The following post is a continuation of thought, submitted by Rudra Chakraborty, who posted earlier this week about bringing a wireless electric Light Rail line to Buffalo:
The NFTA needs to take lessons from MARTA (Atlanta) and TRAX in Salt Lake City. MARTA receives no state funding from Georgia, yet are slowly but surely turning around their floundering public transit system. How did they do this? They got back to basics and made the service not only accessible, but desirable for their ridership. They started listening to their customers. Salt Lake City debuted their light rail system in 1999, and today they have nearly 45 miles of track. By effectively showcasing their initial successes, they managed to work with the communities that initially resisted rail to expand the system.
The NFTA, by comparison, has done a terrible job of marketing their services, or listening to the people of Buffalo. What do Buffalonians want from the NFTA? If the past several years are any indication, it seems that they want the NFTA service to go more places in a convenient, reliable manner. They don’t want the hassle of waiting in the cold for buses that show up infrequently and get held up in traffic or inclement weather. They want a better rail system than the truncated line serving part of Main Street. Buffalo’s system, with 14% of the total length of SLC’s, has nearly a third of the total ridership (and a significantly higher ridership per mile). But the system, which has been operating nearly twice as long as SLC’s, has never once been expanded. As a matter of fact, it’s the oldest light rail transit system in the country that can claim that distinction. Given the NFTA has a major advantage (that quite a few transit systems don’t) in already owning rights of way for several proposed expansions, this fact is embarrassing and nigh inexcusable. It’s arguably what’s hurting them the most right now, as the Buffalo News has rightly pointed out.
That said, it seems like the Medical Campus is the greatest impetus for expansion right now, as there won’t be nearly enough parking for all the prospective workers or visitors. Not to mention, out of town visitors will have to come in by cab (or a very sporadic bus). If Buffalo doesn’t expand its transit system, it actually risks choking on its own growth and (ironically) becoming a victim of the very success it has fought so hard to foster. An Airport Corridor expansion would not only send Medical Campus workers + visitors to the Airport, but encourage more growth on the East Side and provide a rapid transit to and from Walden Galleria, George Urban, and ECC North. A Belt Line expansion on top of that would add the Hydraulic District, Elmwood Village, and Buffalo State to the mix. With the new train technology, the lines would also be cheap and easy to activate as they are designed to have a minimal urban footprint and work with existing infrastructure. They could easily be built together with an Amherst Extension if federal + state commitment is there, and probably pretty cheaply even without.
43 North recently aired their “Next Things now” video, showing a time where Buffalo harbored the spirit of innovation. It’s time to show the spirit that they were talking about, and bring an innovative technology to the city that creates jobs, fosters growth, reduces congestion, and brings people closer together in a way our current system of cars and buses just can’t and won’t do.
Images – Wikipedia