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NFTA budget maintains $2 fare, current airport parking rates

It will still cost $2 to ride Metro Bus and Rail for at least the next 15 months, even with ridership totals that continue to decline.

But following Monday’s adoption of a $234.2 million budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 that begins April 1, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority looks ahead to maintaining the $2 fare as well as tackling a host of capital projects funded by healthy revenues from other operations run by the multi-modal transit agency.

Transportation assistance from Albany and Washington is also slated to increase this year.

“The budget includes: cost control measures and projects, technology improvements, green initiatives that will result in operational changes, an increase in state operating assistance and moderate growth in other revenue sources,” the authority administration said in a report to its Board of Commissioners.

Parking rates also will remain the same at the authority’s two airports – Buffalo Niagara International and Niagara Falls International ‑ though parking revenues declined 4 percent this year, primarily because of decreased service at Niagara Falls. Still, ride-sharing revenues are projected to increase 66 percent – or $665,000 – from a full year of airport agreements with the ride-sharing services, said Chief Financial Officer John Cox.

He also said declining ridership on both the bus and rail systems is expected to perk up next year with thousands of transit-dependent riders beginning jobs at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Other budget highlights include:
• An expected increase of almost $5 million in state operating assistance, the Albany fund that in past years often fell far short of NFTA requests.
• A 1.8 percent hike in Erie County sales tax revenue as well as a mortgage tax increase of 2.2 percent.
• A $3.8 million increase in federal assistance.

The authority report also indicated that it will continue planning in 2018-19 for several major projects, including:
• Purchase of 24 new, 40-foot compressed natural gas buses along with two new CNG fueling compressors at the Frontier Garage.
• A $1.2 billion Metro Rail extension to Amherst that would double the size of the current 6.4-mile system. Environmental reviews are slated to start early next year for a rail line now envisioned to begin service in 2028.
• Extension of Metro Rail into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Terminal at the foot of Main Street, with authority officials indicating Monday they are optimistic about securing needed federal funding for the $42 million project slated for completion in 2021.
• Seeking proposals for replacing 90 percent of the Buffalo airports' s 247,000 sq. ft. roof, estimated to cost $8.3 million.
• The Buffalo airport's$70 million project to expand its baggage claim and improve terminal traffic patterns, which will include a two-story addition adjacent to the main entrance.
• Other airport projects, including creating space for overnight aircraft parking due to increased flights at Buffalo Niagara International.

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