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Can I Please Have a Bus Every 15 Minutes?

By Michael Binetti

A lot of transit talk in Buffalo centers around the expansion of
Metrorail. As important as Metrorail extensions are, there is another part of
the transit network that is almost never talked about, and that is the buses.

For a metropolitan region its size, Buffalo has a pretty
extensive transit network, with buses operating throughout the city and even
into many suburbs. 
However while coverage may be good, service is not always
as good, with many bus routes in the METRO system suffering from infrequent
service levels. In addition, a large amount of branches running off many of the
main routes makes riding buses in the suburban areas a tad confusing. Do I
take the “A”, the “T”, or the “B” branch? And why does the “T” follow the same
route as the “A”, but is marked as a separate branch?

No transit system is complete unless the rail and bus system
both offer outstanding service, and this is where Buffalo is lacking.  Bus
service, even on major corridors, requires riders to have a schedule, and service
into the suburbs ends much too early. You may be able to catch a METRORAIL
train, but will there be a bus at the other end to pick you up? Or will it have
finished its run for the day at 7PM? Even infrequent bus routes are on weird
schedules. Instead of a bus coming every 60 minutes on the hour, a bus will
come at 7:40AM, 8:36AM, 9:55AM, 10:40AM, and then 11AM.

Much more energy has to be put into the METROBUS system, and
results could be seen without a large amount of increased funding, if any. The
NFTA must consult more with riders and residents in this region to reconfigure
bus routes and try out new service ideas–not only to make riding transit better
for current riders, but maybe even attract some “choice riders”. More riders on
the current buses mean more revenue for the agency and also makes the political
case for transit stronger.

After studying the NFTA system, my recommendations for
a better METROBUS system are simple.

1:  A “FREQUENT SERVICE” network should be developed so that riders are guaranteed they will never have to wait more than 15 minutes
for a bus from early morning until about 10 at night, seven days a week, in
designated corridors.  After 10PM, the wait would be no longer than 30
minutes. These corridors would connect major trip generators throughout the
My list of “starter” corridors for frequent service is as follows:

Grant Street Corridor: This is METRO’S busiest bus route,
and most of the service already operates every 15 minutes or less. However
there are times especially on weekends where the service is less frequent.

Elmwood Ave Corridor: Providing service through to the

South Park Ave Corridor: A reconfigured route would provide
service to McKinley Mall and E.C.C. South Campus.

Broadway Corridor:  A reconfigured route would provide
service to Walden Galleria, Buffalo-Niagara Airport, E.C.C. North Campus, and
Eastern Hills Mall.

Fillmore & Hertel Corridors: A reconfigured route would
provide service to E.C.M.C.

Sheridan-Amherst Main Street Corridor: Providing a frequent
cross-town service in the northern suburbs, connecting with Boulevard Mall and
U.B. North Campus, as well as the University METRORAIL Station.

These routes would feature special color coding on system maps
to designate them as high frequency, and special bus stop signs would feature a
logo showing riders they are waiting at a frequent service stop.

Once ridership builds, than addition features such as limited
stop service from the suburban areas to downtown can be started, and addition
corridors can be added to the frequent service list.

2: While people do not like hearing this, some routes will need
to be cancelled or combined, where two routes operate within a block or two of
each other and basically follow the same route. By combining some routes,
better service can be offered on the new route.  

3:  A complete overhaul of the Downtown Buffalo Express bus
system must be completed. Some routes could be combined, and some routes could
even be cancelled as they offer no travel time savings over the local routes
they replace.  Popular routes such as the Amherst express should see more
service and have the service marketed better.

4: Schedules on all bus routes must be redone to offer an even
service level of a bus every 30 min or 60 minutes, with buses leaving transit
centers at the same time each hour. This would make using infrequent bus routes
easier, and would not require riders to always have to carry a schedule if they
know the bus leaves downtown on the hour, every hour, for the majority of the

While more funding is needed, many changes such as new bus
schedules and even some frequent service corridors could be implemented without
a windfall of new funding. The NFTA will just have to be a little creative.
That creativity could breathe new life into the METRO brand and get people
excited about transit again.

To see a map I have drawn up for improving the bus service in
Buffalo-Niagara, click here. More ideas are on this map than
is written in this blog. Don’t forget to click on the different routes for
addition information.

Let’s hear your views on improving bus service in
Buffalo-Niagara, and maybe we can compile a report to send to NFTA.

Michael is an Urban and Regional Planning Major at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Written by Buffalo Rising

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