Author: Michael J. Billoni
Mayor Byron Brown has called for a public hearing on Jan. 19 to discuss a location in Buffalo for a new $25 million train terminal.
Pat Whalen, a visionary who worked in logistics for UPS and helped to create the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, is now the Executive Director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
One of Whalen’s charges is to fill more hotel rooms in the winter when occupancy falls from sellouts to 30 percent full. Thus, he has created a unique “Stay Another Night” promotion where guests would spend the second day visiting culturals in Buffalo, ice skating at our three locations, or visiting the restaurants. He would also like to tie in the new Niagara Falls train terminal. Pat makes the statements below because he has travelled from NF to Exchange St. station and back many times over the past 18 months and he has found delays from Buffalo to NF that have been over 4 hours long. No wonder so few people use this mode of transportation.
I would also venture to say that most, if not all of the members of the committee that will select between Canalside, Exchange St., Larkinville and the Central Terminal have not been a passenger on the Amtrak from Niagara Falls to Buffalo and then back to the Falls. Pat knows what he speaks about here. Hopefully his common sense logic will be heard.
I came out publicly in a Buffalo News Another Voice column to place the new terminal at the Central Terminal. I still stand by that decision because I believe that the area needs to be redeveloped like every other section of the city so we truly can become One Buffalo. However, when I speak at the public hearing I am changing my position to state that the top of the committee’s list should include the infrastructure of the tracks to improve the on-time performance of the trains; and much needed promotional dollars to promote train travel to the various tourist locations in the state, especially Canalside and the entire renovated waterfront of a New Buffalo, and the final stop on the New York State line, Niagara Falls, Ont.
I will also state there needs to be a stop at Canalside and I will endorse fixing the current Exchange St. station and cleaning up its exterior. I also endorse moving the Depew station to the Central Terminal. There also needs to be work on the routes to Cleveland and Chicago and from there to here. I will also suggest creating a Transportation Hub at the Central Terminal by moving the Trailways and Greyhound bus terminal there along with the NFTA headquarters and bus terminal. One of the keys to making Central Terminal work is for the State to pass ridesharing such as UBER. It can all work but it will require tremendous coordination between the CSX train and Amtrak officials, NFTA, state and local officials and many stakeholders.
Train travel could be big again In New York State and could be a great catalyst for tourism, especially when the Go Train in Ontario extends to Niagara Falls, Ont. where guests can board the Amtrak to Buffalo.
I encourage you to follow Whalen’s suggestion and send your views to BuffaloRail@City-Buffalo.com or visit the city’s website and click the Buffalo Rail site and register to speak on the 19th. You can also check out Whalen’s blog (lead image).
So here is my request:
By way of an update, I visited the new $43 million Niagara Falls train station this morning as the train from Toronto rolled in. Six people were there waiting to catch the train as it headed to Buffalo and on to NYC. Six. It is important to note that, unlike Buffalo stations, the Niagara Falls train station also serves as an entry into the USA for rail passengers.
As such, it was important to replace the old station, as this station also houses Customs and Border Protection. So it was great to see the passengers from Toronto clearing customs in a wonderful new facility this morning. The old station just wasn’t functional for the purposes of customs clearance and it certainly was not welcoming to people entering the USA.
But six people waiting to board is an indication of the low interest in train travel in this part of the world. Why don’t more people take the train here? Because the trains don’t run on time! Why don’t the trains run on time? Because of congestion on the tracks. Why is there congestion on the tracks? Because freight trains and passengers train share the tracks and for many miles there is just a single track. So trains have to wait for each other.
Spending tens of millions of dollars on train stations makes no sense to me unless we can get the trains to run on time.
In my opinion, there are important ramifications for all of Upstate NY (including the new Niagara Falls station which will remain an underutilized $43 million asset) if the issue of on-time performance is not addressed.