Linking communities and our future . . .

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and its partners have embarked on a study of public transportation options for the corridor connecting Buffalo and Amherst. This could include an extension of Metro Rail, improvements to current bus service or something else altogether, like bus rapid transit. We do not know where the study is headed. We do know that together we can make getting around the region safer, more environmentally friendly and cost effective. So join us. The discussion starts here and now.

FAQs


Q: This has been looked at and analyzed over and over again – why another study?
You’re right there have been more than a handful of studies that looked at this corridor, but the past is the past, and it is time to move forward. Transit Options Amherst-Buffalo will really get down to the current and future need for enhanced transit access. We’re looking at existing conditions as well as future needs by projecting out to 2035. We’ve also established a unique Purpose and Need Statement for this project.
The result of the study will be a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), which will be a community supported project that is actionable and fundable (since the elimination of Federal earmarks, it is now the best projects that get funded).
Q: What’s a Purpose and Need?
A Purpose and Need statement outlines the reasons for proposing a project. It is the foundation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning process. It provides the rationale and justification for undertaking a major federal investment and forms the basis for the range of alternatives to be studied in a NEPA document. The Purpose and Need also includes draft Goals and Objectives, which focus on related issues that reflect environmental, community, and transportation values. You can see the full P&N HERE.
Q: Why this corridor? Isn’t it important to go to the Airport?
Yes, other corridors, such as the airport corridor are important, but in 2010, NFTA updated our 2001 Strategic Assessment which examined both available exclusive rights-of-way and existing major arterial corridors as possible locations for major transit investments. The study identified four corridors as candidates for future major investment. The final result was that the Amherst-Buffalo corridor was recommended as the first candidate for further study.

There are other key reasons that support transit improvements in the Amherst-Buffalo Corridor:

·     The region’s adopted, Metropolitan Long-Range Transportation Plan includes a transit investment in this corridor.

·     The region’s congestion management system shows congestion along several roadway segments in the study area.

·     Improved transit service will support and encourage ongoing and planned development along the corridor, e.g. Harbor Center and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

·     Multiple regional planning efforts have identified the Amherst-Buffalo Corridor as a growth corridor.

·     The City of Buffalo, the University at Buffalo and the Town of Amherst have comprehensive plans, which promote compact, mixed-use, center-based development complementary to transit service.

·     The University at Buffalo has several campuses with the need to transport students, faculty and staff between them in an efficient, safe and scheduled manner.

Q: Is this a Metro Rail extension?
The corridor is defined as extending from Canalside in downtown Buffalo along Main Street and continuing from the existing Metro Rail terminus station at UB South Campus to UB North Campus, Crosspoint Business Park, and all the activity centers in between. We are considering as a light rail as a Metro Rail extension, but other types of transit improvements as well. The goal of the study is to identify how best to connect these activities centers and destinations with improved transit service.
Q: Well, if it isn’t going to be light rail, what’s it gonna be?
We’re considering multiple types or modes of transit, some the region is familiar with, and some that would be totally new. We’re considering Light Rail (Metro Rail), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), enhanced bus service and routes and a preferential bus alternative.
Q: What is Light Rail Transit?
Light Rail Transit (LRT) is an urban rail system that can operate either in dedicated right-of-way or along streets.  It is typically powered via an overhead electrical power source (catenary). The Buffalo Metro is an example of LRT.  LRT is designed to operate in a variety of environments, including streets, underground, above the ground on aerial structures, along freeway medians, or through pedestrian malls. It is this characteristic of flexibility that distinguishes it from other rail modes.
Q: What is Bus Rapid Transit?
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based transit system. It is designed to emulate the reliability and predictability of rail systems such as Metro Rail through the provision of dedicated lanes or with dedicated busways along either existing roadways or along a dedicated right-of-way (similar to a rail line). BRT commonly includes well-appointed stations with easier passenger loading and improved real-time passenger information, off-board fare collection, and higher-frequency service.
Q: What is enhanced bus? What is preferential bus?
Enhanced bus would consist of improving the existing service with increased frequency, adjusting stop locations and extending routes and service.
Preferential bus alternatives will likely consist of a limited number of BRT like elements including Transit Signal Prioritization, queue jumping, real time information, enhanced shelters, and limited stops.
Q: Wait a second, you keep mentioning “alignments.” What are those?
An alignment is the path or route that a new transit service could take.  For example, an alignment for Light Rail Transit (LRT) along Niagara Falls Boulevard means that the LRT cars would travel up/down Niagara Falls Boulevard. 
Q: Ok, then what alignments are you considering?
There are a couple of ways to meet the purpose and need of the study. The study started with the evaluation of Niagara Falls Boulevard, Bailey Avenue, and the Millersport Highway alignments. Each have their benefits and opportunities that we are considering. As of the Tier 2 evaluation, we’re moving forward with continuing to evaluate the Niagara Falls Blvd. and Millersport Highway alignments. It is important to note that the Niagara Falls Blvd. LRT alignment includes a portion of Bailey Ave. between Main Street and Eggert Road.
Q: When and where can I see the service and alignments being proposed?
You can see the most current information on the alignments on this website under the tabs for “Ideas” or “In Case You Missed It!”  Information boards showing the alternatives from the June public open house are also posted under the tab, “In Case You Missed It!” The next public open house is expected to occur in Fall 2015.  The next round of updates to the alternatives being considered will be available to view then.
Q: How much is it going to cost and who is going to pay for the project?
Where and what will determine cost. The more capital intensive the project, the more it will cost. LRT is the most expensive option. Enhanced bus is likely the least costly. We’re in the process of developing capital costs as well as the cost to operate and maintain each alternative. Once we have that information, we will weigh the cost of each alternative against the potential ridership to determine if the alternative is worth the investment (cost per rider).
We recognize that we’re working in a constrained funding environment, so once we have a LPA, we can present to funding sources, such as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for New and Small Starts program opportunities. Funding will be a combination of Federal, State and Local subsides and financing. We will look to innovative funding opportunities and will want to leverage private sector participation as well.
Q: How is the University at Buffalo involved in this study?
UB plays a vital role on the region’s economy. UB’s campuses are major destinations in the region and University students represent a significant portion of transit ridership today. UB has been involved in this study in several ways.  It is participating on the advisory committee and has worked with the study team in determining potential alternative alignments through the UB North campus.  The University has participated in surveying student ridership and student transit needs to inform the study.  And many UB students, faculty, and staff have attended the public open houses.
Q: Who else is involved in the study?
We’ve developed an extensive outreach plan for this study, which included the creation of a Project Steering Committee, a project Advisory Committee and identified many community stakeholders. The steering and advisory committees have met regularly and will continue to meet throughout the study. The study team has met and continues to meet with community stakeholders. We also give regular updates to our Board of Commissioners and have provided briefings to our elected officials. And of course we’ve provided multiple opportunities and ways for the general public to get involved through public open houses, by leaving comments on this website or emailing us.
The steering committee is made up of the NFTA, GBNRTC, and NYSDOT. The advisory committee is made up of the following:
  • Amherst IDA
  • Transportation Working Group Western NY Environmental Alliance
  • Erie County Dept.  Of Environment and Planning
  • VOICE Buffalo
  • Amherst Chamber of Commerce
  • Citizens for Regional Transit
  • Town of Amherst
  • University at Buffalo
  • Town of Tonawanda
  • Village of Williamsville
  • Buffalo Niagara Partnership
  • Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
  • City of Buffalo (Office of Strategic Planning)
Q: When will this get built?
Construction would begin after more detailed engineering and environmental review and after final design. A BRT system could be open and operating by 2020.  An LRT system would take longer to build and could be on line by 2025.
Q: Who finally decides what alignment and type of transit gets built?
The outcome of this study will be the selection of a locally preferred alternative, which will reflect broad stakeholder and public input over the past two years.  Additional input will be sought during the next environmental review and engineering phase of this project. Ultimately, the NFTA in collaboration with GBNRTC and FTA will decide.  Their decisions will be based on the defined purpose and need for the project and consider all of the information and your input gathered over the course of the study process.
Q: Why do we need this? Why is transit important?
Transit is a regional asset and many people currently use our exiting transit system.  Improvements will only make the service more attractive and accessible. Transit plays an important role in providing access to jobs, education, medical services, shopping, regional amenities and opportunities - and one of the goals of this project is to do all of these! It also supports ongoing economic development such as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and can help revitalize and strengthen existing neighborhoods and businesses.
Transit is also green and a healthy way to get around. Did you know that Buffalo got a D for ozone pollution in the 2015 American Lung Association “State of the Air” report? Much of this can be associated with traffic-related air pollution. Buses and Metro Rail help get personal cars off the road, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions, helping to improve air quality in our region. Also, a little exercise walking or biking to and from your bus or train doesn’t hurt either! 
Here’s a few facts about transit from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
·     Last year, transit ridership nationwide exceeded 10.5 billion trips. This is the highest ridership level since 1956.
 
·     An individual using public transit instead of owning a vehicle saves on average about $9,500 annually.
 
·     Major transit infrastructure projects, such as light rail and even Bus Rapid Transit can promote more efficient land use patterns that help connect people with jobs, services, and affordable housing.
 
·    Robust transit reduces the need for additional roadway capacity, reduces congestion and pollution levels, and improves mobility and accessibility for everyone, but most importantly for low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals.
Q: How can I participate in the study?
Continue to follow this website and our Facebook page and leave comments. You can always email your comments to us: to@nfta.com or send us a letter. Let us know you’re interested and we’ll add you to our email list for future project notifications, you can also sign up for Instant Updates.

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