The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metro Station at Allen and Main streets links to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where new buildings are rising and thousands of new jobs are expected to be created.
To public transit advocates, the station represents both the promise and the needs of the NFTA’s light-rail system. They see promise in the station’s proximity to the medical campus, offering an alternative way for employees to get to work. And they see needs in its aging infrastructure, to prepare the facility for an anticipated influx of commuters.
With $30 million in state funds available this year for capital projects for upstate transit systems, Western New York is trying to secure its share to upgrade the NFTA’s light-rail system, as well as its bus fleet. State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said a modernized light-rail system is integral to new developments in the city, including the medical campus, the return of cars on Main Street, and projects like Canalside and HarborCenter.
Kennedy said he felt during the past budget process, there was a “lack of awareness of the unique needs of the NFTA” among some state lawmakers. Buffalo’s transit system is unique among upstate cities because of its light-rail component, he said.
To help raise that awareness, Kennedy on Saturday hosted a visit from state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the state Senate’s Democratic leader, familiarizing her with the NFTA’s system. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, toured the Allen/Medical Campus station with Kennedy.
“We will continue to push for an enhanced commitment to the transportation needs of the NFTA,” said Stewart-Cousins.
During the recently approved state budget, the NFTA received a 3 percent increase in aid, or $1.3 million. Kennedy called that a welcome increase but said there was “more work to be done.”
Kennedy argued that in past years, the NFTA has not received its “fair share” of aid based on its statistics for passenger trips and revenue mile statistics. And he said Metro ridership is poised to grow with the new developments emerging.
“We want to make sure the light rail system has the resources to bring it into 2014 and into future years,” he said.
Kennedy outlined capital projects he said were the most pressing for the NFTA light-rail system in the next five years, including upgraded infrastructure, completing the rebuilding of light-rail cars, elevator rebuilding, station repair and a new fare collection system.