Dr. Chuck Boylen, professor of biology and director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, delivered a complaint letter and a signed petition to President Jackson’s office.
Boylen, who has been living in what he calls “the greater campus area” for 23 years, complained that the deep engine rumble and the diesel exhaust of the CDTA buses have had negative effects on the neighborhood.
The petition, which was signed by 56 people—including students and alumni—was also sent to the mayor of Troy and the Troy City Council. So far, the mayor is the only person to send Boylen a reply.
Boylen brought the concerns of his neighborhood to the CDTA and Rensselaer administration as early as October of last year. “The noise was continuous and the exhaust was terrible and we wanted to let them know about it,” he said.
By videotaping the bus terminal for a whole day, Boylen found that a bus stops there 87 times for a total of 15 idling hours.
Since the wind patterns in the area are typically west to east, most of the diesel exhaust and noise from the buses blows directly into Boylen’s neighborhood and specifically into the homes immediately adjacent to Sage Avenue.
The junction of Eaton Road, 15th Street and Sage Avenue, is one of CDTA’s main terminals. “Between RPI and CDTA, a bus terminal was created without any consideration to the neighbors,” Boylen said.
The CDTA buses that stop there include the RPI shuttle and routes 70 and 90. Many students and some faculty find these buses convenient, if not critical, for transportation to the SUNY Albany campus, Schenectady, the airport, train station, and local shopping centers.
Boylen argues that the problem is not because the buses are there, but because their engines are still running while they are parked.
In October, Boylen met with Carol Wagar, parking coordinator at the Department of Parking & Transportation; Dave Palmer, superintendent for CDTA; and Grand Marshal Joe Greco.
At the meeting, Boylen said Palmer promised him that CDTA will make changes in bus schedules. However, in a later meeting in December, “Palmer came right out and told me that no changes were made,” he said.
Ted Mirczak, acting vice president for administration, said that Boylen’s concern is real and understandable. “We have to find a solution because we want to be good neighbors and at the same time provide a service for the students,” he said.
Boylen and the administration have already met with CDTA representatives but a solution will not be reached until the students give their input, “We did not want to act until the students came back from vacation,” Mirczak said.
Greco and President of the Union Lucas Johnson were asked to get student input and opinions on the issue.
Greco said that the safety and closeness of the bus terminal provide an essential service for the Rensselaer community. “It would be sad to see a scheduling layover be the cause of the service’s termination,” he added.
Rich Montena, project manager for campus planning and facilities design, said that the dispute is unlikely to become a legal case. However Boylen admits, “If things are going to progress the way they have been for the last five months, there is a possibility that we would involve the legal system.”
He contributes the slow progress to the lack of response from the people who have the power to make changes. “Aside from Mayor Pattison, I have yet to see someone taking action,” he said.
If the issue becomes a legal case, Boylen said that he will rely on existing regulations set by the federal Environmental Protections Agency. A New York state law prohibits the idling of diesel engine trucks and buses for more than five minutes.
Representatives of CDTA refused to comment, except to say that “we work for RPI.”