Report written by:
Capital District Transportation Committee
This April, the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) celebrated the one year anniversary of BusPlus. After just one year of operation, BusPlus has been a big success, with ridership in the Route 5 Corridor increasing by more than 25%.
BusPlus is an important part of the CDTC regional transportation plan, called New Visions. The New Visions Plan recognizes New York State Route 5 as the region’s most important transit corridor, with 15 percent of the region’s households and 30 percent of its jobs located within ½ mile of the roadway.
BusPlus represents an important regional investment in the anchor cities in the corridor – Albany and Schenectady. And because it has urban anchors on either end, it is fairly unique nationally, integrating urban and suburban travel. It supports smart growth, and is good for economic development. With gas prices rising, it represents an excellent way to save money. By taking cars off the road, it reduces congestion and improves air quality for everyone.
BusPlus grew out of a partnership between CDTC, CDTA, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the City of Albany, the City of Schenectady, the Town of Colonie, the Village of Colonie, and the Town of Niskayuna. BusPlus is an example of a higher type of transit service called “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT). It provides many of the advantages of light rail, without the very high cost of light rail. One of the features of BRT is the provision of bus stations, rather than bus stops. These stations are spaced about one half mile apart (up to a mile in suburban areas), so the BRT service doesn’t have to stop on every corner. There are 18 paired bus plus stations, focused on the busiest stops along the 16.5 mile corridor between Schenectady and Albany. Other features included in BusPlus are queue jumpers and “Transit Signal Priority”. In addition, improvements to the pedestrian environment along Route 5 are an important part of making BusPlus successful.
Stations: The red and silver themed BusPlus stations are designed to have larger, attractive shelters containing a mix of passenger amenities ranging from benches, lighting, information signs and trash receptacles to emergency telephones, newspaper boxes and bike racks, etc. Stations are provided with electronic signs that announce the expected time the next BusPlus vehicle is to arrive. The sidewalks and crosswalks around the stations are improved so pedestrians will feel safe and comfortable reaching the station.
Queue Jumpers: Because it is important for BusPlus vehicles to stay on schedule and to be reasonably competitive with auto travel times, special “queue jump” lanes have been provided at three locations: at Wolf Road in Colonie (westbound), New Karner Road in Colonie (westbound) and Nott & Veeder Streets in Schenectady (eastbound). At these intersections, a lane is reserved for buses so that they can move up to the head of the line and get through the intersection ahead of the rest of the traffic, while not noticeably affecting the flow of auto traffic. At the same time, every person who takes the BusPlus service instead of driving is actually contributing to better traffic flow for autos, by reducing auto traffic.
Transit Signal Priority: Transit Signal Priority (TSP) is an innovative use of technology that allows buses to stay on time. Reliability is a very important factor in making transit attractive. If a bus is approaching a green light, the signal will extend the green time up to ten seconds to allow the bus to make it through the intersection. This is a win-win for everyone, because extending the green time for the bus is also extending green time for auto traffic on Route 5. The vehicles waiting to turn onto Route 5 will also benefit once they are traveling on Route 5 because of the signal coordination and improved traffic flow. TSP has been tremendously successful in the Route 5 corridor.
Vehicles: Part of the attraction of BRT systems around the world is the use of advanced vehicle technology. The red and silver themed BusPlus vehicles include features such as alternative fuels (hybrid electric), low floors, automated announcement systems, LED lighting, and other amenities to increase passenger comfort.
Travel information: CDTA has unveiled a BusPlus app available through the iTunes store, downloadable by iPod/iPhone/iPad users. The application features all BusPlus service schedules, an interactive map offering the ability to touch a stop to view its schedule, frequently asked questions, and related CDTA links.
The Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) is the designated MPO for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area. Every metropolitan area in the United States with a population of over 50,000 must have a designated "Metropolitan Planning Organization" (MPO) for transportation in order to qualify for any federal transportation funding. CDTC represents 78 municipalities from Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. The CDTC is composed of elected and appointed officials from each of the four counties; from each of the eight cities in the four counties; from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT); the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA); and the Capital District Regional Planning Commission (CDRPC); the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) and at-large members representing the area's towns and villages. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) serve as advisory members. For more information about CDTC please visit our website: http://www.cdtcmpo.org/
Jen Ceponis is a Transportation Planner with CDTC who will serve as the contact for any questions regarding this topic or the CTDC. You may contact Jen commenting on this blog or privately via member email.