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NFTA is searching for ways to improve its service

These past several weeks, I have received hundreds of comments regarding the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's proposed service cuts. These comments are very beneficial as we look to restructure our system. Some of the comments have centered on the Rochester transit model versus our Buffalo system, so I would like to clarify some of the profound differences between the two systems.

Almost every transit agency in the nation is struggling, with very few exceptions. The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is one of those exceptions.

The RGRTA is an excellent system, however, its operation services are very different from the NFTA's. Rochester's system is strictly a bus system. It does not provide rail service, it doesn't provide for public safety and it doesn't operate an airport system. It's important to note that by operating the airport, we are allowed statutorily to remove a maximum of $4.5 million per year to assist with running our buses and light rail system, which we do.

In 2007, the RGRTA received an $11.2 million increase, or 61 percent, in state funding while the NFTA increase that year was $7.2 million. Since that time, Rochester has been receiving almost 12 percent more each year when compared to revenue service hours and the total number of riders. If Buffalo received the same proportional assistance, our state operating assistance would increase more than $5 million per year and we wouldn't be experiencing budget deficit issues.

Despite the fact the greater metropolitan populations are close, the Rochester system is much smaller. According to the National Transit Database, the NFTA's transit system covers 62 percent more passenger miles than the Rochester system and serves more than 60 percent more riders.

Last year, the Brookings Institution released a report titled, "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America." It reviewed 100 metro areas and rated Buffalo as 21 overall on coverage and job access. Rochester's system was ranked 48 overall. Buffalo's system covers a larger area because our community demands that of us.

Meetings with Rochester officials and the public have been very beneficial. I know that the world has changed and it cannot be business as usual. We have already started meeting to develop public-private partnerships. This will not be easy. In the past, when we approached private business to sponsor a project as small as a bus shelter, we were not successful. But we know from the comments we have received that organizations do see value in the service we provide and will work with us in continuing to provide that service.

Please know that we will continue working to create a new transit model that ensures we will be able to provide the most efficient transit system possible based on the financial realities and abilities of our budget.

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Kimberley A. Minkel is executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.