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Editorial: Medical Campus thinks ahead by offering a week of free Metro passes to employees

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus officials and public transportation partners want workers to make a change this month that could have beneficial health and environmental impacts.

The enticement to public transportation could also save workers money.

Campus officials are offering one-week Metro transit passes this month as part of their Give Transit A Try program. The effort involves a broader objective to improve health outcomes and promote alternative transportation options. That will be an important effort as increasing numbers of employees and patients make their way to the campus’ several buildings every day.

It is a smart strategy, with 15,000 workers expected on the campus by next year. With that influx, parking will continue to be at a premium even with the ongoing construction of an 1,825-space parking ramp at the corner of Ellicott and Goodrich streets to replace the aging Ellicott Goodrich Garage. The garage will be partially open later this year but won’t be completed until next year.

Even then, it won’t be enough to handle the volume that employment levels could otherwise bring to this growing district.

The campus parking squeeze has already spilled over into adjacent neighborhoods. Complaints from residents in the East Side Fruit Belt area became louder as workers parked their cars – for free – outside homes, sometimes blocking driveways. After a two-year battle, last year state lawmakers authorized Buffalo to set up residential permit parking.

Growth on the 120-acre Medical Campus offers dynamic change.

Gates Vascular Institute and the University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Research Center opened in 2012. Conventus Medical Office Building and Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Clinical Sciences Center opened within the past year.

The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are scheduled to open by the end of the year.
Still, figuring out how to adapt to growth has been a challenge, albeit one that is welcomed and met by the nonprofit BNMC, which coordinates transportation and other neighborhood initiatives.

The free, one-week trial precedes the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s broader plan in June for a six-month trial of a new corporate matching discount, potentially cutting the cost of a $75 monthly pass to $38.50 for some commuters. The NFTA plan will be geared to riders in Erie and Niagara counties.

It gets large and small corporations involved in the six-month trial and entices them to participate in the existing Metro Perk program, which allows employees to use pretax dollars to pay for the pass.

The hope is to get more people, in general, riding the Metro Rail. Lowering the cost of the pass makes the economics work.
Leave the car at home, cut down on vehicle wear and tear and the cost of gasoline. It all adds up to heart-healthy, environmental and wallet-friendly benefits.

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