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Buffalo’s Metro Rail – Slow and Steady Wins The Race?

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When it comes to Buffalo’s Metro Rail (Light Rail), we might not have the longest line, but what we do have is working well, according to a new article in CityLab.

CityLab writer Laura Bliss points out the cities that are benefitting most, and least, from their rail systems. When it comes to Light Rail, Buffalo ranks high, as we can see in the inset graphic. The CityLab article breaks down Christof Spieler’s new book Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit (Island Press, $40). Spieler, a Houston-based transit planner gives big kudos to Buffalo’s Metro Rail, which is usually the butt of a joke due to its “rail to nowhere” status. In the article, Bliss addresses Spieler’s observations by saying, “And who knew that Buffalo, New York, and Fort Collins, Colorado, have transit systems to admire? The former may have the shortest and most oddly configured light-rail system in the country, but as it turns out, ‘Metro Rail outperforms most of the light-rail lines in the United States,’ Spieler writes. (It’s also laden with glorious public art, as CityLab’s Mark Byrnes recently noted.)”

A Buffalo Rising reader also shared the following, upon reading the CityLab article:

The article ranks Buffalo’s light rail line pretty high in ridership/mile.  The article doesn’t give the dates for the data, but I’ll bet it’s even higher now with the Medical Campus built out. Granted, the low denominator (total miles) gives us a boost.

One larger (but similar) system is Salt Lake City.  When I was visiting there ~10 years ago, I was surprised by the similarities: downtown toll-free zone, same fare system (inspectors check riders)–in fact, the ticket machines were identical to ours.  I’ve been a little jealous to see their system grow, but now that I see the ridership, it may not have been smart growth. Looks like Dallas is a good example of that. Very large city with a low ridership.

In the end, maybe slow and steady does actually win the race in this case.

This past November, El Museo unveiled some new public art at Metro Rail’s Utica Station – Your Utica Station. The new public art works were installed in ad spaces in the station, and on the backs of ticket vending machines. Each of the artists was tasked with coming up with a work of art that related to his or her own experiences on the Metro Rail.

The following photos and artist descriptions are from El Museo:

About the artists

Obsidian Bellis is a black femme illustrator and craftsperson who was born and raised in Buffalo. They use traditional mediums and found objects to create visuals that evoke the mysticism, light, and darkness of navigating society as black and womxn. Common themes and inspiration in their work are fantasy, nature, celestial bodies, subculture, and body modification.


Bleu-Ruby Daniels-Taylor, also known as user-212521, also known as ugLy k1d, is nineteen. She currently attends Sarah Lawrence College where she is studying art and writing. She prides herself on being a writer and is currently working on an experimental novel. Along with writing, she also is a sound artist. In her spare time she enjoys creating digital portraits, welding, web design, making short films, and taking self portraits.

The Commute

Tyshaun Tyson is an independent artist from Buffalo who works across traditional and urban art. He also goes by the name “The Left-Handed Bandit,” a childhood nickname, and he uses his left hand to transform a wide variety of canvases and textures into works of art using drawing, airbrushing, painting, photography, and more. He received a BA in Art from Buffalo State College in 2013, and founded his business, The Left-Handed Bandit Artistic Services in 2015.

Essence of a Wave

Imani Williamson is an artist based in Buffalo. She uses vibrant colors in traditional and digital media to explore techniques and apply them to the human form. She is inspired by spirituality and human thought, themes which manifest in her work in the form of halos, third eyes, and other spiritual elements. She is currently studying illustration at Daemen College.

Your Utica Station was funded in part by BNMC Spark, a micro-grant program of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with additional support from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Lamar Advertising.

El Museo is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the County of Erie, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and Erie County Legislators, the City of Buffalo and Mayor Byron Brown, the Western New York Foundation, Give for Greatness, M&T Bank, and the continued generosity of our members and donors.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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