The report that 80 percent of Erie and Niagara County residents want Metro Rail to expand is welcome news, but it comes as no surprise.
I am chairman of the Citizens Rapid Transit Committee. Over a year ago, we completed a petition drive supporting Metro Rail expansion and asking the county to dedicate the equivalent of 1/2 cent of sales tax to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bus and rail operating and maintenance. Over 11,000 people signed these petitions and over 90 percent of those approached supported Metro Rail expansion.
The fact that many of the respondents to the new Zogby survey conducted for the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council "never use the light-rail system" also comes as no surprise.
The 27,000 average weekday riders of the Main Street line represent only 3 percent of the county population. This, of course, is because the line serves only the Main Street corridor within the city limits.
When lines are extended to serve more of the area and Metro Rail truly becomes a system, this percentage will grow dramatically. This has been proven in city after city where light-rail lines have been expanded.
It is true that the NFTA has resisted expansion because "it doubts that it can obtain the commitment from local government to subsidize operation of additional routes."
Mayor Masiello is already on record in favor of Metro Rail expansion in his Vision for Downtown Buffalo.
I submit that it's time for the County Legislature and our new county executive to take a look at dedicated funding for Metro Bus and Rail. No new taxes should be necessary. Savings on highway wear and tear, less need for highway expansion and savings on welfare when an expanded Metro Rail system connects people with jobs should provide the needed funds.
We are on the threshold of a new, exciting and prosperous era. Metro Rail expansion can make a significant contribution to jump-starting the bright future we all want to see.
JOSEPH H. RADDER