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Metro Rail will run special trains on the line's surface section on weekend nights for a three-month trial in order to better link the Theater District with Marine Midland Arena.

In addition, the NFTA would extend Friday and Saturday operating hours -- including underground service -- from midnight until 2 a.m.

"We'd like to see if we can make it work," said Richard T. Swist, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. "I feel positive about where it is right now."

A starting date for the expanded downtown Metro Rail weekend service has not been set, but NFTA officials said they're shooting for late November or early December.

Metro Deputy Manager Karen Rae told the Buffalo Place Inc. board Wednesday that the NFTA is willing to pull money from its marketing funds to pay for a three-month, Friday and Saturday night extended-service program.

"We estimate the cost for the extended service is about $700 per night, although that is a number which can be tweaked," Ms. Rae said.

In exchange for paying out of its own pocket for increased service, the NFTA is looking to Buffalo Place Inc. and downtown merchants to help market the new service, Ms. Rae said.

The trains would utilize a turnaround at the first underground station, Allen-Hospital, to keep trains running in both directions through Buffalo Place every 10 minutes.

Discussions about enhanced rail service were spurred by Buffalo Place officials and individual downtown business owners who see the new arena -- which hopes to attract 200 events a year -- as a major spark for downtown development.

"People realize there's a huge opportunity here," said Mark Goldman, owner of the Calumet Arts Cafe. "We need to make it happen."

At the same time, downtown merchants want to make sure the arena -- which contains restaurants, bars and shops -- doesn't monopolize downtown night life, at the expense of Buffalo Place and its offshoots downtown.

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