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Bills weigh heavy on area psyche

I am still waiting for any whisper, much less an outcry, from inner-city politicians over the proposed jump in transit fares. Raising the cost of a bus ride to $1.75 from $1.50 or even two bucks is another brick on the load of folks who cannot afford a car and need to get to work.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority argues that there is no way around a fare boost. Yet aggressively rider-friendly moves in Rochester led to a 25-cent fare cut. You would think that politicians in the nation's third-poorest city would have an ear to the ground on this and a voice to be raised. So far, the silence is deafening.

There, meanwhile, still is nobody on the NFTA's 12-member board who depends on the bus to get to work. Board members are respected folks who volunteer their time for the community good. But most of them are well-heeled people who are more likely to advertise on a bus than to ride one.

Call me an idealist, but it seems that the voice at least one of the thousands of people who board the bus every day should be heard in the NFTA's board room. Gov. David A. Paterson has two board slots to fill. Note to Dave: Mix in a bus rider.


Despite a huge public protest, the Thruway Authority recently jacked up tolls -- partly on the premise that it needed the money for improvements. Now it says that increases in the price of steel and oil have put most of the plans on hold. Needless to say, this does not mean the higher tolls will be rolled back.

The casualties include the project to move of the Williamsville toll barrier, which has been pushed by local officials for -- I am not kidding -- 25 years.

Members of the long-standing "Williamsville Toll Barrier Relocation Task Force" -- yes, there is such an animal -- include current or past state legislators Dale Volker, Jim Hayes, Mary Lou Rath, Richard Anderson and Dick Keane.

I'm sorry, but "pushing" for a quarter-century and getting nowhere is not an effort; it is an embarrassment.

All of which raises the question: Where was attack-dog developer Carl Paladino -- the driving force behind the erasure of the Ogden and Breckenridge barriers -- when we needed him? If you want something done with a toll booth, do not expect much from yet-another political "task force." Just sic Paladino on it.

Then again, if Paladino had taken on the Williamsville barrier, you can bet that politicians would have damaged themselves in the frenzy to climb aboard the take-the-credit bandwagon.


Speaking of Volker, I get a kick out of the campaign ads promising that the longtime state senator will "take on Albany." Dale, after 36 years in the legislature, you are Albany.


I am enjoying this 4-1 Bills season as much as anyone. But in terms of entertainment return for our tax dollars, all I can say is: It's about time.

It has been nine years since our publicly subsidized mercenaries made the playoffs. It has been 11 years since owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. -- on the unspoken but understood threat of packing his bags -- extracted a $124 million taxpayer goodie bag in stadium improvements and lease handouts.

Taxpayer donations to the Bills include $3 million annually in cash and more than $4 million in game-day take. The pile includes stadium naming rights, which the owner has yet to cash in on.

I know that National Football League teams are at a premium. It is a sellers' market, and the NFL's popularity -- and team values -- are inflating like the Goodyear blimp. Even so, it is worth reminding ourselves that we pay a price beyond ticket sales for the pleasure of the Bills' company. The bill is easier to swallow when the payoff each football Sunday is pleasure instead of pain.


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