Items tagged with 'cars'

Riding along with the skyline

albany skyline car

We noticed this car in the Honest Weight parking lot the other day. It was wrapped -- both sides -- with an image of the Albany skyline.

We looked around a bit and couldn't figure out if it was for some business -- or just someone who really liked Albany.

Capital CarShare launching soon

capital carshare logo wide

The Capital Region is just a few weeks away from the start of its first independent car sharing operation.

Capital Car Share is aiming to start around the end of June, marketing and outreach coordinator Nnenna Ferguson told us today. The org will begin with 8 vehicles available for per-hour use, distributed at 8 "parking hubs" around the city of Albany.

(there's more)

Push for car sharing in Albany revs again

capital carshare logoThe campaign to start a car sharing org in the Capital Region has surfaced again and is looking for support.

Capital CarShare is aiming to raise $20,000 by the first week of June via crowdfunding. The drive is a "flexible funding" campaign on IndieGogo, meaning the the org will get whatever money is pledged, whether it makes the goal or not.

Campaign blurbage:

Capital CarShare (CCS) was developed by a small group of passionate, environmentally-conscious, upstate New Yorkers looking to bring shared mobility to the dense region of Albany. With CarShare, community members will have easy access to a vehicle for use by the hour or by the day. Our goal is to launch a fleet of neighborhood cars by June, but we need your help to #getthere.
We need to raise $20,000 to help us purchase a fleet of eco-friendly vehicles, fund our first advertising campaign, and hire staff members.

The push for car sharing in Albany goes back years. Advocates have pitched it as a way to provide flexible, affordable transportation while addressing parking and environmental issues.

But the plan hasn't made it all the way to implementation here, so far. And apparently that's not uncommon for smaller cities -- though a few, such as Buffalo, have made it work.

A good driving instructor?

car steering wheelBaby Boomer emails:

Could you ask your readers if they could recommend a driving instructor, specifically in Albany, who could teach an older person who is very nervous when learning to drive? I took a few lessons years ago and was very stressed out. I still want to learn before I get too old.

A bunch of years ago we had a question about driving schools, but it was in reference to teens. Things change. And also, we're curious if there are any driving instructors who specialize in -- or just happen to be really good with -- adults who are taking up driving.

Got a suggestion for Baby Boomer? Please share!

Why can't you buy a car directly from a car company?

tesla model sThe electric car company Tesla has worked out a deal with New York State to allow it continue selling its cars directly to consumers. The deal, which will involve state legislation, will allow the company to continue operating its five sales locations in the state (all downstate). [Cuomo admin]

Auto dealers across the country have been fighting to keep Tesla from direct sales because it upends the longstanding "dealer franchise" system. Tesla recently won a similar deal in Ohio as the one in New York. But it has also been banned from doing so in a handful of states. [The Verge x2]

So, why are car sales set up the way they are? Why can't you just buy a Civic off the internet from Honda? Why are you required to buy via an intermediary?

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Bumper gawking

bumper_gawking_KNUKLHDS.jpg

Speaking of license plates... we like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

A good mechanic for Volkswagens?

volkswagen front grillThis question comes from Greg:

Larry's Foreign Auto is our preferred auto mechanic -- we've had very good experiences there. Unfortunately, Steve and the crew don't work on Volkswagens. And our VW needs some work. (The VW mechanic we had been using is no longer in business).
I was hoping people would have some suggestions for good mechanics for Volkswagens. And as we've found out, VWs tend to have some quirks. So we'd like to find a place that has a lot of experience with them. While we're not totally against a dealer, but we'd very much prefer an independent mechanic. Thanks!

Got a suggestion for a mechanic when das auto ist kaput? Please share! And as always for this sort of question, a quick sentence about why a place is good can be a big help.

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

Advice on buying a car?

Thumbnail image for used car windshieldWhen is that low, low price not the price that you can actually get?

That question was at the center of a state attorney general's office announcement today that it's reached settlements with six Albany-area car dealerships on what the AG's office say were deceptive advertising practices. From the press release: "The dealerships widely promoted sale and lease prices that were illusory because they reflected discounts or rebates that were not available to most consumers, and thus, were not the actual sale or lease price."

The link above includes the dealerships named and some of the promoted discounts the AG's office took issue with. The short story: It pays to read the fine print -- twice -- and to be skeptical.

The AG's office says the dealerships have agreed to pay fines and reform their practices. A seventh dealership is getting a notice about the AG's office intent to sue over the issue.

This situation got us thinking about the car buying process, which -- in our experience at least -- always seems a bit... opaque. Maybe that's not exactly the right word, but the process often seems less than straightforward. And there's always that sense some sort of some smoke and mirrors are involved. (You're really going to talk to your manager?)

So, given the savvy of the AOA crowd, we're curious: What's your advice for the car buying process? Tips for trying to get the best price (or, at least, not being taken advantage of)? Local dealerships you can recommend after having solid experiences there?

Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A good place to buy a used car?

Hey, look, there's a new DMV website

nys dmv website screengrab 2014-02-28The Cuomo admin rolled out a new website for the state DMV today.

It's a lot nicer than the old website. And it continually offers prompts to help people do tasks online rather being required to show up at an actual DMV office (a good thing). And if you must go to an office, you can now make a reservation. It's also maybe the first government website we've encountered that extensively uses footnotes. (It's like reading Grantland or David Foster Wallace or something.)

But. The new DMV website still fails our (somewhat arbitrary, perhaps unreasonable) one-item test for DMV website quality. Because, as far we can tell after poking around the site this afternoon, it still doesn't include a page clearly marked as "How to replace a license plate" with clear instructions on, you know, how to replace a license plate. The closest it gets is this "Lost or stolen plates" page, which is only one part of the overall topic. (The actual instructions can more or less be found via this "Replace a registration" page -- but if you didn't know to look there, you might not find them.)

Yeah, OK, this is being a bit cranky. But we found this task to be so unexpectedly unexplicit last year when trying to replace a plate that had been shredded in a fender bender, that it prompted us to write up the instructions here on AOA for other plate-replacing people who also couldn't find the instructions. (By the way: That page has been visited more than 10,000 times over the past year, pretty much all through search -- so apparently other people have had this issue, too.)

Is this a big thing? Maybe not. But it just seems like one of those things the DMV's website should include.

All that said, the new site does look a lot better.

Bumper gawking

bumper gawking ZAKATACK

Zack Morris, is that you? (Thanks, Crystal!)

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

The modern world: rest stops are "text stops"

andrew cuomo text stop signs

The Cuomo administration announced today it has designated 91 "texting zones" along the Thruway and state highways. The zones are already-existing rest stops, parking areas, and park-and-ride lots. (Example: The New Baltimore Thruway service area near Albany.) They're designated by 296 new signs indicating their distance (above).

So, if ever you wondered, "I just got coffee at this Thruway service area, might I also text someone while parked here?" -- you now have definitive signage indicating an answer: Yes, yes you can. Your travels will no doubt be smoother without this question burdening you.

The "texting zone" designations are part of the Cuomo admin's ongoing campaign against distracted driving. In announcing the signs today, Andrew Cuomo also shared some numbers from the state's stepped-up enforcement of mobile talking/texting while driving:

For the period July 4-September

2013 tickets issued: 21,580 (16,027 talking / 5,553 texting)

2012 tickets issued: 5,208 (4,284 talking / 924 texting)

New York State has strengthened its laws against phoning/texting while driving over the last few years -- it's now a primary offense (meaning you can be pulled over for it specifically), and a ticket is now worth 5 points. Also the Cuomo admin says State Police have been using unmarked SUVs to peer into vehicles to see if people are texting while driving.

Distracted driving is an important issue. There's research that indicates using a phone while driving is like having a .08 blood alcohol level, the legal limit. Also: it irks everyone else when you don't start moving at the green light because you're looking down to text.

photo: Cuomo administration

Bumper gawking

bumper gawking UMMM NO via Kim

Oh, yes. Via Kim.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Asleep at the wheel

Today's moment of LOOK OUT!: The Albany County Sheriff's Office says a taxi driver reported falling asleep at the wheel Tuesday afternoon before crashing into the Albany County Justice Center on Chapel Street in downtown Albany, almost hitting a pedestrian. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The incident was captured on a security camera (above).

From the ACSO press release:

The operator reports that he had little sleep the night before and was exhausted and was going to contact his employer, Black and White Taxi, to see if he could leave work early. He further reported that he had just dropped a passenger off. The Albany County Sheriff's Office investigated the crash and fortunately nobody was injured during the incident. The operator was ticketed for Failing to Keep Right and is scheduled to appear in Albany City Traffic Court to answer the charge.

Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which notes the problem is probably underreported. There was a case just this summer in Halfmoon in which a man walking along a road was killed when a driver fell asleep and veered off the road. The driver didn't face any charges beyond failure to stay right because of a precedent set by a 1985 Saratoga County case. [NHTSA] [TU] [Saratogian]

Most states -- including New York -- don't have a "driving while drowsy" law. But there's been a bill circulating in the New York legislature for the last few years that would make it a misdemeanor, and a felony if the crash results in a person's death.

The problem has been getting more attention recently as prosecutors have pushed to charge sleepy drivers in crashes, though it's often a hard case to make. [NYT] [FindLaw]

Ride of the day

chevy caprice big rims

Spotted today at New Scotland and Holland avenues in Albany.

It's a Chevy Caprice with plenty of ground clearance.

Bumper gawking

bumper gawking KHAAAAAN

The elusive Khaaaaan!

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Which arrives first? The electric cars, or the places to charge them?

electric vehicle charging station shoprite niskayuna

An EV charging station at the ShopRite in Niskayuna. (photo: Kristofer)

Gina recently contacted us looking to get some help with a situation, which breaks down like this: She and her husband are thinking about getting an electric car. He'd be using the car to commute -- he works at the Capitol. And though he's seen that the ESP has charging stations for electric vehicles, they're apparently not for general use.

As Gina commented in her email to us (link added):

"For all the hype and press releases from the Governor's office about a new network of chargers statewide, the actual process for using them *on state worker territory* is frustratingly opaque."

So we looked into the situation a bit. And we managed to get an answer. But more than anything, their situation highlights one of the challenges facing electric vehicles generally.

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Recommendations for car transmission repair?

car engine under hoodStephanie emails:

The clutch in my 2001 Corolla recently celebrated its 170k milestone and has decided that it's time to retire. I was wondering if any of your readers had a recommendation for a good transmission shop in the area. I'm located in Troy, so the closer the better, but I'll go wherever I need to for the right service with the right price.

First, Stephanie, let us congratulate you on getting your car to the 170k mark. And, second, let us offer our condolences for its clutch.Transmission repair/replacement can be an expensive job.

Got a suggestion for Stephanie? Please share.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Where to get a "check engine" light read?
+ Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

Where to get a "check engine" light read?

check engine light flickr runrockprincess ccA. asks via Twitter:

Where can I find out what my check engine light is about, without paying through the nose?

This is a good thing to know because:

1) The check engine light can indicate a whole range of problems, some of them serious.

2) Sometimes the problem is a simple as the gas cap not being on tight enough. So if you can get someone to read the problem for a few bucks, you can fix the problem without spending a bunch of money.

Got a suggestion for A.? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

photo: Flickr user @RunRockPrincess (cc)

TWD, 5 points

texting while drivingThe state DMV is increasing the penalty for getting caught texting while driving, the Cuomo admin announced today. The penalty for TWD increases from three points on a license to five. And Andrew Cuomo has also directed the State Police to step up enforcement during the summer.

Cuomo is proposing a new law that would include a 60-day license suspension for new/young drivers caught for TWD, and temporary revocation if their caught again within 6 months of having their license restored.

New York has strengthened its law against using a mobile device while driver over the last few years. In 2011 the number of points on a license for texting while driving was increased from two to three, and TWD became a primary offense -- meaning a driver could be pulled over specifically for that. As a result, there's been an upswing in the number of people getting tagged for it.

Distracted driving often gets compared to driving while drunk. And there's research that indicates that using a phone while driving is like having a blood alcohol level of .08, the legal limit. The Cuomo admin shared some stats today in that vein:

+ From 2005 to 2011, there has been an approximately 143% increase in cell phone-related crashes in New York State. In that same time period, there has been an approximately 18% decrease in alcohol-related crashes in New York State.
+ In 2011, there were 25,165 fatal and personal injury crashes involving distracted driving in New York, compared to 4,628 caused by alcohol-related driving.
+ In New York State, the number of tickets issued for texting-while-driving (30,166) approached the number of DWI/DWAI arrests (43,954) in 2012. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, there was a 234% increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving. In the same time period, there was a 4% decrease in the number of DWI/DWAI arrests.

The NYT produced a good series about distracted driving a few years back.

Points
Right, so, points on a license... how's that work? Points are assessed by the DMV based on violations such as speeding (3-11 points, based on how far above the limit) or running a stop sign (3 points). Rack up 11 or more points in an 18-month period, and it's license suspension.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver (cc)

A slight case of congestion

inrix albany congestion patterns 2013 March

Congestion patterns by day in the Albany metro, according to INRIX.

We've said this before, and we'll say it again: The Capital Region doesn't have traffic.

OK, sure, it has traffic. It has cars that go on roads and sometimes they have to slow down. Sometimes -- gasp! -- they even stop. But compared to most other larger metropolitan areas -- what passes for traffic here is nothing.

The annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard continues to provide evidence on this account. The congestion monitoring company's latest annual report, for the year ending in March, is out this week.

The Albany metro's national rank: #74.

INRIX figures traffic and congestion in this area caused a typical commuter to "waste" 3.6 hours over the course of the year. That's roughly 29 seconds per commuting trip.

That's down a bit from the previous year, in which INRIX figured the average commuter was caught for 4.6 hours.

To put this in some perspective, here are the figures for the top 5 most congested metros in the INRIX rankings (metro - hours per year):

1. Los Angeles - 60.3 hours
2. Honolulu - 51.1 hours
3. San Francisco - 49.7 hours
4. Austin - 38.7 hours
5. New York - 51.5 hours

Stick that in your breakfast taco, Austin.

Obviously, those metros are larger, so it's natural they'd be more congested. And Albany would probably be willing to trade some increases in congestion for some of the stuff those places have. But, hey, we'll think about that while we're relaxing at home after a short commute home.

Here's an explainer on the methodology.

Bonus commuting fact: The average commute time in the Albany metro area was 22.2 minutes in 2010, according to Census Bureau estimates. That was less than the national average (25.4). And it ranked 276th in the nation.

graph: INRIX

For sale: time machine

delorean time machine for sale

The listing has more photos.

GREAT SCOTT! You might have seen the local DeLorean tricked out to look like the time machine from Back to the Future. It's now for sale.

From the listing on Craigslist (emphasis added):

Delorean Time Machine that is approximately 75-80% Complete...car needs to be completed. Mechanically, I have pulled the motor and Trans, replaced all seals, gaskets, injectors, clutch, axels, bearings, shocks, springs, custom Stainless Exhaust......list goes on. Car currently has 37k and is in Storage. As far as the Time Machine Stuff, it has working Fog Machines, led Lights that are powered by 2-12v batteries and a 3000 watt inverter. I have taken some liberties with the replica while being very close in resemblence it is not a 100% accurate movie reproduction, if you would like a 100% replica.....you can get one and spend upwards of $60,000 from Video Bob in Texas, either way it is scary the amount of attention it gets whether on the highway or at a gas station, car show....basicly anywhere it goes!

Asking price: $25,000 (firm). And it has a flux capacitor.

(Thanks, Olek!)

photos: Craigslist item "Delorean Time Machine Replica"

Bumper gawking

XLFAMILY

Via Jessica R.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Albany parking permit system starting soon

albany parking permit system sign

The signs have been up for a while -- covered and uncovered.

Albany's residential parking permit system takes effect January 15 (Tuesday) -- and today the Albany Police Department distributed official maps of the street segments covered by the system. The maps are post jump -- they'll will be familiar if you've been following the issue.

The parking permit system will be in effect from 8 am-6 pm Monday through Friday (holidays excluded). People without permits will still be allowed to park in any spot -- but there will be a two hour time limit. Violations of the system are a $50 ticket with a $15 surcharge.

Alternate side parking, snow emergencies, and other similar regulations trump the permit system.

Here's information on how to get a permit (doc). They're $25. Permits are also available for non-resident business owners ($25, limit 3) and visitors ($10, one per household in the covered zones).

The city is taking complaints related to system via an online form. More info at the city's website (scroll down).

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How to replace a lost/damaged/stolen New York license plate

department of motor vehicles in Albany

Updated 2014-02-28

There is no "peg" for this post. And it isn't interesting. It's just that we recently had to replace a license plate and the New York DMV website is... well, there are (somewhat hard-to-find) instructions, but we figured they could be a bit clearer. (Less than helpful: the help line, which apparently had too many calling for help.)

So, good drivers of the Empire State -- mostly those in the future via Google -- here is how you do it...

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Where to buy tires?

generic tire closeupB emails:

I usually get my tires online but picking them up at the UPS facility in Latham is a pain and I'm happy to spend a few extra dollars to support local businesses. Any suggestions for good local tire shops? Selection and customer service are a plus, but evening/weekend hours are the dealbreaker since I have a 9-5 and dropoff/pickup is extremely inconvenient. Proximity to Albany proper a plus.

Got a suggestion for B? Please share! And, as always, bonus points for a little bit of explanation for why you're suggesting the place.

While we're on the subject: A lot of people are probably thinking about snow tires right now, so if you have a suggestion about where to buy them / get them put back on -- this is a good thread for it.

A good place to buy a used car?

used car windshieldKatie asks via Twitter:

Any recommendations on good, honest, and reliable used car or new car dealerships in the capital region?

There are (at least) two parts to buying a car: the actual car (Is it an OK car for the price?) and the experience of buying it (Lots of pressure? Are they helpful?).

So, any suggestions for Katie -- about where to go in the Capital Region, or even just tips on what to look for?

If you have a suggestion for a specific place, please include why you like that place.

Bumper gawking

SCATTERD

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Taking away the driver's license of multiple offenders, permanently

police car lightsIf you follow Capital Region news somewhat closely, one of the things you'll notice is how often people get arrested for multiple DWIs (we didn't have to look hard to find those). It seems to happen with depressing regularity.

Of course, this isn't just a problem in this area. Today Andrew Cuomo announced new state regulations that are aimed at keeping repeat drunk and/or drugged drivers off the road (or at least taking their licenses away). The new rules are listed after the jump. In short, they include:

+ The DMV will now be allowed to review the lifetime record of drivers who apply to have their license re-instated.

+ If the DMV determines the person has five or more alcohol or drug related driving convictions in his or her lifetime -- or a combination of three convictions and other offenses -- the DMV can permanently revoke their license. (Permanent revocation wasn't previously allowed.)

+ Allow the DMV to make sure a temporary license revocation lasts the full six months or a year. (Apparently it was possible to get a temporarily revoked license back after as little as seven weeks previously.)

The Cuomo admin says there are currently 50,000 people in the state with with valid or suspended licenses who have three or more alcohol-related convictions in their lifetimes -- and more than a third of them have been involved in crashes that killed or injured someone. It figures the new rules will permanently revoke -- or delay -- the licenses of 20,000 people this year.

Not mentioned in the announcement: treatment. Some people who get stopped for DWI just made a stupid mistake and probably won't repeat it. But others -- and we suspect a lot of the repeat offenders fall into this category -- have an addiction that needs treatment. When you show up drunk to a STOP-DWI Victim's Impact Panel, you probably have a serious problem. We're curious if there's a way to better help these people.

In other news: computers apparently can drive cars pretty well. [WSJ]

photo: Flickr user davidsonscott15 (cc)

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Sharing cars, sharing bikes

philly car share car

A car share car in Philadelphia. / photo: Flickr user glokbell (cc)

Capital CarShare, the group planning a non-for-profit car sharing org for the Capital Region, has put together a very detailed plan for the service. It includes explanations of how the service would work, neighborhoods where it would set, and projected finances.

The report is at the link above. It's also embedded after the jump.

The proposed service would include three membership levels (with discounts for yearly memberships):
+ Basic - $0/month, $9/hour, $0.25/mile
+ Silver - $10/month, $7/hour, $0.25/mile
+ Gold - $30/month, $5/hour, $0.25/mile

The plan also ranks areas in the order of expected roll out of the service over three years:

1. Downtown Albany, Center Square, and University Heights
2. Albany's Park South and Pine Hills neighborhoods
3. Arbor Hill, South End, and Delaware Avenue neighborhoods

There are a lot more details in the reports and it's worth taking a look if you're interested.

Earlier on AOA: Lauren Alpert talked about the car sharing plan on Soapbox back in June.

[via TSTC / thanks, Matthew]

Bike sharing
The city of Albany, Capital District Transportation Committee, bike-planning-famous consultancy Alta Planning and Design are (emphasis added) "conducting a study on what bike route signage is needed in the City of Albany and how bike sharing might be implemented here." There's a public meeting about the study next Monday (September 24) at The Linda at 6 pm. The blurbage says they'll also be looking for public input at the meeting. (Poster embedded after the jump.)

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Does the flux capacitor work?

Brian tweeted this photo to us today. He says he spotted the DeLorean just off Watervliet Ave in Albany. We asked him if he knew the backstory (link added):

Absolutely no idea. People milling around the car had no idea either. No Doc Brown sightings either.

Brian's posted a few more photos on Twitter. In case you're wondering, yes, the car is equipped with a Mr. Fusion.

Some of the streets in the area are reasonably straight, you might be able to hit 88 mph...

(Thanks, Brian!)

Bumper gawking

ARRRRM8Y

Arrr! We're not sure who sent this one to us, but thanks!

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

So people actually do get stopped for texting while driving

texting while drivingAlmost 21,000 tickets for texting-while-driving were issued by police in New York State over the last year, according to numbers from the Cuomo admin. And, look, county-by-county numbers for the past year (year before that):

Albany County: 539 (75)
Rensselaer County: 163 (21)
Saratoga County: 326 (42)
Schenectady County: 69 (18)

(It appears that Albany County racked up that total thanks in part to a sweep this spring by the county sheriff's office that netted 230 tickets for talking or texting while driving. [Troy Record])

The totals were released to mark one year since the state law making TWD a primary traffic offense took effect. That means police can now pull a person over just for that -- before you had to be doing something else to get stopped (like swerving over the double yellow because you were sending email). And it looks like people are getting pulled over for it.

You might think you can text and drive with no problem -- we're all above average drivers, right (oh, wait...) -- but probably not. There's research that indicates a distracted driver is about as bad as a driver with a .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for drunk driving. (The New York Times produced a good series about the risks of distracted driving.)

All county totals after the jump, if you're curious.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver (cc)

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Albany parking permit zones and streets

The Albany Common Council approved the final slate of streets for the new residential parking permit system Monday night. A map of the three zones is above. After the jump: a list of the designated streets with individual zone maps -- along with a copy of the resolution designating them.

Not every parking space in the designated areas will be subject to the permit system. But there many be some whole blocks designated within the zones, according to councilman Richard Conti, who headed up the design of the system. The state law allowing the system limits it to no more than 2,750 spots.

The target start date for the permit system is October 1. The spaces will be subject to permit parking from 8 am-6 pm on weekdays -- though two-hour parking will be allowed for people without permits. The permits will cost $25, and permit holders will get guest passes.

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Something to be happy about: traffic

stopped behind van brake lightsWorth pointing out (again): the Albany metro area has a relatively low level of traffic congestion. In fact, compared to a lot of large metros, it essentially doesn't have traffic.

The Albany metro area ranked 78th for traffic congestion during the 12 months that ended in April 2012, according to the traffic data firm INRIX. Trips here on average took 2.1 percent more time because of congestion (down from 3.6 percent during the same period the year before). It estimates that the average driver here wasted 4.1 hours during that period because of congestion.

For some context: the most congested metro area last year was Honolulu, where INRIX figures drivers wasted 58 hours during the year. The Honolulu metro is roughly the same size as Albany-Schenectady-Troy in terms of population (Honolulu is #53, Albany is #59).

The time of the week with the most congestion? Thursday and Friday afternoon rush hour.

INRIX didn't identify any corridor bottlenecks here. The most congested corridor in the nation was a portion of the 405 in LA.

Austin: Q: Why did the semiconductor consortium cross the road to Albany? A: Maybe because it couldn't cross the road in Austin -- the Texas city had the 6th worst traffic congestion in the nation.

We're joking about that. Mostly. But there's research that traffic and commuting make people unhappy -- and that we often underestimate the degree to which it's a downer. [Wired]

Here's the INRIX explainer on methodology. Last year were able to find out which roadways it was tracking in this area -- we can't find that this year. (Last year it was I-87, I-90, I-787, I-890, and Route 7.)

Car sharing in the Capital Region

zipcar portland

Zip Car's car sharing program is popular in other cities around the U.S.

By Lauren Alpert

soapbox badgeI'll admit it -- life in the capital region is a lot easier with a car.

A car makes going on that big shopping trip, going apple picking or going for a hike at Thacher State Park a lot more convenient. While CDTA buses are a good option to get to many destinations, public transit doesn't take you everywhere you need to go, so a car can be a necesssity.

But a car can also be a headache -- and a lot of expense. Think about the amount of time the car you're paying for and insuring sits idle -- just waiting for you to decide to go somewhere.

Bundle your insurance, gas, parking and maintenance costs together into an monthly rate and it can add up pretty quickly. $300 a month? $500?

That's one of the reasons we're working on car sharing in the Capital Region .

(there's more)

Bumper gawking

GOTBRUCE

Erik spotted this plate in downtown Albany the night of the Bruce Springsteen concert.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Was the state surplus car auction a deal?

nys surplus toyota prius

The final bid for this car: $11,505

The Cuomo admin announced today that state pulled in a little more than $1.6 million in final bids for the eBay auction of surplus 454 state vehicles. (It closed this morning.)

We stopped by the lot on the Harriman office campus earlier this week to check out the inventory. We were especially interested in the 2008 Priuses (Prii?) that were available because even though they had a lot of miles, they seemed like they were in pretty good shape. Of course, if you were to buy one, you'd have to do it "as is" -- without driving it.

So, what sort of discount might people expect for buying under that situation? And did they score a deal?

To get some sense of that we compared the final bids for the group of 2008 Priuses against the Kelley Blue Book value for the vehicles.

You know what that means -- bring on the table...

(there's more)

The state would like to sell you a used car

nys surplus toyota prius

A 2008 Toyota Prius the state is selling on eBay.

The state's new website for selling surplus on eBay -- NYS Store -- officially launched today.

The first big sale (if that's the word) is a lot of 450 vehicles up for auction. The vehicles are currently at the Harriman State Office Campus and will be available for inspection a few days over this weekend and next week. The minimum bid is $500. The auction ends April 13.

Most of the vehicles are Chevys and Fords, the kind that just sort of say "government vehicle." But browsing the stock this morning we noticed there are a handful of Honda and Toyota hybrids, also.

The state has been selling old/surplus stuff on eBay for years. It looks like the new website is mostly a better "storefront" for those auctions.

photo: NYS OGS

Bumper gawking

AWSOMDAD

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Yep, gasoline prices have gone up

albany gas prices one year 2012-03-06

The blue line is the reported Albany area average price per gallon, the red the reported national average price.

Today's chart: From AlbanyGasPrices.com, it's a chart of Albany area gasoline prices over the last year.

In what's been painfully obvious if you've been filling up recently, there's a been a steep rise since December -- about 15 percent. But the recent run up follows what was more or less 8 months of declines. In fact, prices are still a bit below last year's high in April.

By the way: There are a handful of stations charging more than $4/gallon, according to AlbanyGasPrice.com's crowd-sourced reports -- including a station in Guilderland reportedly charging $4.16. The lowest price reported today in the core Capital Region was 3.83 in in Ballston Spa.

Taxes: The combined state and federal tax on a gallon of gasoline in New York State is 67.4 cents -- the highest in the nation. California and Connecticut are tied for #2 at 67 cents. [API]

[via @AndyArthur]

Earlier on AOA: March 2011: Everyone's taking a hit on gas prices -- sometimes even the gas stations

chart: AlbanyGasPrices.com

Where to get car windows untinted?

tinted car windowMike emails with an unusual question:

Is there a good place in the area to have car window tint *removed*? I bought a car with tinted windows a few months ago from someone in Brooklyn. I was recently informed on the side of the Northway by a friendly State Trooper that the tint is much darker than the law allows. I never particularly liked it, anyway, but I'm not sure either a) how to remove it myself or b) where in the area is a good place to have it removed.
Suggestions on either would be appreciated.

Fun fact: State Police actually have an instrument they use to measure window tint. Windows that allow less than 70 percent of outside light to pass through are illegal.

We're guessing this is a fact that Mike would have rather not learned first hand. And we do hope he can avoid any more roadside discussions with the State Police.

So, have a suggestion for Mike? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dno1967b

A good auto body shop?

damaged car bumperKaitlin asks via Twitter:

I am in need of good auto body places in Albany. ... I just need to get my bumper repaired/replaced, rather than something mechanical, I suppose?

Got a suggestion for Kaitlin? Please share!

By the way: Here's our Capital Region Recommended Auto Mechanics list, if you haven't seen it before.

The Giants Super Bowl license plate

nys license plate Giants Super Bowl 2012

You'll no doubt be heartbroken to find out that "ELI4EVER" won't fit on the Giants plate.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled a Giants 2012 Super Bowl Champions custom plate today. They're $60, plus a $31.25 renewal fee, non-customized. If you want to express your love for Eli with a custom plate number, that's another $60.

Speaking of this stuff: Will the city of Albany update those "Albany / Mayor Jennings welcomes you / Summer Home of the Super Bowl XLII Champion New York Giants" signs now? Maybe it's a good time to swap the signs for something along the lines of simply, "Welcome to Albany / Capital of the Empire State."

image via NY Governor's Office

Left on red

red light northern blvd

The light that wouldn't turn.

By AOA Greg

Choose your own adventure time: You're at the traffic light at the end of the I-90/Route 9 off-ramp at Northern Boulevard in Albany. There are four cars waiting to turn left at the red light. You wait. You wait. You wait. Minutes pass. The light doesn't change. Do you...

1. Turn left on red.

2. Go around one of the cars ahead of you so you can turn left on red.

3. Move to the right lane so you can turn right on red.

4. Sit there and hope that the light will change. Someday.

I'm curious about what you would have done in that situation. Because this happened to me the other day -- and the choices made by the other three cars in line surprised me. It made me wonder I had missed some memo about community standards regarding slow-cycling/possibly broken traffic lights.

Here's how it shook out.

(there's more)

What are your car radio preset stations?

generic car radio buttonsCapitol to Capital asks via Twitter:

New (to us) car doesn't have satellite radio like the other. What should our presets be??

Or, to ask Cap2Cap's question a little differently: What are the preset stations on your car radio?

Please share!

photo: Flickr user nedrichards

Bumper gawking

CRSPBACN

Probably not a vegetarian. (Thanks, Cassie!)

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

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Park and plug in

electric vehicle charging station shoprite niskayuna

The future. Maybe.

Kristofer spotted this electric vehicle charging station at the new ShopRite in Niskayuna. There are four spots in supermarket's parking lot designated for electric vehicles. Apparently Niskayuna town officials requested that ShopRite include the spots as part of its design for the store. [Spotlight]

The ShopRite charger brings the number of EV charging spots in the Capital Region to five, according to Dan Gibson at Our Energy Independence Community. In addition to ShopRite, there are stations at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Albany, NYSERDA in Guilderland, the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park in Malta, and the HVCC Tec-Smart facility also in Malta.

Here's the thing, though: there are extraordinarily few electric cars on the road. The two currently for sale -- the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf -- are new on the market, and the technology -- especially for batteries -- could use some improvement. Most people probably aren't going to be keen to drive a car with a range of at most 100 miles in ideal conditions -- and much less in normal conditions. (To clarify: the Volt also has a gasoline engine, which can kick in after the batteries run out.) [NPR] [USA Today]

It's interesting/fitting that Niskayuna has an EV charging station made by GE, in an everything-new-is-old kind of way. Ace GE scientist Charles Steinmetz had an electric car all the way back in 1914. He used to drive it to his weekend home.

The Edison Exploratorium in Schenectady still has Steinmetz's electric car. There's video of it embedded after the jump.

(Thanks, Kristofer!)

(there's more)

Bumper gawking

A long way from the ZIP code.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's yet another new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

What to do with a junk car?

tan corolla hoodA question from AOA Greg:

We have a 1996 Corolla for which we're trying to find a final home. It's been a great car, but it's finally reached that point where the repairs would cost more than it's worth. (Steve at Larry's Foreign Auto advised us it was time to find a new car. Yep, his advice probably cost him work. Yet another reason why Steve is the best.)
So we're thinking there are three possibilities here:
1. Try to the sell the car on Craigslist. Maybe there's someone who'd want it. Might be tough, because it needs significant repair and it's old. Not the option we'd prefer.
2. Sell the car to a junk car service.
3. Donate the car to a charity.
Our preference is to donate the car -- sure, we'd like the money, but the sum would probably not be large. If we can help out a charity, great.
So, suggestions for local junk car services or charities looking for car donations?

Got a suggestion for Greg and Mrs. Greg? Please share!

The cute car

eyelash mini car small

If for a better look, try a larger version of the photo.

Miriam snapped this pic recently after spotting this car in the parking lot outside the Target in Latham. It pushes the Mini's cuteness to an until-now-only-theoretical level.

So... where does one get mascara for those lashes?

(Thanks, Miriam!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ The Vehigloo
+ The toy car

Bumper gawking

GOTELVIS custom license plate

Elvis is alive. And in this person's trunk.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's a new bunch from around town...

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Roli's Auto

Roli's Auto - interior

Inside Roli's Auto

By Hannah Walker

When someone says Schaghticoke you probably think of the fair. At least I do. Other than cow pastures and corn fields, there's not a heck of a lot else out that way.

Well -- except for a mural-covered muscle car showroom/garage.

(there's more)

The one-car household: a car junkie cuts back

By Martin Daley

soapbox badgeI am what you may call a recovering car junkie.

I. Love. Cars.

I've had over 10 of them -- even a couple of classics. And I still pine for the restored 1986 Jeep CJ-7 I once owned.

But a couple of years ago a muffler shop noticed a ton of frame rust on my barely-broken-in Toyota Tacoma and told me about a buyback program created to address the problem. After a month of back and forth, Toyota eventually bought my beloved truck back.

Since then, we've been a single car household.

Here's how it's worked out.

(there's more)

Bumper gawking

bumper gawking DEATH

Death drives a pickup truck. Who knew.

We like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's a new bunch from around town...

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Andrew Cuomo would like you to pay attention to the road

texting while drivingThe Cuomo admin proposed legislation that would make it illegal to use any portable electronic device while driving (exception: phone with a hands-free device). From the release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will introduce new legislation that will crack down on drivers caught using a portable electronic device including blackberrys, iPhones, i-pads, laptop computers, gaming devices and any other portable device, or talking on a cell phone without a hands free device, while driving. The bill would impose unprecedented penalties drivers caught using such a device by adding three points on a driver's license in order to curb the dramatic rise of this dangerous activity. Governor Cuomo's legislation would also make driving while using any portable electronic device a primary, rather than just a secondary offense, meaning that drivers can now be stopped solely if they are found to be using such a device while driving.

As it is now, you can't be stopped specifically for texting or phoning while driving -- you have to be pulled over for some over offense (say, crossing the double yellow because you weren't watching) and then you can be tagged for using your phone.

You might think you can text and drive with no problem -- we're all above average drivers, right (oh, wait...) -- but you're probably wrong. There's research that indicates a distracted driver is about as bad as a driver with a .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for drunk driving. (The New York Times produced a good series about the risks of distracted driving.)

The Cuomo admin hasn't posted the actual bill, yet, so there are still some questions. Among them: what about dashboard GPS devices (trying to find out where you're going can make you forget about where you're going). And automakers are starting to put dashboard computers into cars.

There's already a bill in the legislature that would make texting while driving a primary offense.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver

Full of the spirit... and somewhat less so

jesus limo before after

Stephen sent along these sort-of before-and-after photos of the oft-sighted and now Albany-famous Jesus Limo.

(What, you're over the Jesus Limo? Yes, well, perhaps it is so April 2011.)

Rob got the scoop on the limo last month -- it belongs to a church in West Hill.

(Thanks, Stephen)

Bumper gawking

schmblny

Albany, Schmalbany.

As is now very well established, we like to gawk at custom license plates.

And we know you do, too.

Here's a new bunch from around town...

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Parking lot Shakespeare

car parked on snowbankBob posted this comment Friday afternoon after the pic of the car parked against a parking lot snow pile.

It's great, comment of the month (and we're only halfway through):

To park, or not to park: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take the auto against a sea of troubles,
And by parking end them? To be towed: to drive
No more; and by a tow truck to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That the auto is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To be towed, to park;
To park: perchance to shop: ay, there's the rub;
For in that tow truck what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal magneto coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life...in a shopping mall.

Thanks, Bob!

By the way: here's the original from Hamlet.

Bumper gawking

bumper gawking albany

Does anyone know who has this plate? And we have an answer!

As is now well established, we like to gawk at custom license plates. And we know you do, too.

Here's a new bunch from around town...

(there's more)

Where to get a remote car starter installed?

snow buried carOut in the cold, Kelly emails:

I am looking to get a remote car starter installed and I was wondering if AOA or its readers had suggestions for shops they've had experience with. I can't find much in the way of reviews online. Thank you!

Got a suggestion for Kelly? Please share!

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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