By Peter Scarcello
The New York State Department of Transportation’s recent proposal to construct a new Amtrak station at the existing Buffalo Exchange Street station site – BFX, as Amtrak calls it – underserves the public on many levels.
While the new station’s exterior design is appealing, the overall approach fails to effectively link our city neighborhoods. The $20 million-plus proposal is practically only for out-of-town travel by way of train, which is a very small demographic. The state’s concept also claims it is intermodal, but offers no improvement in that respect to the dismal connectivity the site has to our Metro Bus and Metro Rail systems. It is a Band-Aid approach that gives no real thought to the importance of urban connectivity.
Furthermore, the state’s BFX proposal perpetuates the station’s existence as an afterthought underneath, and overwhelmed by, the New York State Thruway. The new BFX would, once again, place the station “on the sidelines,” missing a key opportunity to extend the progress of the inner harbor and adequately connect to Canalside, an entire city neighborhood and regional destination in the making.
With Buffalo’s re-emerging neighborhoods like Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, Niagara Street on the West Side, Jefferson Avenue on the city’s East Side, and Seneca Street in South Buffalo, there is no better time to put an emphasis on connectivity than now.
My company, Hook & Ladder Development, along with others, has spent the last three years restoring and re-energizing the Seneca Street corridor in South Buffalo. One of the challenges presented during this process has been trying to reintroduce a neighborhood to the larger region that, for many years, has been considered emblematically, as well as geographically, separated from the rest of the city. Connecting the Seneca Street community through efficient public transportation will encourage residents in other neighborhoods to visit and explore the resurgence taking place there.
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture has proposed a better alternative to DOT’s new BFX. It includes a state-of-the-art public transportation hub with a pedestrian-friendly plaza on the south side of the Thruway, bridging the gap between Washington Street and the Canal District and Metro Rail on Main Street. The train station component would use the same tracks as BFX, but this Buffalo Washington Street Station would be south of the Thruway on Washington Street, facing west. It is superior siting on land DOT and the City of Buffalo already own.
The campaign’s proposal accommodates trains, buses, bikes, pickup and drop-off sites for private cars, taxis, ride-hailing, car-sharing services, etc. It is a true 21st century intermodal transportation hub. The BFW proposal is creative, forward thinking and most importantly, a “do it right and do it once” approach.
Peter Scarcello is a co-owner of Hook & Ladder Development, a real estate holding company on Seneca Street.