It is not too often when you can, in good faith say that our transit system is getting better. Granted this is not the new release of a new transit line development or a Light Rail spur to the Airport but there are some major changes happening within the NFTA system that I mentioned back in February. Some of them are coming to fruition. Something I wish we could say for all plans produced in this region. They involve everything from route additions, removal and fare changes. The end product is to make the whole system a little simpler. Hence the slogan for these changes is Metro Made Easy. I would advise anyone to take a look at the plans and presentations.
The first part of this, not too long ago was implemented. The price of a monthly pass was reduced back to $64. At the same time both zone and transfer charges were removed. Zones has always been a sore spot with me because they added a whole dimension of confusion and vagueness to the system. When to pay, which door to exit, all added to pushing people away. I am happy to say all those worries are gone. Yup, there are no more zones, at all, ever. You can take a bus from Downtown Buffalo, through Tonawanda, through North Tonawanda, all the way to Niagara Falls for just a $1.75. No more worried if you have enough nickels or dimes to make exact change at the end.
Transfers charges are also currently a thing of the past. Gone are the days if you wanted to get off the bus, do some shopping, attend a class etc, odds are you were going to exceed the time allotted on your transfer. Now every time you board the bus it is expect to buy a full fair, if you are going to use more than one bus in a trip, or stop for dinner someplace, then a day pass will be cheaper and easier. Paying $4 even dollars is easier than coming up with $1.75, $0.35 then another $1.75 and $0.35. Too much. Now if you can get where you want on one bus, you just pay boarding fare, if you are using more than one, buy a day pass. Two simple and straight forward choices. That’s it! Metro Made Easy right?
The fare changes were just to beginning though. Starting next month the NFTA is following through on their promise to start restructuring of the routes too. They posted all of the new routes and schedules to the NFTA website. Take a look at the routes that used to venture near your house, and if you are anywhere in the “core” then you are probably going to see route frequency improved. The NFTA seems to be fulfilling the consultant’s desire to see at least 15 minute headway for major routes during peak hours. This almost always is an improvement over existing times. In my unscientific survey of a couple routes it looks like 20ish extra buses today on our major thoroughfares.
One of the big questions I had was what peak meant. Was it going to be just a couple hours a day, making it potentially more confusing? I am glad to say that peak seems to be from around 6am until 6pm that is 12 hours of 15 minute headway. That puts at 100 buses back and forth on our major routes, past restaurants, shops, jobs during peak times. Even more as many routes will run until midnight now although at a less frequent time after 6pm.
What I like most about these changes are the simplicity they add. A schedule is almost unnecessary when there is a bus every 15 minutes. You will not have to worry about waiting 30 or 40 minutes ever between 6am and 6pm. Assuming buses do not break or get run into by other drivers. You cannot control everything I guess.
I will not get into any criticism right, like how they should “make easy” their maps or destination since I brought them up in the past. So for now I look forward to the changes and after October 31st maybe it is time to give NFTA a second look for others as well.