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Shopping Dangerously

Crossing the multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic on Route 5 between Colonie Center and Northway Mall can be daunting for even the most able-bodied pedestrian. For people who, due to age or disability, must use a bit more caution, that sidewalk-to-sidewalk journey can be exceptionally dangerous. So, on Saturday (Nov. 8), about half-a-dozen grassroots public-transportation advocates took up picket signs in the hopes of making the public aware of the dangers faced by nondrivers wishing to patronize mall businesses.

In 1999, Capital District Transportation Authority bus routes taking patrons into the Northway Mall parking lot were abruptly canceled, due to a lack of interest in the then-suffering commercial district. Since that time, the mall has experienced a revitalization, with several well-known businesses setting up shop in the area. However, even with this revitalization, no plan to reconnect the mall directly to bus routes has emerged, leaving many nondrivers in the region concerned.

People wishing to use public transportation for a trip to Northway Mall currently have two options. Eastbound passengers can disembark at a bus stop on the same side of Route 5 as Northway Mall, but in order to reach the mall from this bus stop, customers must navigate without a sidewalk over a landscaped embankment and then cross a wide, bustling parking lot.

For westbound passengers, the difficulties in patronizing Northway Mall are significantly greater, since they have to cross the highway. Traffic on Route 5 is frequently congested, and, according to 66-year-old Lucille Brewer, chairwoman of Citizens for Transportation, often unforgiving toward people whose pace is too slow for the brief crossing time alloted by the walk signals.

Several years of discussion between representatives of Northway Mall, CDTA and groups like Citizens for Transportation have yielded several potential solutions, but nothing has come to fruition so far. One idea involved shuttle service between Colonie Center, Northway Mall and their respective bus stops.

According to Margo Janack, manager of corporate communications for CDTA, these concerns have not fallen on deaf ears. “We haven’t defined the scope of or the method [of a solution] just yet,” explained Janack. “We’re looking closely at the use of a shuttle-fly, because we do want to provide for the people who use our service.”

However, Northway Mall management has been resistant to many of the proposed solutions, according to Brewer. Even after compiling extensive petitions, the most recent signed by 383 Route 5 bus patrons, and garnering the support of CDTA, Citizens for Transportation has received little in the way of response from Northway’s New York City–based management company, Mall Properties Inc. This lack of communication prompted Saturday’s demonstration, where protestors traced the long route from bus stop to mall.

“CDTA was willing to send the shuttle buses into the mall,” said Brewer, “but they [Northway Mall] acted as if they didn’t want the buses in there.”

Numerous calls to Mall Properties were not returned.

“The New York City management is basicly ignoring everyone,” Brewer said.

—Rick Marshall

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