Students must swipe for CDTA
"Excuse me, but you need to swipe your card," is not what any University at Albany student expects to hear when they board a Capital District Transit Authority bus.
But beginning last Thursday, some CDTA bus drivers began enforcing a new policy that requires students to swipe their SUNY identification cards for free admittance. Previously, students were able to ride for free on certain CDTA bus routes by simply showing the bus driver their SUNY cards.
The policy is being implemented slowly, with just a handful of buses requiring the swiping of SUNY cards as of Friday.
By swiping ID cards, students will be confirming their enrollment status and eligibility to ride the bus without fare.
Swiping will also provide the bus company with more accurate rider information, trends and deter post-graduate use of ID cards, CDTA Deputy Executive Director of Operations Chuck MacNeil said.
"We're working with the university to make more seamless and cost-effective service to the student population," MacNeil said.
Intentions of this policy may be well-meaning and budget-conscious, but so far results have been less than seamless.
Usually, changes in CDTA routes or fare rates are announced well in advance, allowing customers a chance to adjust accordingly. But on Friday morning CDTA bus driver Kirk Lawrence received a call about the new policy as he began his shift.
"They just called it in over the radio," he said.
Lawrence had no prior knowledge that the new policy was in the works. He spent most of his route time explaining to students the new boarding procedure and explaining which direction to insert the cards.
Keeping a tight schedule with this new policy may be a tough task considering the difficulties that may arise at peak times of travel. Student commuter travel peaks during the early weekday mornings and afternoons.
The Route 11 bus, which shuttles between the uptown and downtown UAlbany campuses, regularly fills up within four stops when heading uptown, the last of which being Partridge Street and Western Avenue.
"Before it would take about two minutes to put 25 people on the bus, now it's probably going to take five," said Lawrence. "I just got [to Western and Partridge] and it's already time to leave."
In between the explanations and actually swiping, a considerable amount of time will be unofficially added to the schedule. Lawrence had to skip his break just to stay on time, he said.
The present economic conditions do not allow for adding busses or service as a way to alleviate scheduling concerns, a CDTA spokesman said.
"We're not able to expand any service at this time," said Farrell, the spokesman. "The fact that we are in such a substantial fiscal deficit and dealing with the economy, any large organization has to deal with being in the red."
Farrell explained that CDTA has been reducing and cutting service in other parts of the region.
University officials, however, are in the process of finalizing a contract with CDTA that would extend the hours of bus service to and from campus.
SA Legislative Affairs Director Samantha Bernstein, who worked closely with CDTA on adding later bus routes, said the extension of service would be contingent upon good behavior from students. If students are caught causing trouble on the later buses, the extension would be cut off.
The new time schedule will allow off-campus residents to stay on campus until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and partygoers to safely return home Fridays and Saturdays at 2:30 a.m.
These extended times are expected to take effect this coming fall and would have no effect on morning and midday commuter travel.
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