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The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has developed its first-ever strategic plan, a sweeping vision for the transit agency that covers everything from improved rider safety to reduction of overtime to development of a capital reserve.

"This is the first time this authority has ever had a comprehensive, authoritywide plan," said NFTA Executive Director Lawrence Meckler. "I think it will help the 1,490 people who work here to strive for common goals, and that will translate to better experiences for the hundreds of thousands of people we serve."

According to the opening statement of its strategic plan, the NFTA "strives to be the consummate provider of transportation services and facilities that foster economic revitalization, and enhances the quality of life in the Buffalo Niagara region."

The NFTA's blueprint for growth and performance has been in the works for more than six months. The development process itself has helped various departments begin to work more cohesively, according to Meckler.

"I think the process was very helpful because it tore down departmental barriers and made people more aware of what goes on in other parts of this huge organization. We wear a lot of different hats around here, so it was a real eye-opener," he added.

In some cases the strategic plan sets specific goals, such as reducing fare evasion incidences to 2.5 percent of all Metro Rail riders, and improving Metro Bus on-time performance by 5 percent. Another stated goal is to amass a capital reserve fund of $3.8 million over time.

Other goals are less precise, including improved customer satisfaction and enhanced perception of security in NFTA vehicles and facilities. The plan will be distributed to all NFTA employees, community leaders and transportation stakeholders for input and discussion.

"This is still an evolving document and the first year of implementation will tell us a lot. Many of our goals will be fairly easy to achieve because they are things we've been working on, but other goals will be tough, really give us something to push for," Meckler added.

The strategic plan got its first official airing during Monday's monthly meeting of the NFTA Board of Commissioners.

In other action, the board:

Approved a three-year lease with Rainbow Air for counter space at the Niagara Falls International Airport. The helicopter sightseeing business, which has leased hangar space at the airport, now will have a more formal location for its tourist-oriented operation.

Rainbow Air, which has been in business since the mid-1990s, gives sightseers a 10-minute, aerial view of the U.S. and Canadian falls.

Received an update on efforts to contract with an air cargo operator to develop cargo service at the little-used airport. Requests for proposal packets were sent out Nov. 8 and a prebid conference is set for mid-December.

One of the expected bidders is Aviation Facilities Co., an air cargo development and management company that currently runs cargo operations at seven major airports, including Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington Dulles. Representatives of the firm toured the Niagara Falls airport last week.


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