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Another Voice: Ridership would increase with a better rail system

By Kyle Clarey

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is meant to link the Buffalo Niagara region and unite the citizens of Western New York, but it consistently fails to do that. In my opinion, declining ridership isn’t due to some cyclical trend; rather, it arises from the misguided design of the current system.

We have a Metro Rail that runs in a straight line, within the confines of the City of Buffalo, and buses that we can leave in the rear-view mirror in our own cars.

If NFTA truly wants to improve ridership and link the suburbs with the city, officials need to undertake serious investment in commuter rail solutions. Let it be known that I’m not talking about their plan to expand Metro Rail up Niagara Falls Boulevard to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. Instead, we need practical solutions. Metro Rail was designed with 46 miles of route and has great promise under that design.

Rail right-of-ways, both publicly and privately owned, already exist and link downtown with the Northtowns, Southtowns and the airport. (If you don’t believe me, check out the data from Citizens for Regional Transit, an organization I stumbled upon in my research.) Not only would utilizing existing rail right-of-ways control costs, but it would also lessen the impact on adjacent properties.

I’m sure most people, given the chance, would love to be able to ride to work on a train, reading a book or checking their email, all while avoiding the dreaded blue water tower traffic or the not-yet-plowed expressways in the Southtowns. Oh, and did I mention that taking the train to the Bills games would be an option; on the Long Island Railroad, in a rather Buffalo fashion, open containers are allowed, so your tailgate sans the tailgate won’t even suffer!

Unlike communism, the idea is even great on paper. But an important issue, the one at the heart of the NFTA’s current woes, needs to be addressed: How do we pay for it?

It is no secret that as Western New Yorkers we don’t receive the preferential treatment that is dished out downstate. Hence, why the MTA in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley region has a well-developed commuter rail system, while the NFTA is still operating in 1982.

We need more public involvement and support for commuter rail infrastructure. From a utility standpoint, people would save time traveling, gasoline consumed, parking paid and potential accidents on the road all from commuting by rail. We also need more acceptance from municipalities and more pressure put on Albany.

And as a right-leaning taxpayer, that is unconventional for me to say, but I truly believe that effective mass transit in our region can further help stimulate economic growth and the rebirth of Buffalo.

Like most things in the State of New York, let’s not expect quick movement, but let’s work together, so that in the next 10 to 15 years, Buffalo can be an example for successful mass transit implementation.

Kyle Clarey of Grand Island is a 21-year-old transportation enthusiast.

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