Sometimes it’s the Small Things

Most days, I take the CDTA‘s #114 Madison Avenue bus to school. It’s not as useful a line as it could be–it only runs twice an hour, and it seems to me that ridership could support more frequent service–but it stops two blocks from our apartment and goes right to the main entrance to the UAlbany campus, convenience which can’t be beat. One thing I’ve noticed since becoming a regular rider of the line is that there are a very few minor streetscape factors that could be tweaked to make the bus run more smoothly and make the rider experience a little easier.

At the corner of Madison and Main, the 114 makes a quick right off of Madison to cut over to Washington, the main arterial which it takes to campus. The right turn is illustrated below; we’re facing west on Madison, wanting to turn right (north) onto Main.

It’s a tight turn for a full-size bus. Main isn’t quite wide enough for two lanes of parking AND two lanes of traffic, particularly when one of those lanes is taken up by a wider-than-your-average-car vehicle. This is especially true in the winter, when the plows push a few inches of snow up against the curbs, making the street a crucial foot or two narrower. On almost every trip over the last six weeks that I’ve been riding the bus, there’s been some conflict over street space at this corner. Most often, the bus can’t make the turn, and any cars that are lined up southbound on Main at the light have to back up and let it through. As a driver, I can attest that this is a hugely stressful situation, and of course it can delay the bus by a minute or two. There is, however, a very simple solution of minimal impact: simply ban parking in the first spot on the right on Main north of Madison, the one that appears in the Google Maps shot to be occupied by a black crossover. This would allow buses to make their turn more sharply, reducing or eliminating conflict with oncoming traffic. Why has this not happened? My best guess is that it’s simply a situation where the city (which is in charge of parking) and the transit agency haven’t thought to work together. It’s a symptom of the minor irritants of urban life that are a result of the fragmentation of governance and purpose from which New York State (and many other jurisdictions, of course) suffers.

There’s actually a second minor irritant on the route, just a block away at the corner of Main and Western, another major arterial.

We’re looking north on Main, with Western running east-west (at a slight slant towards the south) across the scene. The stop for the outbound 114 is on our right, on the southeast corner of Main and Western. The stop for the CDTA’s #10 and #11 routes, which run along Western, are across Western on the northeast corner. So it’s no big deal, routes that cross on a grid often have stops that are across an intersection from one another, right? Actually, this is an issue of some importance. The 114 and 11 both stop at UAlbany (the 11 terminates there; it’s primarily a university shuttle route), and the 114 and 10 both terminate at Crossgates Mall, which is also a major suburban transfer point. The ridership in this area is heavily composed of students. The upshot is that virtually all  riders at this stop can get where they’re going by taking any two of the three available bus routes. In this case, the practical thing would be to place all three stops on one corner, so that riders don’t have to decide where to stand. The practical import of the current situation is that more often than not I watch out the window of my bus as someone runs across Western when they see the 114 coming, often against the light, which is obviously a dangerous situation. Again, the solution is simple: move the 114 stop across Western to the northeast corner (albeit on Main, not Western), so that the stops for the 10/11 and 114 are only steps apart, and not separated by an arterial road and a light. To prevent stopped buses from backing up traffic on Main into the intersection, you’d probably have to allow them to pull to the curb by taking away a parking space or two, but that’s not a big deal in this medium-density residential neighborhood.  Why has it not happened? CDTA has few to no far-side (of the light) bus stops, so I imagine this was just a result of a lack of imagination. I’ve that they’re looking at the possibility of  moving to far-side stops, however, so one can hope this might happen sooner rather than later.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference. And sometimes I can write 800+ words on very minor things.

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