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The Editorial Board: ‘Bus rapid transit’ could help remake Bailey Avenue, one of Buffalo's most important thoroughfares

The Editorial Board: ‘Bus rapid transit’ could help remake Bailey Avenue, one of Buffalo's most important thoroughfares

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Bailey Avenue bus line (copy)

The Number 19 bus makes a stop on Bailey Avenue earlier this month. A proposal to implement a "bus rapid transit" system on the route could transform the important city thoroughfare. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

An upgrade of the City of Buffalo’s Bailey Avenue bus service in the form of the “bus rapid transit” could help remake the much-trafficked roadway with modern, high-efficient public transportation. It would at least supplement the current #19 Bailey Avenue, which stops and starts along the way.

It is worth imagining the concept, which the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy describes as “… a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities.”

The result could take the Bailey Avenue bus riding experience from congested to congenial. It could be a 40% faster ride, even for cars, with dedicated lanes and synchronized signals. This upgrade could be enhanced further with bumped-out curbs for specially designed buses, and fewer stops. It could help with pedestrian safety, congestion, speeding and the frustrating lack of bicycle infrastructure.

As Thomas George, director of public transit for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, indicated, the city would provide its own economic development incentives along the corridor that might result from the NFTA investment. Michael Finn, the city’s public works commissioner, said City Hall has been working with the NFTA and transportation planning council.

Streetscape is important to economic development. Think Larkinville in the old days, compared to today’s picturesque scene, which helped create the corridor. It is a good example of public-private partnership. The same should happen for the Bailey Avenue area, which features on its route the Buffalo VA Medical Center and is a main thoroughfare to the University at Buffalo’s South Campus.

George noted that although overall Metro Bus usage has dropped about 50% during the Covid-19 pandemic, levels have remained constant on Bailey Avenue, “on one of the system’s most ‘transit dependent’ routes.”

The BRT approach has taken hold in other cities. In Albany, the Capital District Transportation Authority recently launched its second BRT service. Spokeswoman Jaime Watson quoted a 25% jump in ridership on the first line, which prompted the authority to implement its newest BRT in November. A third project is underway.

As in Albany, implementing the BRT concept here would require substantial federal resources, but with the Biden administration’s emphasis on public transportation and infrastructure development, the time is right. Conduct the study with the idea that the Bailey Avenue BRT could be the model for new-wave bus transportation.

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