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Another Voice: Buffalo needs high-capacity public transit

By Douglas J. Funke

The recent rubber ducky traffic gridlock at Canalside highlights the need for better public transportation. Some have called for better signage to available parking, more police traffic control around downtown events and encouraging use of available public transportation.

These are all good ideas and should be implemented. But they are short-term fixes. They won’t solve the core problem – too many cars trying to get downtown at the same time.

Long-term, comprehensive solutions that address the core problem are needed. Most importantly, this means extending Buffalo’s light rail and providing enhanced, expedited bus service, including bus rapid transit (BRT). The NFTA’s efforts toward extending efficient transit (light rail or BRT) to the Amherst Campus and through the DL&W Terminal to the Cobblestone District are excellent first steps. So is the new multimodal transportation center in Niagara Falls. The NFTA and Niagara Falls are to be commended for leading these proactive initiatives.

But these are only first steps. More must be done. Cities like Cleveland, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle and others have expanded their passenger rail systems to their airports and other popular destinations and seen positive economic benefits. It’s time for Buffalo Niagara to take advantage of our many publicly owned rail rights-of-way to achieve a network of high-capacity transit that connects our region. Not only does high-capacity transit stimulate private investment along the transit lines, it reduces the need for parking downtown, opening space for mixed-use residential/commercial development that will increase tax revenues.

Over 60 community organizations, businesses and municipalities have signed a petition calling for extending Buffalo’s light rail, building a multimodal transportation center downtown and establishing long-term sustainable public transportation funding.

Organizations that have signed the petition include the Buffalo Urban League, the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, the Coalition for Economic Justice, GoBike Buffalo, the League of Women Voters, the Network of Religious Communities, Partnership for the Public Good, PUSH Buffalo, the Sierra Club, VOICE Buffalo, the Western New York Law Center, the Western New York Peace Center and many more.

This growing consensus is not surprising. The recent One Region Forward initiative asked citizens about our region’s transportation system. All workshop sessions cited public transit improvements, including extending Buffalo’s light rail, a high priority.

We call on all our political and community leaders to join the call for fundamental improvements in our public transportation system.

Douglas J. Funke is president of Citizens for Regional Transit.

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