riders? CDTA touts new, simplified rate structure.
photo: Joe Putrock
for Your Convenience
plan to change its fare system draws praise—and surprisingly
you’ve ever taken Capital District Transportation Authority
buses between Albany and Troy or Schenectady with any regularity,
you’ve no doubt witnessed this exchange between driver and
passenger at least once. You might even have had the experience
Driver: “Zone check, please.”
Passenger: “You didn’t give me one.”
Driver: “Yes, I did. Thirty-five cents, please.”
Passenger: “I already paid. You didn’t give me a zone check.”
Under the current fare structure, certain longer-distance
CDTA routes require an extra “zone charge” above the $1 base
fare. When boarding, passengers pay the extra fare and the
driver gives them a slip of paper or “zone check,” which the
driver will later collect as proof of payment when the zone
boundary is crossed. (Between Albany and Schenectady, for
example, the extra fare applies if you ride the bus past Route
155 in either direction.) As in the scene described above,
disputes can arise.
Sometimes passengers don’t know about the extra fare. Sometimes
passengers are trying to beat CDTA out of 35 cents. And, sometimes,
a driver will indeed forget to hand out a zone check to a
As part of CDTA’s proposed restructured fare policy—recently
revealed at a series of public meetings in Troy, Schenectady,
Saratoga Springs and Albany—the zone system will be ended.
In fact, much of the current fare system will be simplified.
The extra charges for long-distance routes and express buses
will be eliminated. The current off-peak half-fare discount
for the elderly and disabled will be extended to all hours
of CDTA operation. The elimination of the zone system and
express charges will allow CDTA to reduce the types of monthly
Swiper cards, which allow unlimited rides, from five to two.
The $1 base fare will remain the same.
On the other hand—as the authority giveth, the authority taketh
away—the fare on the various suburban shuttle services will
be raised from 25 cents, an amount CDTA has characterized
as an “introductory fare,” to $1. Most controversially, the
system of bus transfers (receiving a paper transfer with your
paid fare that allows a free transfer to another bus) will
be ended. In its place, a $3 “day pass,” allowing unlimited
travel for one day, will be offered.
When asked about the general reaction at the four recent public
meetings, CDTA spokesman Carm Basile said that the plan was
“warmly received.” He added that while, of course, “certain
groups have certain issues,” overall, the simplicity of the
plan proved appealing.
The plan, Basile explained, has been more than a year in the
making. The changes were derived, he added, from input from
the public and all levels of CDTA, from drivers to the board
of directors. Drivers and customers find the zone system cumbersome,
and the complex rate structure created a marketing problem
for CDTA. The goal, Basile said, was to create a more simplified,
“revenue-neutral” (meaning that the new plan is not a back-door
attempt to raise revenue) rate structure that everyone could
be happy with.
Lucille Brewer, of the advocacy group Citizens for Transportation,
is generally happy with the proposed changes: “On the whole,
I think they’re good.”
Though Brewer is not entirely pleased with the elimination
of bus transfers—the extra cost may penalize infrequent riders—she
thinks that the $3 day pass may encourage more people to buy
the monthly Swiper cards, which allow unlimited trips. And,
she adds, Swiper cards are simply better.
Brewer’s only serious reservation relates to the increase
in cost from 25 cents to $1 for the shuttle that services
Northway Mall from Colonie Center. Citizens for Transportation
was the driving force behind this expanded service, and Brewer
notes that $1 seems to be a lot to charge for the ride across
According to CDTA’s Basile, the new rate structure could go
into effect as early as March 2005. The public comment period
ended Oct. 1, and the authority needs to go through all submitted
comments. The board of directors may take up the proposal
at their November meeting.
The main challenge in implementing the new system will be
educating the public, Basile said. By eliminating transfers
and zone checks, he noted, CDTA will be asking the public
to change “70 years of behavior.”
“OFFER: Day-old Snapping Turtles. about 1.5
inches long. Very cute and harm[l]ess at the moment.
After a few months . . . they will be able [to]
take off a child’s fingers, or an adult’s fingers.
Available for “class project”, “show-and-tell,”
anatomy lessons, or at-home study. . . . Do NOT
release these turtles in the wild . . . Eat these
turtles if necessary, but do not introduce them
where they are not already established. . . .
Wild-grown snapping turtles are saddly [sic] often
contaminated with heavy metal po[l]lution, or
PCBs. These pups could be raised “organic” like
chickens, living off your table scraps. You are
responsible for obtaining any permits necessary.”
to the Capital Region Freecycle listserv from
a landowner trying to keep snapping turtles out
of his pond. The message contained background
information on the legality and safety of keeping
and releasing turtles, but no recipes.
States Are States, Too
recent storms, several counties in New York, including
Delaware and Sullivan, experienced flooding above
the 100-year floodplains, but have not received
any disaster aid like that approved for neighboring
Pennsylvania counties from the same storm. While
George W. Bush was quick to issue a Presidential
Disaster Declaration for several counties in Pennsylvania
(a swing state), requests made by Gov. George
Pataki in late September for similar aid have
yet to be answered. The delay is “as yet unexplained,”
as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter
to Bush requesting that he expedite the process.
Speech 1, Diebold 0
a victory for free speech and open discussion,
a district court in California ruled that electronic
voting machine manufacturer Diebold Inc. knowingly
misused the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright
Act in an attempt to silence online discussion
of flaws in the company’s products. Diebold sent
out dozens of cease-and-desist letters to Internet
service providers hosting documents leaked from
Diebold that described significant flaws in the
technology used for recording votes, claiming
that copyright laws protected the documents. Electronic
advocacy groups sued Diebold on behalf of the
ISPs for improper use of the DMCA. Judge Jeremy
Fogel wrote in his decision that “no reasonable
copyright holder could have believed that [the
documents] were protected by copyright.”
Off, Facts Murky
first presidential debate and only vice-presidential
debate jumpstarted interest in the presidential
campaign this week. Kerry supporters were crowing
over a Bush performance that many likened to a
kid in the principal’s office—to the extent that
some Bush supporters started asking if Kerry “had
the questions beforehand.” We all know the questions;
it’s the answers we’re concerned about, folks.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday a tense Cheney mistakenly
directed the audience to factcheck.com (George
Soros’ anti-Bush site) rather than factcheck.org.
The nonpartisan factcheck.org does, however, have
good rundowns of the inaccuracies perpetuated
by both parties in both debates (and, by the way,
backs Edwards up on the claim for which Cheney
was referring people to the site).
Are They Thinking?
Russell Sage College/Zogby poll finds that the
gender gap has evaporated and women are split
evenly between the presidential tickets. There
is, however, a pronounced marriage gap: Single
women support Kerry by a 2-to-1 margin, while
52 percent of married women favor Bush. Tellingly,
married women whose husbands handle the financial
decisions in the household are much more likely—73
percent—to support Bush.
Lady of Protest?
credit: John Whipple
a Citizens Concerned for Human Life protest outside
Colonie Center on Sunday (Oct. 3), a woman hides
her face behind a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe,
who has been adopted by some anti-abortion activists
as a symbol of their movement.
plan for real reform: (l-r) Dick Dadey, Rachel Leon,
Blair Horner and Barbara Bartoletti.
credit: Rick Marshall
groups urge voters to be wary of lawmakers’ reform-minded
promises, and create a checklist to
separate the true reformists from the pretenders
the recent convergence of scandals, late budgets, election
upsets and widespread calls for reform a “perfect storm” in
state government, several civic groups have created a list
of issues for voters to keep in mind when evaluating lawmakers’
commitment to reform.
are adaptable people,” said Blair Horner, legislative director
for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Over the
years they’ve learned to shrug off our critique and they’ve
learned to shrug off editorial critique.”
this—this is something different,” said Horner, referring
to a recent spate of elections where incumbents have been
unseated in party primaries by challengers pledging to make
sweeping reforms in state government. “Politicians are now
clamoring to declare themselves ‘reformers,’ but we need to
make sure their preelection rhetoric matches their postelection
The civic groups presented a list of 10 issues that—in some
cases—could be acted upon prior to the upcoming election,
but in the likely event that no action is taken, state legislators
were invited to make the issues a part of their campaigns.
list] helps to frame the debate,” explained Rachel Leon of
Common Cause New York.
Among the 10 recommendations made by the civic groups was
that an independent redistricting commission be created to
redraw legislative district boundaries and create more competitive
elections. Since Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans
have been given free rein by the governor to create the boundaries
of their legislative districts, incumbents usually face little
opposition in general elections. The civic groups recommended
modeling an independent commission after one already in place
Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters called for
the state government to revisit legislation it passed this
year regarding the Help America Vote Act. The groups claimed
that the final legislation agreed upon by both halves of the
Legislature did not include some of the necessary safeguards
for voter identification, among other things. While they applauded
legislators for putting New York state into compliance with
basic federal voting standards, the groups argued that glaring
inconsistencies in the legislation will likely cause problems
in the upcoming election.
of mass chaos in November, we just might have mass confusion,”
explained Bartoletti, who also added that if legislators wait
too long to discuss standards for voting machines, the test
for any new technology might be held during the nation’s midterm
elections in 2006 instead of the 2005 county elections.
Also included in the group’s 10-point plan was a recommendation
for the governor to make documents normally available through
the Freedom of Information Law—and its accompanying paperwork—also
available via the Internet. The groups also urged passage
of legislation regarding budget, campaign-finance and lobbying
reforms that failed to make it out of the Legislature or governor’s
office last session.
While many legislators have already adopted some of these
recommendations for reform in the run-up to November’s election,
the groups urged voters to be skeptical, take note of lawmakers’
preelection positions this year, and vote accordingly in 2006.
we can go on is what [candidates] say,” said Horner. “But
these [elected officials] aren’t in for life—although some
of them might think that they are.”
Answer, My Friend . . .
the price of oil at an all-time high, some local groups say
spending more on it is not the only option
a forum held in Bethlehem last weekend, scientists and other
professionals from around the region weighed in on the relationship
between oil production and use, and discussed alternatives
to standard energy systems.
According to Dave Borton, professor of solar energy at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, the rate of oil use in America eclipsed
that of new oil discovery more than 20 years ago. With the
future of global oil discovery uncertain, and the United States’
reliance on imported oil increasing, said Borton, this country
is going to face some tough decisions as world supply nears
However, there are ways to reduce reliance on oil—both on
the national and individual level.
can do a lot in New York state when you use the sun,” said
Borton, who claimed that if properly harnessed, solar energy
from just the four states in the Southwest corner of the United
States could meet the rest of the nation’s energy needs. Furthermore,
Borton claimed that the entire nation could be similarly powered
by harnessing wind energy from the Midwest.
While he acknowledged that a transition to solar or wind energy—both
for individual homes and across the nation—would be expensive
in its initial stages, Borton said that deciding to use solar
power in his own home has saved him nearly $1,000 each year.
Marion Trieste, a consultant for wind-energy supplier Community
Energy, was also on hand to offer up details on the use of
wind power around New York and the rest of the nation. Trieste
addressed several of the common concerns regarding wind power,
including facilities’ cost-effectiveness and their aesthetic
effect upon the surrounding region.
has been a 90-percent reduction in the costs associated with
using wind power since 1980,” explained Trieste, who added
that the growth of the wind industry and reduction in its
associated costs is entirely dependent upon showing that there’s
a public demand for harnessing renewable resources.
While critics of wind-power facilities often claim that the
necessary turbines have a negative aesthetic effect on the
region, Trieste argued that such facilities are often a key
component to preserving the surrounding land. In order for
such facilities to be effective, she explained, the area around
the turbines must remain undeveloped—thereby preserving open
[consumers] see the potential—what it could mean for our future—I
have no doubt that their attitudes would change,” she said,
adding that the New York headquarters of the Environmental
Protection Agency, in New York City, operates on 100-percent
wind power. (Though the actual electricity that the building
receives is no different than what its neighbors get, it has
purchased a new amount of wind power equivalent to its energy
usage, thereby adding that much wind power to the system.)
The New York EPA building was the first government building
in the nation to do this. Locally, Saratoga Springs has recently
signed up to get a large portion of its energy through Community
Energy’s wind turbines.
Joining Trieste and Borton at the forum were two members of
the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority,
who urged attendees to take an active role in their communities’
use of energy. Along with encouraging elected officials to
adopt energy-efficient building codes, consideration of energy
use when developing—including transportation needs during
and after construction—can reduce future consumption of nonrenewable
resources, they explained.
purchasing new, more efficient construction vehicles is a
step in the right direction,” said Bill Reinhardt, one of
the NYSERDA representatives.
Volunteers were also on hand at the forum to assist Niagara
Mohawk subscribers in registering for a program that would
require a significant portion of subscribers’ electricity
to come from wind power (using a similar approach to the New
York EPA building). While the volunteers made sure to point
out that the program would slightly increase subscribers’
monthly bills, many of those signing up echoed the sentiments
expressed by Trieste during the forum—wanting to show that
the public is not only interested in renewable energy, but
is willing to pay a little more to realize its potential.
Gras, the delicacy created by force-feeding ducks
[“Foie Wha?” Newsfront, Aug. 26], has been banned
in California (to be phased out over several years),
leaving New York the only state where it remains
legal. . . . The law ensuring hospital visitation
rights to domestic partners in New York state
[“No Longer Out in the Cold,” Newsfront, Aug.
19], has been signed by Gov. George Pataki. .
. . Both the Department of Environmental Conservation
and the state power-plant siting committee have
signed off on the contentious Besicorp power plant
and newsprint recycling facility planned for Rensselaer
[“Rensselaer Surrenders,” Newsfront, May 27].
. . . Kevin Hall, an attorney who spoke out against
Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka [“Judicial Tempers,”
Trail Mix, Aug. 5], has been suspended from the
practice of law for professional misconduct. .
. . St. Lawrence Cement Plant [“Cement Soundbites,”
FYI, Aug. 5] has withdrawn its application for
a “Coastal Consistency” determination from the
state Division of Coastal Resources. This does
not mean it cannot reapply, but it would have
to start over from the beginning of the review