The downtown Park 'N Go Shuttle will roll to a halt at the end of the year if a new source of money is not found.
The shuttle, which transports passengers from two parking lots near the HSBC Arena to the Erie Canal Harbor Metro Rail Station, is currently subsidized by Buffalo Place. But a loss of funds from the City of Buffalo and Buffalo City Auto Ramps will make continued operations impossible for downtown nonprofit organization.
"We have enough money to keep it going through Dec. 31, the end of our budget year. Our 2005 budget doesn't have the funds to support it," said Michael Schmand, Buffalo Place executive director. "We're hopeful some new partners will step up and keep it alive."
Schmand said talks are under way with the owners of the Perry Street parking lots used by the program to see if they might provide money. No commitments have been made.
This is not the first period of uncertainty in recent months for the shuttle. The city's fiscal problems forced it to discontinue its $430,000 subsidy as of July 1, which led to a downsizing for the service.
For six years, the shuttle had ferried downtown workers from the Perry Street parking lots up Main Street to Chippewa Street, dropping riders near their destinations. Since July 1, parkers have been transported just a few blocks, from the parking lots to the Metro Rail station, where they catch trains up Main Street.
In addition to the abbreviated rides, the charge for the service has climbed to $25 a month from $15 a month. The changes also have led to a plunge in the number of riders, to 650 from about 1,400 in June.
"We expected to see a drop, and we have, but there is still a need for the service. It's a convenient, inexpensive way to get a parking space and get to work," Schmand said.
He also noted that the program has attracted the most participants during the peak winter months when a warm ride from distant lots to Main Street is an attractive alternative to an icy walk.
Since July, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has been using its Metro Link vans to shuttle parkers between the lots and the rail line. C. Douglas Hartmayer, NFTA spokesman, said the agency does not have the funds itself but is interested in continuing the service if money can be found.
"We're very interested in pursuing this past Dec. 31," he said. "It's a great fit with our mission of providing public transportation options."