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CDTA AND ME FINALIST

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Two years ago my car was totaled in a minor accident on my way to work (not my fault and luckily no one was hurt). I started taking the CDTA bus to work while the damage was being accessed. I soon realized that I did not need the car I rode to work (my wife and I have another car) and that riding the bus made my day much easier and saved me a lot of money! I did not replace our second car. I soon got a monthly CDTA swiper card (saving me even more money!). And soon after I began taking the bus the 905 Express was introduced and I was traveling from my home in Schenectady to my workplace in Albany even faster! Now I am able to walk my children to school, get some exercise on the short walk to the bus stop, finish reading on average a book each week while I am riding, hop off the bus and walk across the street to work without having to look for or pay for parking. In the winter I don't have to brush off or warm up my car, I just step onto a warm bus. And in the summer I step out of the heat and onto an air-conditioned bus. Instead of being frustrated in slow traffic, I can just do more reading! And the public library is on my bus route!

Just over three years ago I sold my car in favor of riding the bus to get around. I estimate I save a few hundred dollars a month by not owning a car - insurance, maintenance, gas, registration, etc. It's made a difference in how much I can save for retirement and generally has freed up our household budget a bit.

But riding the bus for me has been about more than saving money and lightening my environmental footprint. I have found that just passing through neighborhoods as I walk to the bus stop has allowed me to meet other pedestrians and neighborhood residents whom I never would have met if I was driving in my own little bubble, zooming past them. I've also found a community of fellow bus-riders that surprised me. The people I ride with every day to and from work have become friends. We support each other in good times and bad. Last year when the mother of a fellow commuter succumbed to cancer after a long battle, there was a tremendous outpouring of support. Another just retired and there were congratulations all around as we celebrated her new lease on life together. You really do get to know the people you see on the bus every day!

There are moments, mostly on rainy days or during heat waves, when I wonder why I don't just buy a car like everyone else, but those moments are few and far between. My bank account, the environment, my community, and my fitness level all benefit from this small decision I made to sell my car. I have no plans to return to car ownership.

It's difficult for me to express to quality of service I have experienced riding with CDTA. For the past two and a half years I have been riding the CDTA Northway Express bus from Saratoga Springs to Albany. Every time I step on the bus I am greeted by the friendly bus drivers and know that I will arrive at my destination safely.

However, what separates CDTA from other transportation companies is their ability to go above and beyond in their commitment to provide an excellent level of service and concern for their customers.

One morning this past January, I was on my to work riding the NX Express from Saratoga. As the bus entered the Empire State Plaza, I received a phone call that no parent wants to hear. It was from my pregnant wife. I found out she was in a bad car accident and that I needed to get home as soon as possible.

After those dreadful words were spoken, my mind raced to find out how I will get back to the Park and Ride in Saratoga without a car. It being 7:30 in the morning, I knew taking a bus was out of the option. I could take a taxi, but I didn't have the cash on me to pay for it. Then I remembered the CDTA guaranteed ride home program offered with my monthly bus pass.

I called the number on my pass and a Customer Service Representative promptly picked up the phone. I explained my situation and within 20 minutes I was picked up outside my office by a cab and on my to Saratoga without paying a dime. In the end, my wife and child did not have any serious injuries.

After this experience, it's safe to say that CDTA helps me do what matters most, and that is to help me be with my family in our hour of need. Thank You CDTA!!!

Last fall, I made a commitment to myself to drive my car less than 50% of the time to work. Fortunately for me, I live in Saratoga Springs and work as a teacher in Ballston Spa and the Route 50 bus runs very close to my school.

Being an educator and the co-chair of the environmental club, I realize how important it is to live what you preach and to be a good role model for the impressionable students in my classes and in the school. Therefore I didn't just tell the students about how vital exercise and protecting the environment are, I lived it everyday by putting my bike on the rack and jumping on the bus in Saratoga Springs and getting off in Ballston Spa. I would then ride the rest of the way to work and store my bike in my classroom. By keeping my bike visible, the students could see how easy it was and they become more comfortable with the idea of commuting to work in ways that may seem foreign to them (we do live in a car culture). After work, I would change my clothes, pack my papers in my panniers and ride my bike all the way home. This mix of using public transportation and bicycle commuting supports the exercise/sustainability philosophies that we talk about in school and to be able to promote it in a functional/user-friendly way to the students will enable them to make thoughtful decisions that support these philosophies in the future.

Now, going back to my original goal of driving less than 50% of the school days; well, I ended up driving TWICE throughout the school year and took a CDTA bus to work the rest of the time ... well, unless the bike rack was full and someone else needed to use it, in those situations I would bound off the bike in the morning, have a great conversation with the other bicyclists and jump on my bike to ride to work.

Thanks CDTA for helping me make a difference in my life and in the life of my students...goal accomplished!

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