Albany Fact Sheet

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NY 5 BRT
(Bus Rapid Transit in the Capital District of New York State. Project sponsored by the Capital District Transportation Authority and the Capital District Transportation Committee.)

 

The Planning Background for BRT in the Capital District

In 1995, New Visions, the Capital District’s Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), started the process of rapid transit planning by recommending an in-depth study of the subject. This led to the Fixed Guideway Transit Feasibility Study which looked at several options for a full regional rail system. This study revealed that a regional rail transit system in the Capital District would likely be expensive relative to the demand that could be expected, but that further study was warranted. New York State Route 5 (NY5), being the most heavily traveled transit corridor in the region and the most likely candidate for rail service, was made the subject of a full land use and transportation study which was begun in 1998. In the NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study planners included lower-cost BRT as an option, the first time the then new concept was considered for the Capital District. The study included extensive citizen involvement through survey’s, a charrette and open houses.

BRT has emerged as the most appropriate mode of high quality transit for the region for the foreseeable future due the combination of passenger-pleasing service, flexibility in design and lower cost that light rail. The NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study has recommended that the first example of BRT in the Capital Region be in NY 5 corridor from Albany to Schenectady via Colonie (please see [www.NY5.org] for more information). The study has been endorsed by all five municipalities involved, the Cities of Albany and Schenectady, the Towns of Colonie and Niskayuna and the Village of Colonie. These municipalities, along with the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC), and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) have set up a group known as the NY 5 BRT/Streetscape Committee to develop the BRT system in more detail.

In July, 2002, a BRT workshop was held that brought together planning, transit operations, business and citizen stakeholders to set a direction for BRT project development and planning. Three guest speakers were invited from other municipalities where BRT was either in operation or farther along in planning, Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles, California, and Oakland, California. The NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study has defined the project corridor, selected BRT from among other transit modes and systems, developed a list of BRT features to consider, and proposed an incremental approach to implementing them. The CDTA and CDTC are now moving on to choose the exact features and where, when and how they will be implemented.

Emerging Themes for BRT

The BRT Workshop presented an opportunity for people to learn and discuss issues related to BRT. Over the course of the discussion several themes emerged.

Critical mass

The group gravitated toward a two-phase approach for implementation. The first phase would include a "critical mass" of features that would clearly set BRT apart as a high quality transit mode that would attract new riders. After the service is up and running successfully, features that take longer to implement, such as bus lanes and transit centers, would be built in future phases.

Bus Rapid Transit station at Nott Terrace in Schenectady showing a detail of station facilities, BRT vehicles and queue jumper lane.

Bus Rapid Transit station at Nott Terrace in Schenectady showing
a detail of station facilities, BRT vehicles and queue jumper lane.

Parking connection

Urban centers in the capital district were built when walking and transit were the primary means of access and now find themselves with significant parking shortages. If higher quality transit service could once again attract a larger share of commuters to transit and away from parking downtown, a major urban revitalization challenge can be overcome.

Committees/Outreach

BRT implementation is complex, has many impacts and requires support from diverse stakeholders. It is important to provide these groups with information and opportunities for participation on a regular basis. The current NY 5 committee structure may need to be supplemented because BRT will be implemented on a different schedule and has specific needs.

Education is necessary

The group learned a great deal about BRT during the workshop but much more needs to be understood. This process of learning should be extended and expanded through presentations to civic and business organizations, site visits to working BRT services and additional forums dedicated to the BRT project.

These themes will help guide the work of the BRT/Streetscape Committee and any new committees as they develop the BRT project in more detail.

The following table shows some of the features identified so far in the NY 5 planning process as desirable elements of BRT in the Capital District. It shows these features in terms of their possibility for implementation in the short term (to 2006) or longer term. The table also shows how certain packages of capital improvements are required for implementation of each phase of improved BRT service levels.

Preliminary Phasing for BRT Implementation

Feature

Short-term Capital Implementation (2006)

Phase I Service

"Critical Mass"

Long-term Capital Options

Phase II Service

Transit Signal Priority

Under Construction

Required

Yes

Required

AVL/Real Time Information

Under Construction

Required

Yes

Required

New Shelters and Signage

Yes

Required

Yes

Required

Comprehensive Marketing Program

Yes

Required

Yes

Required

Limited Stop Service

Yes

Required

Yes

Required

Queue Jumpers

Possible

Desirable

Yes

Required

New Buses

Yes

Desirable

Yes

Required

Bus lanes

Possible

Desirable

Yes

Desirable

New Feeder Routes

No

No

Yes

Required

Off-Board Fare Collection

No

No

Yes

Desirable

Transfer Centers

No

No

Yes

Required

Capital Projects

Two capital elements of BRT are already being implemented in the NY 5 corridor, both of which are expected to be completed toward the end of 2003.

The first is a new traffic signal system for NY 5 which includes transit signal priority (TSP) at 35 of the 81 signalized intersections along the corridor. The combination of traffic signal progression and transit signal priority will provide faster travel times and more consistent schedule adherence since priority will only be given to late buses, not those that are early or on-time. The result will be to slow early vehicles back to schedule and help late buses catch up.

The second is a new dispatch system including automatic vehicle location (AVL) being installed on CDTA buses allowing real time information to be transmitted to BRT bus stops and to coordinate connections between routes. AVL will provide location data for check-in and check-out messages to the TSP system at each equipped intersection.

The Long Range Capital Program

After the implementation of the transit priority and dispatch/AVL systems, other capital projects related to BRT will be progressed by the responsible agency or jurisdiction as funding becomes available. The CDTC and CDTA are looking at many potential elements for BRT, their benefits in local circumstances, their costs, and how they could be implemented. Elements being studied include:

A rendering of a bus rapid transit station at the corner of Central and Quail in Albany showing a bump-out and Civis vehicle specially designed for BRT applications.

A rendering of a bus rapid transit station at the corner of Central and Quail
in Albany showing a bump-out and Civis vehicle specially designed for BRT applications.

Bus Lanes – The NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study identified various new street design concepts along the corridor intended to achieve a variety of benefits including travel time savings for transit users. Accordingly, bus lanes were identified in the NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study as desirable in several high-traffic segments of the corridor. These lanes could be constructed as the segments in question come up for renewal as part of regular highway maintenance or as a single large project. The availability of funding and the progress of street rebuilding projects will help determine which path is best.

Street Rebuilding – In all areas of the corridor, street rebuilding programs could be designed to include transit preferential features where they have identified benefits. Queue jumpers, bulb-outs, and transit priority signaling are all being considered. Crosswalks, better signalization and other pedestrian improvements also are included.

Stations – Full-scale BRT stations could be designed and built as funding becomes available. Planning will help identify the most important and heavily used stations which will have first priority for the construction of large stations with rail-like passenger amenities.

Transfer Centers – The development of BRT service will include additional feeder services at key locations. At these places, off-street feeder terminals, waiting rooms and park-and-ride lots are desirable. More detailed planning will identify where these locations are and what type of improvements will be appropriate to each.

Vehicles – New or improved vehicles are a common feature of BRT systems. A number of options are under review for each service implementation phase and will be finalized in the detailed planning work.

Fare Collection – The proof-of-payment fare collection system is being studied for its ability to provide benefits in the NY 5 Corridor. In this system riders buy tickets or passes before boarding the bus and may therefore board at any door. This reduces boarding and alighting time at stations, speeding the trip for riders. Roving inspectors periodically board the bus to check tickets and issue substantial fines to anyone caught riding without a ticket or pass.

This graph shows how as "critical mass" levels of capital improvements are completed , service is improved in clear, substantial, effective phases.

This graph shows how as "critical mass" levels of capital
improvements are completed , service is improved in clear, substantial, effective phases.

Service Implementation Phases

As capital projects are implemented along NY 5, BRT service will be improved to take advantage of their benefits. The preliminary plan is to implement service in two phases, each of which bundles a new set of the capital improvements spelled out above with a new service level that provides a clear positive impact for riders and a higher-quality image for transit to the general public. Phase I operating improvements can proceed as soon as the TSP and AVL projects are complete. Phase II requires the construction of bus only lanes and new transit centers at key locations.

The preliminary service plan for Phase I includes:

  • A new Albany to Schenectady limited-stop route providing high-frequency service (every 15 minutes or less) at all operating times. In this phase, BRT would operate during the busy commuter and shopping periods of the day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Local service would continue at a lesser frequency to serve all stops and hours when BRT is not operating.
  • Limited stop operation and the new NY 5 traffic signal system would reduce the running time to approximately 55 minutes one-way.
  • Repainted and upgraded 40-foot "soft seat" coaches or new high-capacity, passenger-friendly 60-foot articulated low-floor buses with on-board announcements, padded seats, reading lights and other features.
  • Busier BRT stations would include new lighted shelters of a distinctive but cost-effective standard design to allow instant identification by customers and provide a more comfortable waiting environment. Real time schedule information, as well as a variety of static information would be available. Less intensively used stops would include new signage displaying the BRT logo, static schedule information, as well as street furniture suitable to their use. Pedestrian connections, crosswalks and paving would be upgraded as necessary. The service would include 25 to 30 stations.
  • All elements of the service would reinforce a distinct image which would be created for the BRT services to quickly convey the benefits of the new service to the public.

Phase II of BRT would convert the mixed rapid/local service pattern to a full all-day high-frequency rapid transit operation, the vision that the CDTC is creating in the NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study. The improvements could be implemented incrementally as funding becomes available or all at once as part of a single project. The Phase II service would include:

  • An Albany to Schenectady route providing high-frequency service (every 10 minutes or less) at all operating times.
  • Transit-only lanes and other transit priority measures would reduce the running time to approximately 45 minutes one-way.
  • New high-tech, articulated, low-floor, alternative propulsion vehicles could replace the Phase I vehicles that would then be reassigned to other routes.
  • Transfer centers that allow passengers to change from local to BRT services in a convenient and comfortable manner would be constructed at key locations.
  • All BRT stations would be upgraded to include large shelters of a distinctive design to allow instant identification by customers and provide a more comfortable waiting environment. Real time schedule information, as well as a variety of static information would be available. Pedestrian connections, crosswalks and paving would be upgraded throughout. Approximately 40 stations would be included.

Further Planning

Using the themes that were generated in the workshop, the next task in the project is completing an implementation plan laying out the required improvements for the entire corridor. This plan will give all jurisdictions and stakeholders in the corridor a single reference document to refer to when constructing any type of infrastructure change that might impact BRT. The standard features of transit corridor studies will be included such as operations modeling of the corridor to identify necessary transit priority features, fleet size and operational issues. Partnerships with community and business organizations will be established to allow station locations and features to be finalized. In addition to guiding infrastructure and service improvements, the plan will also be used to secure funding from local, state and federal sources.

Contact Information:

Martin D. Hull, AICP
martinh@cdta.org
Senior Planner and Project Manager
Capital District Transportation Authority
110 Watervliet Avenue
Albany, NY 12206
Phone: 518-482-4199
Fax: 518-482-9039

Jack M. Reilly, Ph.D.
jack@cdta.org
Deputy Director (see address above)

Kristina Younger, AICP
kristina@cdta.org
Manager of Planning (see address above)

Anne Benware
cdtc@crisny.org
Project Manager, NY 5 Land Use and Transportation Study

Capital District Transportation Committee (Albany area MPO)
5 Computer Drive West
Albany, NY 12205
518-458-2161

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