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NFTA Amherst Extension Comes Into Focus

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech at UB last week, among many things, was a defining moment for our long-sought light rail extension. Hearing him announce state backing to get that project on track, so to speak, was especially gratifying to me personally, given what it took for me to get to his speech. Getting to my seat in the packed UB Center for the Arts, and home again, required cobbling together at least a half dozen segments, links, transfers, and modes of transportation. Along the way I had the stress of narrowly missing a connection, and narrowly making another. As far as I’m concerned, this project can’t come soon enough.

And it’s long overdue. The link from UB South Campus to North Campus was omitted from the original Metro Rail construction, and periodic attempts to revive it have gone nowhere. Although, in recent years, NFTA has been studying the extension anew in earnest, there was no guarantee that the results wouldn’t be consigned to the same fate as dozens of other planning studies of all kinds now collecting dust on shelves.

NFTA’s Amherst study looked at a variety of routes, endpoints, and options. Should the extension go to North Campus? Should it go to Williamsville, and perhaps beyond to ECC? Should it bus rapid transit? Should it be light rail? If light rail, should it be in a tunnel? On the surface? Or a combination? What route should it take?

Also, crucially, would the study generate any significant opposition this time around? In marked contrast to previous efforts, none emerged. In fact, intriguingly, the main pushback I observed was from Citizens for Regional Transit, who I heard argue for bus rapid transit over light rail, and also that the airport link should have priority over the Amherst extension.

Now, in the last week, the picture is coming into focus. NFTA, with stakeholders, has determined a preferred route. The Amherst extension has the full support of the state, meaning it will also get whatever financial support is available from the federal government. In fact, it’s now clear that the project has support at all levels. It’s not going to be prioritized behind the airport link. Next we’ll do the engineering and design work, get it funded, and then do the damn thing. All under a governor who loves nothing more than to bulldoze roadblocks and who celebrated New Years in a new subway station. People, get ready: there’s a train a-coming.

Note that it will be a train a-coming, not a bus, because the extension will be rail and not bus rapid transit. NFTA Executive Director Kimberly Minkel told The Buffalo News that stakeholder input, “demonstrated a preference for rail’s ‘one seat’ option.” “That was overwhelming from our stakeholders. There was a lot of conversation about not getting off one vehicle and onto another. That helps from the time standpoint,” she told the News.

I’m relieved that decision got made, because rail is the only way to have a MetroRail extension that runs as reliably and predictably as MetroRail itself. One of the justifications for the MetroRail extension is to eliminate the current, costly UB Stampede shuttle fleet. Instead, UB will be able to just give students a ride pass on MetroRail. Also, faculty and staff will be more likely to use MetroRail between campuses than the current shuttles, which will be key to transitioning South Campus away from being half campus, half parking lot. With a reliable MetroRail link between the campuses, you could even imagine UB shifting much of their South Campus parking to North Campus. Would that happen with bus rapid transit? Almost certainly not: it wouldn’t be as fast and reliable, it would require mode changes, and it would be a bus.

While all this is happening, the siting of the new train station, whether at Canalside, Larkinville, or the Central Terminal, will focus new attention and energy along the eventual light rail path to the airport, which will almost certainly include a portion of the Belt Line. So by the time the Amherst extension is complete, the community should have a much better sense of what our next light rail project should be, and how it should be done. And a successful Amherst extension will put some can-do wind in the sails of whatever the next project may be.

In his speech, the Governor did not give specifics about how the Amherst Extension would be configured, but the diagram he displayed (backed up by information released by Empire State Development after the speech) immediately clarified some things for me. For one, the extension will be a hybrid of tunnel and surface running. The preferred route is as follows:

Source: Empire State Development

1) Extending the existing tunnel northeast from University station, parallel to Main Street, then turning north to run underneath Bailey Avenue. It makes sense to start with a tunnel segment, even though expensive, because the current line is already in a tunnel (a deep one, well below the base of the escarpment atop which South Campus sits), and because in an arc north of North Campus are all residential streets, none of which would lend themselves to surface rail.

2) Somewhere in the vicinity of Sheridan Drive and Northtowns Plaza, where suburban land use patterns begin to predominate, the extension will come to the surface. Among other things, that means the new Whole Foods will be on MetroRail, y’all.

3) The extension will make a jog west to Niagara Falls Boulevard, then head north past the Boulevard Mall. NFTA has published a rendering showing transit-oriented development (TOD) at Boulevard Mall, with a station at the corner of Maple Road. Boulevard Mall has fallen on tough times, and is currently for sale, with an uncertain future. This could be the boost it needs. Among other things, this means the new Trader Joe’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard will be within walking distance of MetroRail, y’all.

NFTA rendering of MetroRail extension at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Maple Road (source: The Buffalo News)

4) From the Boulevard Mall, the extension will head back east along Maple Road, from which it will head northeast into North Campus. NFTA has published a rendering of a station at the existing Flint Loop. From there, it appears the extension will skirt the southern perimeter of the campus “spine” to the stadium and the Center for the Arts, where the Governor spoke. Presumably there will be a stop there, perhaps akin to the current “events stop” at Canalside, as those venues will surely be major destinations for passengers when they have scheduled events.

NFTA rendering of UB North Campus station (source: Empire State Development)

The vision for the MetroRail extension seems to be not to just provide a single-seat, point-to-point connection to North Campus, but explicitly to spur economic development in the southwest corner of Amherst. In fact, the MetroRail extension could have taken a straight-shot alignment between the UB campuses via Millersport Road, but the planned alignment was chosen specifically with an eye toward economic development and better linking Buffalo residents with jobs and commercial resources north of the border. NFTA is armed with studies showing the extension could bring “$1.7 billion in increased development” and “a projected $310 million hike in property values” along the route. By boosting the projected economic impact of the project, choosing this route will also help secure the competitive federal dollars necessary to make it happen.

MetroRail extension, projected economic impacts (source: Empire State Development)

What’s next with this project is all about those federal dollars. According to the Buffalo News, “Minkel noted approval of the federal government and its current 50 percent share of the cost remains an important hurdle, though the federal funding share could increase under the Trump administration’s expected infrastructure initiatives.” NFTA Director Minkel also told the Buffalo News, “The timing is perfect. Millennials are the age group we most want to attract and retain, and they look to areas with a robust transit system.”

The Buffalo News also sought reaction from Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins:

The state’s embrace of the project also significantly enhances its funding chances in Washington, according to Rep. Brian Higgins, who reiterated his plans to champion any infrastructure bill the Trump administration proposes.

“There are very, very positive aspects to what the governor talked about, and now it’s incumbent on this delegation to makes these projects a reality,” Higgins said. “The needs of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus have breathed new life into the light rail rapid transit system.

And Buffalo Business First has a good step-by-step breakdown:

Even if everything lines up on the political side construction won’t begin until 2020 or 2021 at the earliest. It could take as long as five years to complete the extension, putting the Amherst line in service sometime around 2026, nearly a decade from now.

Getting the train rolling, so to speak, starts on Jan. 26 when the NFTA commissioners have to vote starting the environmental reviews and preliminary design phases, using the $5 million Cuomo pledged in his Jan. 9 “State of the State” address on the UB campus. Neither will begin until the state releases the money, assuming it survives the budget review process. At the earliest that money may be allocated to the NFTA is mid-spring.

“The studies are critical,” Minkel said. “It allows to get into the federal (funding) process. It allows us to be shovel-ready.”

The dual studies could take anywhere from 18 months to two years to complete.

This project will put to the test — and could provide a critical confirmation of — Buffalo’s newfound sense that we can do big things again. And not only that, we can get them right this time.

As the NFTA’s Minkel told Buffalo Business First:

Nobody is saying this is definitely for real. We’re not there yet, but this is as close as we have ever been in the past 30 years and that is significant. But, no one is putting the cart before the horse when it comes to the Amherst extension. We all know there is a lot of work to be done, first. This time, it is very palpable and not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ talk.

Written by RaChaCha

RaChaCha

RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he’s put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he’s not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): “Ra Cha Cha” is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn’t you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He’s a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don’t really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that’s what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary “Chill the Fill” campaign to save Rochester’s old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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  • fjlover717

    Fine, but how about doing something that is actually needed, like expanding to the airport.

    • J G

      How is this NOT needed?

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        Because the current system in place works completely fine. I was talking with two friends of mine who did their graduate work at UB this past weekend about this project. They both said the bus service works very well and neither one of them thought the train was needed. How about restoring the Humboldt Pkwy from the 33 to Main St and bury the 198 under Delaware Park for a fraction of the cost.

        • J G

          Agree to disagree. I think the current bus service sucks and I can guarantee the majority of students would feel the same way. PLUS you have residents in Amherst, who would never take a bus, however, would take the light rail downtown.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Let me finish that thought for you…..plus you have residents in Amherst that would never take the train or much less venture into the city. I’ve run up against many families from Amherst and Hamburg who have zero interest to travel into the city. Also, these people have probably never taken the train in their life and probably won’t even “if” it’s built.

          • Josh Robinson

            I’m sure those same residents have attended a Sabres game or a Shea’s show, and have grumbled about the traffic backups when trying to leave. They might not use it to commute, but they would for special events. Throw in a downtown Bills stadium in the next 15 years and you have a whole new group of users.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Okay, so now we’re marketing it to .000001 percent of a suburban population. Face facts kiddo, there’s a veeeeeery small population outside of a couple people on here that give two ‘ishs about a line running into Amherst. And we still have yet to see any evidence that it’s going to be a huge waste of money. Also, I was at Main and Church yesterday at 8:45 and I counted eight people total on the train…….EIGHT PEOPLE TOTAL!

          • Josh Robinson

            Two questions:

            8:45 AM or PM? Because if we are talking nighttime then yes, there aren’t too many people on the train after 7pm. Buffalo is still a 9-5 city in many ways until we get more downtown residents.

            Second – was it heading toward or away from the waterfront? Because Church St is only the third stop heading toward University. It picks up a lot more people as it goes – especially at Fountain Plaza.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            8:45am heading South.

          • John Lauer

            maybe they don’t give two $hits because they haven’t had to option

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Or maybe there was never an option because they didn’t care to have one…..and still don’t. Before Cuomo you never heard anyone from Amherst say, “man I wish we had light rail out here.”

          • John Lauer

            maybe people from Buffalo want to get to Amherst.. Since a huge chunk of Amherst’s population is UB related, I’m gonna call BS

        • eagercolin

          The Stampede is ok (maybe) for linking north and south campus, but it doesn’t link north campus to the rest of the city. If you take the bus to south campus, you’d need to get on a train (or into your car) to go anywhere else. The ability to get on in Amherst and get off downtown makes it more likely that folks will do just that.

          Beyond that, the school requires a UB ID card to ride the Stampede, and many of the folks who would use the extended line wouldn’t be going to UB.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Judging by past push back I doubt there’s many people in Amherst that will ride the train period. People move to places like Amherst to live a suburban lifestyle. One that is highly linked to car travel and not visiting the city.

          • eagercolin

            My guess is that Amherst residents would mostly use it for special events downtown. But that’s not really the point — much more important is that a line would make it easier for UB students to connect with the city, and for city folks to get to their jobs in Amherst.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            That’s a piss poor argument all the way around. Let me ask you this. For this mass influx of people who are trying to get to their jobs in Amherst. How are they supposed to get to their jobs once their dropped off at UB North?

          • eagercolin

            The line would run along NFB and Maple Road, and have stops there.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            I know. We’re going to drop off a bunch of 20 year olds at Dicks or Delta Sonic?

          • eagercolin

            If you knew, why did you ask?

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Because Amherst is much larger than just Maple rd.

          • nesciand

            Your name is bringing back buffalo but nearly every comment I read of yours is throwing hate on change that would actually help towards bringing back buffalo. But anyway, you clearly don’t understand the concept of a commuter rail. Go up to Ontario and you’ll see the Go Train connects Toronto to all of the heavily populated suburbs that makes up its workforce. People like living in the suburbs but no one likes their morning drive to work and their evening drive back. It’s scientifically proven people’s stress levels go down when they take public transit to work

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            Tooooooootally different. To think the dynamics of Toronto are equal to those of Buffalo are completely naive. Also, I’ve rode the Go from Guelph to Toronto on more than one occasion.

          • No_Illusions

            Depends. If they work downtown and don’t have convenient parking a lot of Amherst residents already use the Park and Ride at UB South.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            People will pay for convenience and time is very important to a lot of individuals. There are many scenarios which say a very small amount of Amherst or surrounding area residents will use this ever and even less on a day to day basis.

          • John Lauer

            most of the people in the past push back will soon be traveling in WeCare vans

        • nesciand

          UB Alum and I hated the stampede

      • OldFirstWard

        Well for starters, not everyone is clamoring for a one-way rail line. At this point is seems more of a convenience rather than a necessity. I’ve never ridden the Metro-Rail line once since it was constructed. I either walk a few blocks or drive when I’m downtown.

        • nesciand

          Yeah the opinion of the guy that’s never even used buffalo’s rail is what we’re looking for. Your not exactly the target market pal

          • OldFirstWard

            Understanding why people don’t ride the metro rail is just as important as finding people who do use it.

          • John Lauer

            you mean don’t ride it yet*

        • nesciand

          190 to the 290, 198 to the 33, and main street. All three routes, which are a constant source of grumbling from rush hour traffic jams, funnel people from Amherst/Williamsville to Buffalo or Buffalo to Amherst/Williamsville. All three routes would be relieved of congestion from people transitioning to public transit.

          • Wise Profit

            And besides traffic its probably a lot less costly for a metro pass when compared with gas, car, insurance and parking costs. The trip might take you an extra 10 minutes (I’m saying if the current length is about 20 minutes then double for the extra tracks as a rough estimate).
            I think a metro pass would be less than your parking spot alone.

          • OldFirstWard

            An extra 15 to 30 minutes of traffic is nothing compared to what some residents of other cities are subjected to. Yes, it’s an inconvenience to the driver who is used to a uninterrupted drive to and from a destination. For the most part, driving in WNY is a very seamless transaction on the highway system. Except for morning and afternoon rush hours, events at either the stadium or arena, or occasional road construction, there is not a problem. Oh I forgot to add the usual tieups from distracted driving accidents caused by the millennials insatiable need to stare into their lap at a smart phone.

        • Christopher Bieda

          Now, try taking MetroRail (or Bus) OUT of the equation and see how much more parking would be needed downtown, how expensive it would be and how likely it would be that you would get a space only a few blocks from your destination. No one taking the train downtown is clogging the roads you use; would you prefer them to?

      • thedistantdrummer

        City crime coming to Amherst.

        • eagercolin

          I don’t see the problem.

        • No_Illusions

          Why would rail bring crime when buses have not?

        • Stephen Trinder

          Yeah, because the gangs on the East Side are going to leave their corner unprotected and go off to Amherst for some reason…

        • sbrof

          I always carry my stolen 57″ LED TV on the train home after a heist.

          • Bringing back Buffalo

            There’s a lot of other stolen items that can fit in a back pack.

  • No_Illusions

    Does New York State even give out new charters for cities?

    I believe the last city to be created was in the 1940s.

    Unless this section becomes the City of Amherst, I don’t see the Town of Amherst putting in the right mechanisms to support such high density development.

    At best we’d be looking at the same isolating student housing complexes along Sweethome Road.

    Or maybe Williamsville can expand their borders? They seem to demand a certain level of urbanism looking at some of the recent projects in the village.

  • 716ers

    if almost half of the daily riders are UB students who wouldn’t have to pay, how does this generate enough money yearly to not cause other NFTA services to get slashed or to be bailed out?

    • Andy Wulf

      Just because the students themselves don’t pay doesn’t mean no one pays. Obviously the NFTA charges UB for the privilege of printing out bus passes for its students. Which is probably still cheaper for UB than running those gas-guzzling Stampede buses.

      • 716ers

        touche, I should have worded that better

    • Pig_Lightning

      They do currently pay almost over $550 per year per student in transportation fees that cover the cost of the UB Stampede, shuttles, and parking. Most of those functions would be replaced by Metro Rail services, and the revenues from the fee presumably would be shifted to NFTA.

    • Wise Profit

      For example at Canisius they give the students metro passes. I’m sure they get a discount for buying in bulk but it allows students to go downtown or wherever. Works well for those without cars.

  • Andy Wulf

    “In fact, intriguingly, the main pushback I observed was from Citizens for Regional Transit, who I heard argue for bus rapid transit over light rail”

    CRT also came out in support of those gondolas over the Outer Harbor.

    I want very badly not to believe they’re the crackpots everyone always said they are, but they’re certainly not making it easy for me.

    • Ra Cha Cha

      They’re right about the gondola!

  • Andy Wulf

    Where is the north end of the Amherst extension supposed to be? On this page it looks like it ends at North Campus, but in the Buffalo News last week when this was first announced, I remember there was a map that showed it going past the university all the way to Crosspoint. Which is it?

    • No_Illusions

      Probably will depend on funding. Crosspoint will likely be phase two.

      Lots of jobs out there and it would give an easy way for people commuting to Buffalo from Lockport with a park and ride.

  • Captain Picard

    This looks great. I’ve always found getting to Amherst a little obnoxious. There is no simple or swift way to get there in a car, and Main Street is always jammed up. A rail extension could certainly change that.

    • OldFirstWard

      I think you can count the people on one hand who take a bus in Amherst. Practically everyone drives, including the spouses, and many of the college age kids. I just can’t see people other than some students wanting to sit on a train for long periods with many stops to get off somewhere to have to walk or transfer to a bus to reach a destination.

      Just as with the over-estimated (lies) ridership figures used to wrestle all the funding out of the Federal government for construction of the original rail line in the late 70’s, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the a report surfaces with more of the same overly optimistic ridership estimates used to secure funding.

      • John Lauer

        or what if there were less cars because people rode the train…or if the lights were in sync with the train..

    • Christopher Bieda

      And that, my friend, is how much of Amherst likes it just fine. Were it not so, and you were welcomed with open arms, count on there being better ways to get around in the town.

  • greenca

    Good article, just one quibble: “you could even imagine UB shifting much of their South Campus parking to North Campus.” At one time, students had to park on the North Campus and take the shuttle to the South Campus since the SC lots were always packed. It’s been the opposite since at least the early 1990’s. SC has plenty of parking, NC parking is at a premium.

    • No_Illusions

      There’s plenty of parking at North Campus, people are just too laze to walk from the outer lots.

      A lot of the parking will be relieved since a lot of students live in the student housing complexes along the route.

      • greenca

        I remember the days when those lots were entirely full. In order to get a parking space, cars would line up in the lots nearest the spine and follow any student who was walking to their car.

        • Ra Cha Cha

          LOL. I was followed walking through a UB parking lot. Boy was the driver upset when he found out I wasn’t walking to a car.

          • sbrof

            Happens to me all the time…

          • GUEST

            “Are you leaving?” That was a common thing to hear someone shouting at anyone walking through those lots. And you’re right, drivers got mad when I said no because I was just getting into my car to take a nap on the plush velour backseat of my Grandpa’s Oldsmobile.

  • Jing Yagunazie

    it destroyed main street for decades. Same rapid transit in other cities are on the decline.

    • No_Illusions

      Suburbanization destroyed main street.

      If 20,000+ middle class people lived downtown, Main Street would have never declined.

      Instead, downtown was continuously dismantled and was left with less than 2,000 residents.

      Blame the suburban strip malls instead.

      Also, most similar projects are exceeding expectations outside of a few cities where it didn’t.

      • OldFirstWard

        Don’t forget crime and white flight.

  • WNYer

    While this will be a long term capital intensive project it appears to be one that will truly benefit the greater Buffalo region. Smart planning – including options to build additional park-n-ride locations if ridership grows as or better than anticipated- will be a key factor to increase commuter use.
    If this phase succeeds strategic spurs to Ken-ton, Williamsville and Cheektowaga are certainly feasible.
    Everything seems to be aligning for this phase to FINALLY proceed; been a long time coming!!!!

  • robert biniszkiewicz

    It’s great the state is stepping up, but the project will sink or swim based on federal dollars. I’m very skeptical that Trump and the Republican Congress will step up with funding for mass transit lines. Even though Trump lives in NY, home to the best mass transit system in America, and even though Chris Collins and Paladino are Trump’s pals, I’ll be very surprised if federal funding actually materializes.

    • wcperspective

      Design and environmental review work will take years…..Trump will be long gone (God willing).

      • No_Illusions

        NFTA timeline has the rail line opened in 2024.

        That means they need the funding by 2020.

        As much as I dislike Trump, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan is sorely needed. We’d actually save money by updating our electrical grid.

        • neroden

          Trump will be a non-issue by 2020.

  • Bringing back Buffalo

    Here’s an excerpt from an interesting read about mass transit.

    “More than a quarter of U.S. government spending on surface transportation goes to mass transit, and yet mass transit accounts for less than 2 percent of total trips taken nationwide. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marc Scribner attributes this eye-popping mismatch to a persistent “falsehood peddled by the transit lobby”: If you build it, they will come.”

    http://reason.com/blog/2016/04/30/mass-transit-use-is-declining-as-millenn

    • eagercolin

      1. So what? If we determine that mass transit is good and necessary, we should fund it. Government isn’t a business, and citizens aren’t customers. If government made it’s decisions to fund things based on how much people currently used them, we’d go bankrupt subsidizing the porn industry.

      2. The timeline for building mass transit is bound to be much longer than the timeline for serious disruptions in the fossil fuel economy. In other words, it’s the sort of thing you want to have on hand before people feel a powerful compulsion to use it.

      • armyof100clowns

        eagercolin – you win the day!

        The mass suburbanization of America starting in the 50s was a government subsidized movement based an speculation (a devastating atomic attack by the Soviets). The cities were the center of not only America’s populace, but business and industry. After we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and realized the destructive game changer splitting the atom brought to warfare, our government started creating incentives for industries, businesses, and people to move out of the cities and create a less dense distribution that would make completely destroying the US with atomic weapons more difficult. Combine this with subsidized road building, fuel, and utilities installation and you create a perfect avenue to quietly dismantle urban centers in the name of defense without really alarming people. There were other factors in play, of course, but this was a major and often ignored one.

        My point in going all Mr. Peabody is to support your statement. The government is, and should, play the long game (speculation). Investing in public transportation may not realize immediate benefits, but in the long run, when energy costs no longer make the automobile (at least the internal combustion engine powered ones) a viable option, these services will be in place to serve the citizens.

        • Bringing back Buffalo

          What’s your long game…..100 years? As you can see by the article it hasn’t worked. And we’re going back almost 40 years.

          • armyof100clowns

            You may think it’s absurd for me to say, but yes, 100 years is not an unreasonable planning point for “the long game”. I doubt the factors that will drive us to a more public mass transit model will take anywhere that long to manifest or influence us (look how quickly public rail transportation was dismantled after WWII).

            The project/program I’ve been working on for the last 13 years, which has been ongoing since the late 1940s, is planned out to 2080, budgeted through 2040, and funded through 2030. Although I lean towards allowing the market to drive certain things, projects that require large scale and complex infrastructure, such as this, also require timescales of planning that are, generally, not viable for private industry. The government is not a business working towards profit – they are entrusted stewards of the public trust. In this capacity they need to anticipate, and sometimes make a SWAG, on what is in the public’s interest.

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        As the article showed, LRT was highly invested in 40 years ago and it’s ridership is declining over time. Looks like people don’t want it.

    • Christopher Bieda

      Of course, density affects the 75/25, 98/2 ratios. If you take all 2% of all the trips in the nation and confine them to less than 2% of the landmass of the U.S., you end up with gridlock if you try to accomplish them without mass transit. Heck, if 99% of all trips were ex-urban, that still would mean gridlock in the cities without mass transportation.

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        I’ll just shake my head and move along.

    • Marc Rebmann

      quoting reason.com is not a way to be taken seriously by anybody

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        Does the name of the website belie the facts written in the article. Answer: no they do not. Chances are you didn’t even read the write up. You just noticed the url and thought you might get off a quick snipe. The fact remains that LRT is a huge waste of money no matter what way you slice it. Ps you can also check out this article from the Minneapolis Post.

        https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2014/04/there-no-renaissance-us-public-transit-use

        • neroden

          They simply lie about their numbers at “reason dot com”. Don’t cite liars.

    • neroden

      Have you calculated the amount of money spent by federal, state and local government on extreme rural roads?

      Hint: it’s enormous. Over 40% of transportation dollars. And they account for approximately 0% of all trips taken nationwide.

      Also, “Reason dot com” is simply lying about their mass transit numbers. They do that. They’re leaving out most of the road funding, which will give you those fake numbers. We actually spend much less than 15% of our transportation funding on mass transit (I’ve never calculated it well enough to get a real number — and neither has Reason — but I know they’re leaving out gobs of road funding.)

  • OldFirstWard

    Instead of calling the funding the Buffalo Billion 2, maybe we should change the name to the Amherst Billion. Amherst got UB and Geico. Now, they get a fully funded rail-line and all the improvements to go with it.

    While extending a rail-line to UB is a nice project, it really does very little for the City of Buffalo Instead, I would rather see a tunnel built to replace the 198 and skyway. Begin replacing the old water and sewer lines in city streets and eliminate all the overflow discharges that pollute the Buffalo River, Cazenovia, and Scajaquada Creeks from Buffalo and the suburban outlets.

    • No_Illusions

      Eh, it allows people who live in the city without a car access to a fairly large job market.

      It allows UB students (many from downstate without cars) to easily access the city.

      It also will help relieve traffic on the 33 and 190. Maybe eventually with a few more lines we can justify their removal.

      But you’re right. This extension solidifies Amherst’s growth.

      • sbrof

        Amherst’s perpetual growth and stability was solidified as soon as the University campus was put there.

        • NYrByChoice

          It probably would have grown anyways, as Amherst is within the upper middle class “corridor”.

    • Christopher Bieda

      And yet, it is the people of Amherst who opposed rail to the North Campus in the 1970’s, funded or not.

    • JKR

      Maybe they should “Amherst Billions” sounds nicer.

    • NYrByChoice

      The Buffalo metro area is one region. While the errors of the past cant be changed, tying together the economic and social engines of the region will pave the way to a better future.

  • thedistantdrummer

    I live near Millersport and Longmeadow. I have no objection to this rail line going to UB, BUT, with no stations in between. The last thing we need in Amherst is the gangbagers, thugs and drug dealers from the city. We all saw how crime went up in the University District after the rail line came to UB. A guy got shot right in the UB Station a few weeks ago.

    • wcperspective

      Hopefully in this case you are the minority.

    • No_Illusions

      …There’s already a bus line.

      This is a non-issue.

      Also, there are already a ton of drug dealers in the suburbs. You don’t notice them because they look just like you.

    • armyof100clowns

      Really? This tired, old, and baseless argument? Sorry to to be a wet blanket, but I don’t think most “gangbangers, thugs, and drug dealers” use public transportation like Metro to transport them to the places they commit crimes. Besides, there has been a bus running through here for ages and I don’t recall a bunch of muggings and rapes along their various routes.

      . . . or did you just really want to say poor black people?

    • Christopher Bieda

      Sorry, chief, that meth lab in the Sheridan Drive Walmart culvert got there without MetroRail, not to mention it was further away from the city than your home (while still in your town).

      https://spotcrime.com/ny/amherst

      I should also point out that it would take colossal stupidity (of course, many criminal exhibit precisely that) to flee a crime scene on a platform that is video-monitored and recorded. Better to use a private motor vehicle, bicycle or even Mark One feet–less surveillance.

    • Andy Wulf

      In a perfect world, anyone using the phrase “gangbangers and thugs” would be immediately stripped of their voting rights.

      • thedistantdrummer

        HUH! You must be a member of the Buffalo School Board. I always thought that we had the right to express our opinions.

        • Andy Wulf

          I have to say I’m becoming less and less a fan of free speech with every day that goes by.

  • EZ Liv’in

    The Boulevard Mall station? The mall maybe a parking lot by the time this is done. They can’t sell it the price is down to 65 million with a ballon payment of 92 million due next month. Or at least it will be another dead mall like the Summit or Eastern Hills. It still would be nice having it go down NF Boulevad anyways.

    • No_Illusions

      Summit is being redeveloped into a sports complex.

      Eastern Hills is doing OK by catering to local and regional tenants.

      • EZ Liv’in

        The Summit has been in redevelopment for 15 years.

        • No_Illusions

          Fair enough

    • sbrof

      Even while the Mall dies. the boulevard is an Epicenter of commerce for the entire region. Mall or no Mall, everything else that most people need or want can be purchased in a 1 mile stretch of the boulevard. Most of which will not be accessible by LR.

      • No_Illusions

        Except you can easily get up to Best Buy or Wallmart within a 10 minute walk of a stop.

        • Bringing back Buffalo

          Oh no Best Buy and Wal-Mart stop the presses!!!!!! Do you really think people are going to walk or drive to the train station, wait for the train, pay to take the train, get off at their stop, walk 10-15 minutes to get where they need to go, shop, carry all their stuff back to the train stop, pay to get back on the train, get off at the train station, walk to their car or walk home will all their bags in their hands……not happening.

          • neroden

            People do that in every city with rail in the world. They have monthly passes for the train, of course.

  • Josh Robinson

    This is a great breakdown, RaChaCha – you should contribute more articles! This is an important project that could be a real economic driver if done right. Minneapolis also recently installed new light rail lines connecting their university to the downtown area, and new apartment buildings and residential were springing up all along the route. I’d love to see the same thing happen along Niagara Falls Blvd when the mall inevitably starts shrinking and selling off parcels like Eastern Hills.

    • Ra Cha Cha

      Thanks for that info about Minneapolis, and the kind words! As for writing, I’m involved in a lot of community stuff, so the challenge for me is balancing time writing about things vs. doing things. I’d like to put some think pieces on here about the train station.

  • sbrof

    A well written article about this extension proposal. Now let’s just this this done! I think this extension can go a long way to binding the region together in a way that is mutually beneficial. If the regions two biggest and most important communities can come together and get this done. Anything could be possible for us.

    • Ra Cha Cha

      Thank you. I agree: let’s do the damn thing!

  • Doug Wallis

    I think Niagara Falls Boulevard, Sheridan, Millersport Hwy and Main Street are all ripe for mid-rise apartment buildings, preferably with underground parking. Kenton is now an older suburb with older residents and old retail that is drying up because these old suburbs don’t have the disposable income. If these suburbs are going to survive in a stable fashion they need apartments where renters can transition to first time buyers. In that sense…I think its a good idea to weave a light rail extension to those streets…I just don’t like it. I think it should be a straight path along Millersport Highway and eventually all the way to Transit. Let a trolley or a bus trolley or other act as a feeder but don’t zig zag it back and forth

  • In my opinion, the price of an expanded Metro Rail ticket should also include a hop-on, hop-off east-to-west bus transfer ticket so people getting off on Sheridan or Millersport can take the bus without having to dig for change.

  • paulb

    Why Amherst? Or put another way.. why straight line extension? Good mass transit systems have lines that criss cross.

    Sure the University has ‘some’ sexy George Costanza Urban Planner allure. But how about connectivity to working citizens deeper on the West Side, East Side and the South Towns? Make a Ferry Street Line, or a Route 5 Line, or an Amherst Street line, or a line into the Tonawanda’s.. you get the idea.

    Amherst is fine. It has highway access galore, and it has people who can afford cars. Imagine a station in Snyder… and I say you imagine a station with 10 pax a day. OTH, Imagine a station at Delevan and Elmwood … it would be standing room only.

  • Moderate Democrat

    Whoever thinks that this is viable is smoking crack. This is a joke and it will never happen. It will drone on long enough for all the “studies” to be done (the usual suspects get paid an obscene amount of money) then it will quietly die. Why? There’s nothing wrong with the current system, and buffalo isn’t big enough, with enough transit traffic to justify it. It’s just more pie-in-the-sky nonsense in the vein of Robert Moses. Flawed from the start, and will end up acheiving nothing.

    How about this instead: Bury the section downtown on Main Street to open it back up completely. Reno the terminal, and build infrastructure that makes it accessible from Harlem rd and from South Buffalo by car. Get a big tenant into it. Get the new stadium built downtown on the South park location and extend the light rail to it. Why are we trying to funnel people to Amherst? For what? You want to make downtown accessible. And you could do this by rail through the terminal from basically every part of the city utilizing mostly existing infrastructure.

    Extending it to South campus is stupid. Why not just acquire electric buses instead? Tesla could build them for you. I’m glad we got the solar plant because they’re going to be doing a lot more there than making solar panels but this idea sucks and the money could be spent on a lot better things.

  • Walter Brewer

    The real valuable future of the Gov. Cuomo plan is support to innovation among many private and government institutions that leads to new unique products to design, test, and compete in the global market. Those create real funds and jobs to reduce the nations unsustainable borrowing.
    Shovel ready Metro extension jobs, and probably overseas equipment purchase, simply wastes $1.2 billion that could support innovation at U B, and elsewhere. It’s the kind of transportation the public pays for but seldom uses.

    The mass transit era ended decades ago. Nearly 90% of travel is in autos on Buffalo’s well designed road system. Popularity of Uber, and competitors on-call and same vehicle travel direct to destination in increasingly efficient autos, is modern transportation for all. It can start now. Please read; “Ride-sharing Millenials crave cars after all”.
    Before fund help, let’s hope the new Administration cost-benefit review considers current Metro $1.81 per mile for each passenger. Add amortized $1.2 billion shows passenger total cost 10 times autos Uber,etc, uses.

    Has NFTA considered a competition for a choice that would transport individuals and small groups on demand instead of many stop schedule?

    Will NFTA show taxpayer s an objective side by side numerical performance comparison, including TOTAL ,withamortized, costs, for Metro extension, bus system, including current, and Uber, etc,?

    Before Federal funds requests, will taxpayers vote their preference, using information from the comparison, including no?

  • Walter Brewer

    The real valuable future of the Gov. Cuomo plan is support to innovation among many private and government institutions that leads to new unique products to design, test, and compete in the global market. Those create real funds and jobs to reduce the nations unsustainable borrowing.
    Shovel ready Metro extension jobs, and probably overseas equipment purchase, simply wastes $1.2 billion that could support innovation at U B, and elsewhere. It’s the kind of transportation the public pays for but seldom uses.

    The mass transit era ended decades ago. Nearly 90% of travel is in autos on Buffalo’s well designed road system. Popularity of Uber, and competitors on-call and same vehicle travel direct to destination in increasingly efficient autos, is modern transportation for all. It can start now. Please read; “Ride-sharing Millenials crave cars after all”.
    Before fund help, let’s hope the new Administration cost-benefit review considers current Metro $1.81 per mile for each passenger. Add amortized $1.2 billion shows passenger total cost 10 times autos Uber,etc, uses.

    Has NFTA considered a competition for a choice that would transport individuals and small groups on demand instead of many stop schedule?

    Will NFTA show taxpayer s an objective side by side numerical performance comparison, including TOTAL ,withamortized, costs, for Metro extension, bus system, including current, and Uber, etc,?

    Before Federal funds requests, will taxpayers vote their preference, using information from the comparison, including no?

  • HousingBubble2

    Get ready Amherst, your property values are going down! There is absolutely no reason to extend light rail to UB. However there are very good reasons to extend light rail to Larkinville and South Buffalo.

  • Jesse Griffis

    I get the distinction, but “the current, *costly* UB Stampede shuttle fleet” is pretty funny when talking about replacing it with rail.

    • neroden

      Rail’s cheaper to operate. Costs more upfront, but much cheaper each year than buses.