Now on BusPlus: wi-fi, text alerts, bus tracking, queue jumping

CDTA announced today that it's added a bunch of digital tools for riders -- and the implementation of an important part of its "bus rapid transit" system.

First, the stuff for riders. Among the features that are part of "BusTime":
+ Predicted arrival times online for the next 2-3 buses
+ Real-time bus tracking on a map
+ Text alerts for bus arrivals

We tried out the tracking map this afternoon. It's kind of fun watching the buses move along the BusPlus route on Route 5.

Also: BusPlus now has wi-fi.

Queue jumping and signal priority

One of the touted advantages of BusPlus is that the buses will move along the Route 5 corridor faster than traffic (rapid, you might even say). And part of the system that theoretically makes that possible are "queue jumpers" and "signal priority." From the blurbage:

Queue jumper and traffic signal priority systems, considered key characteristics of bus rapid transit services, give buses priority at intersections, helping to improve traffic flow and enhance safety. Queue jumpers are short sections of "bus only" lanes that allow transit vehicles to "jump the queue" of waiting cars at congested intersections. The queue jumpers are installed and fully operational along Route 5 at three locations: Wolf Road Westbound, New Karner Road (West Bound) and Nott Terrace (Eastbound.) CDTA's first queue jumpers were introduced to the Capital Region in June 2003, and installed at the CDTA Fulton and 3rd and Fulton and 4th bus stops in Troy, New York.
Traffic Signal Priority employs technology that gives buses an extra 6 second lead-time ahead of other vehicles when running behind schedule. Traffic Signal Priority systems are installed at 44 intersections along the 17-mile corridor between downtown Albany and downtown Schenectady.

The video above demonstrates the queue jumper and signal priority in a virtual Colonie.

If all this stuff works, it should be pretty cool. And it's probably about as close to light rail as the Capital Region will ever get. CDTA plans to eventually expand BusPlus to the Western Ave and Washington Ave corridors.


So happy with the CDTA lately. There may still be some problems that people can complain about but I really love the direction they are moving in.

Interesting fact about CDTA: passenger fare accounts for only 20% of the budget. The rest is funded by taxes including property taxes.

They could raise a bit more money and make bus rides free for the passengers.

That's a great idea. Let's make yet another government program LESS fiscally sustainable.

What they could do--rather than subsidize mass transit on the back of middle class property owners (who largely don't use CDTA)--is double fares (to a still reasonable $3.00) to 40% of revenue and then do some big restructuring to BEGIN to make the organization self-supporting.

It's interesting that a lot of people will scream for days about making human societies "sustainable" but are completely against making government programs self-funding in a real way.

bk: I don't know how you think $3.00 fare is reasonable. If you have to take 2 buses to work that's $6.00 one way, if your employer doesn't give you a kickback. I already balk at the $1.50 fare since it would take 2 buses to get to work, so that's $6.00 a day to ride the bus to work. Its cheaper for me to just take my car during the winter and try to bike when the weather is nice.

Aside from that I am really excited to try some of the BusPlus Routes. It is totally a step in the right direction.

@Toni: That's assuming you pay for each fare in cash out of pocket. Swipers (5 day, 10-ride) lower the per-use cost, if only slightly. Stacked with Price Chopper Advantedge savings it goes somewhat lower still.

What they could do--rather than subsidize mass transit on the back of middle class property owners (who largely don't use CDTA)--is double fares (to a still reasonable $3.00) to 40% of revenue and then do some big restructuring to BEGIN to make the organization self-supporting.

Public transit should not be corporation-like, self-funding or worse, turning a profit for the municipality.

Public transit is a public service. It gets people to their jobs, gets them to retail destinations, makes residences with easy access to public transit more desirable thus pushing up property values. This all increases the tax base. It gets cars off the road, increasing quality of life for everyone and reducing public maintenance costs. It encourages residential growth in urban areas (and with it, further economic development), serves traditionally underserved communities with a vital means of transportation, and uses far less resources per passenger than putting individuals in cars. Those are only a few of the benefits.

Alternately, while we're at it, let's make other public services self-funded. Police department? Let's jack up ticketing and fines, or how about charging a fee for service (that would be great for muggings and domestic abuse calls). Fire department? Sure, institute an annual fee, what could go wrong? Maybe libraries can start charging rental fees, accept some advertising contracts, and charge for use services like computer access and job assistance, and rent out all that space they currently let community organizations use.

Sounds like a low-tax utopia!

Services should be paid for by those who enjoy the benefits of them. For the fire department and police services, the people that benefit are clearly property owners at the very least (and really all citizens in general) so it is entirely appropriate that they are paid for by tax revenue.

CDTA, on the other hand, is a service for a specific group of consumers. I don't ask you to subsidize my cable bill, or bowling, or movie tickets or anything else that I consume. Why is transportation any different?

If you have to take 2 buses to work that's $6.00 one way, if your employer doesn't give you a kickback

This calculation needs to be factored in when accepting employment. The cost of getting to work is overhead that everybody in the labor market is required to contend with. $6/day is probably cheaper than owning a private car. Why should public transit customers get their transportation subsidized, while those driving have to pay for their own gas, insurance, maintenance and everything else without assistance?

One last point: Buses are only more efficient when you factor in a certain level of utilization. A bus with 5 people on it is substantially less efficient than five small cars, both in terms of energy used and in terms of pollutants emitted. In any event I don't think of a fleet of buses clogging up traffic as 'increasing quality of life' for anybody other than those who receive a service for less than it costs to provide it.

bk, you can find CDTA ridership data here (opens as a pdf). Note that riders/hour is an average; check out any #10 bus during rush hour when school is in session (you don't have to ride, you can see all of the people packed standing room only through the windows, or watch buses pass stops because they literally cannot take on more passengers). I don't even want to know what Delaware Ave would look like without the #18. You have no clue.

Everyone benefits from public transit, it's mind-boggling to hear someone deny it. Business groups, environmental groups, studies, state and local governments, have all come to that conclusion (Anyone with some Google skills can verify). To claim that you don't want to support it because you don't directly use it is a special kind of entitlement.

Educate yourself.

$3 bus fare? Are you serious? It doesn't even cost that much to hop on a bus (or the subway, for that matter) in NYC!

bk, drivers receive all sorts of tax subsidies... tolls and vehicle fees don't even begin to pay for road construction, maintenance, and plowing, much less their health and environmental impacts. Once the wealthiest users of the least sustainable transportation option start paying their own way, then it might be worth discussing whether public transportation should receive subsidies, but not before.

Does anyone know what the fine will be when I drive in these bus only lanes and follow the bus through the early green light?..
Are bus only lanes actually written into law?

I'll drive myself--
My guess is that driving through with your emergency flashers on will be okay. People seem to think that exempts them from all other traffic laws.

bk -- there is not a single successful unsubsidized public transportation system in America and very few in the entire world. Thinking CDTA can so simply change that is ridiculous. Free bus systems do exist, and do an excellent job of serving the communities and the people who pay for them.

I'm kind of disgusted to see someone compare cable, bowling, and movie tickets to public transportation. Riding the bus is generally not something that average citizens do for the purpose of entertainment. :P

There are many people who use CDTA to travel to and from work... ordinary people's labor which, through taxes, helps to pay for the police and fire services so championed by privileged 'property owners' and infrequently utilized in full by the majority of the population.

Not everybody can afford a personal vehicle, and many of us would prefer not to have one. Widely accessible transportation at a reasonable cost to the user is beneficial to everyone, harms no one, and should not be considered a luxury.

Hey, bk -- is your perfectly insulated, self-perpetuating and entirely self-propelled affluent life going to be so perfect when the not-well-off can't afford to get to work and are given no means to do so? I'm not sure that's better for society.

I've heard others argue your point. As far as I can tell, they mostly live on cul-de-sacs that were built for no purpose other than to serve them, which their towns then agree to take over, maintain, plow, etc. although they serve no other public purpose. That's a subsidy.

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