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District expects new deal for student Metro Bus passes by start of school

The Buffalo school district is confident it will have a new contract with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority that would ease up on student restrictions when riding Metro bus and rail, district officials said Wednesday.

No deal has been reached yet, but the district’s attorney met behind closed doors with the Board of Education on Wednesday to provide an update on negotiations and get some direction on how to proceed.

“We are still working out the fine-tune details with the NFTA and I have to continue some conversations with them, but I am confident we are going to be able to get this done,” Nathaniel J. Kuzma, general counsel for the school district, told reporters. “The NFTA and district are working in good faith with each other to implement this new system by the start of the school year.”

Kuzma said he was hesitant to say too much, but mentioned that the talks involved providing students access to the transit system until “11 o’clock at night without any routing restrictions.”

Decades-old restrictions placed on student Metro bus and rail passes that the district pays full price for are at the heart of the negotiations.

Students currently are required to stick only to the one designated route denoted on their passes. Passes are to be used just on school days and at certain hours. Students need a separate pass to stay later for sports or after-school activities.

Parents and students for years have complained about the issue, but more recently have pressed for changes. They point out that the general public pays the same amount as the district does for a Metro pass – $75 a month – but, unlike students, gets unlimited access to the transit system.

The school district pays about $8 million a year for roughly 10,500 bus passes for high school students in the district and city charter schools.

Kuzma said he would provide more details soon, although Superintendent Kriner Cash was less guarded Wednesday and essentially said the district has a new arrangement with the NFTA that will greatly benefit students.

“Much expanded service and use at a lower cost per student,” Cash said, “so that’s exciting.”

Why the restrictions on student Metro passes? Blame the Main Place Mall.

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