Submitted by Robert Kotas
In Dec 2015 The Black Rock Riverside Transit Hub (BRTH) opened for operation with little fanfare. The hub was to connect various NFTA bus routes together so riders could easily transfer to other bus routes that normally wouldn’t cross paths. Great idea unfortunate consequences.
The under-appreciated neighborhood of Riverside which provides unparalleled views of the Niagara River now not only has to contend with the with the noise, dirt and pollution created by the NY I190- brainchild of the 1950-60’s Urban Development genius Robert Moses which barricades the area from its greatest attraction and namesake. To add insult to injury, include another 1500 scheduled buses weekly, an average of 1 bus every 2.5 minutes during operating hours, passing through the area’s only vista of the mighty Niagara. Just as the neighborhood is building up some steam from development happening down the street, here comes the NFTA “bad neighbor” putting its foot down.
After years of neglect around the Outer Harbor, the people of Buffalo, with a little help from Congressman Higgins, finally demanded the NFTA relinquish its grasp on the waterfront property that sat wasted for decades. Now the effects are being realized with exciting new project popping up everywhere you look.
The Authority must have felt its unilateral power diminished along the greenway and fought back!
The stretch of Niagara St. waterfront neighborhood that runs parallel to George Washington Park a little over a mile between Ontario St and Vulcan St, taps ridership from Riverside Park the Concordia cemetery and the Niagara River to the west, as well as 4 city blocks of homes. A large block to the east is the Riverside business district and numerous residential neighborhoods. Bus route #5 Tonawanda St used to serve the area from Hertel Ave to Vulcan St. outbound to UB South via Kenmore Ave and inbound to downtown with approximately 138 buses daily.
To link to the BRTH, the #5 bus now travels straight down Niagara to Vulcan St no longer serving Tonawanda St from Hertel Ave. to Ontario St. Include the addition of the Sheridan Dr # 35 bus from BRTH that travels down Niagara to Sheridan Drive, outbound to UB North campus, and the existing Niagara Falls # 40 bus, and the total of scheduled buses passing through the area totals over 235 daily. This doesn’t include the additional 10-20 out of service buses that pass through on their way to the Military/Kenmore barn.
You are more likely to see a bus traveling down this stretch between 6 AM and 7 PM than not.
I fully support the BRTH providing alternative transportation throughout the community, this is not the issue here. The real issue is the idea of moving the only bus that serves the Riverside area business district from Tonawanda St to Niagara St – the farthest point west of the area with nothing but Canada on the horizon, disregarding the only Niagara St. waterfront neighborhood, the ridership east of Tonawanda St, and the business community it is supposedly serving… only to conveniently simplify the NFTA route #5 bus logistics with the new hub. James Morrell Deputy Director of public transit answer to this was “What’s the difference you already have the NY I190 right down there”.
The NFTA has been in the news recently as a bad landlord to Trailways at the downtown terminal, for discontinuing 2 routes without any public forum in the affected neighborhoods only to tell the neighbors to walk 280 feet to Niagara St (sounds familiar), for complaining that moving to a new downtown transportation hub would be too costly to their operation and a reported decrease in both bus and metro rail ridership.
Maybe if the NFTA had anything other than its own bottom line in mind, these negative stories wouldn’t be making the news with such regularity. NY State is responsible for allowing these “Authorities” to do what they please in the community without consent. Maybe it’s time to rethink this 1960’s era ideology, and instead have an agency that is accountable for actions that currently pass without question.