By Michael R Weekes - UB BSIE 1984:
At the end of the summer season I was chatting with the operator of The Hatch Restaurant, who runs Brand-On Services. He mentioned that parking and congestion were really becoming a challenge. I think anyone who comes down to the waterfront on the evening of a major event understands this issue first hand.
I realize that there are more than 10,000 parking spaces in downtown, but it can be a long walk to Canalside or Erie Basin Marina, especially for the elderly and families with young children in tow. I don't mind the walk from the Lafayette Hotel, but many folks find this a significant challenge.
With The Hatch expansion (see here
), development of the Webster Block and other activity, it is estimated that there will be at least 300 more cars than there will be parking spaces at Erie Basin alone.
I thought this might make a good problem for the SUNY School of Industrial Engineering to take a crack at. As an alum from UBIE class of 1980 I fondly remembered my industrial internship class, where I got the chance to solve a real problem at a real company in my senior year (Westwood Pharmaceutical).
I asked Professor Mark Karwan, the leader of the IE program, if any of his senior students might consider the idea of looking at the people-tram concept as a worthwhile challenge. To my delight, two students came forward to examine the issue.
On December 7th, 2012 in Bell Hall Room 438 at 10 am, the students, Areea and Wie will present their findings. They have established a people tram route and schedule as well as other solutions to address the problem.
In addition, I have found a source for Kubota tractors in Springville and people-mover trams to meet the hardware requirements (see top image with safety rails). I have also sought a quote from an Amish craftsman to take some traditional trailers and convert them to people trams (8' x 17') with lines like a canal boat. I am reviewing an estimated three year cash flow pro forma with the SBA at Buffalo State for a Buffalo Trolley and Canal Boat Company.
This could eventually lead to a more vibrant park/station area under the I-190 one block west of Pearl Street Brewery where tickets and souvenirs could be sold. We have shopped the idea around to many regional stakeholders and the response has been positive. The idea does seem to be economically viable. We have yet to work out all the details but this offers an uncommon technical analysis of a good idea.
I invite any Buffalo Rising readers and other waterfront stakeholders to come and hear what the soon-to-be-engineers have to say. It is great to see students earning credit for Buffalo-boosting projects.
This problem can be handled proactively and offers visitors a new, fun way to reach the waterfront safely and with less hassle. I am asking local lot owners if they would like to offer a park-n-ride option to standard fees.