, and to the transportation community in particular, made by Mr. Dennis J. Fitzgerald, who retired from the position of Executive Director of CDTA in 2002. 


Mr. Fitzgerald’s leadership is recognized in many areas: his courage in undertaking the construction of the Rensselaer Intermodal Center for the benefit of the region; the development of CDTA’s Jobs Access program, which was recognized with the APTA Welfare to Work Award in 2001; the implementation of CDTA’s Swiper pass program; the development of the STAR (Special Transit Available by Request) demand-response paratransit system for people with disabilities; the conversion of the entire CDTA fixed route bus fleet to low-floor buses; and his constant support of the CDTC process. 


In 2003, Mr. Fitzgerald was selected by CDTC as the inaugural recipient of the Fred Field award.  This award was established to honor the individual, organization or project that best exemplifies Mr. Field’s principles in the area of transportation and community planning and implementation.