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Buffalo Schools looking for better service from $8M NFTA partnership

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WBFO News

For at least 20 years, the Buffalo Public Schools system and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority have had what amounts to a handshake deal to carry the city's high school students. However, the district wants better return for its $8 million a year and might look for competitors.

It is a familiar scene around Buffalo, morning and afternoon: lines of high school students lining up for their rides on Metro Bus and Metro Rail.

The problem is that many things have changed since the two-decades-old system began - split families, multiple residences, multiple routes home, later school days, darkness and sports schedules - which can leave students on different schedules than their bus pass or on different routes. Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash says kids are showing up late or not at all.

"Students getting to school, some students not getting to school," Cash says. "There is a good portion of it that has to do with riding the NFTA transportation lines and our kids, they need more flexible passes in order to get to and from school. That's the bottom line for that $75 a month we pay for each of those 10,000 students."

Parents and students showed up Tuesday night for a news conference outside NFTA headquarters demanding better service and less activity by authority cops against students. They say better managed bus and rail service would help everyone.

Student Na'Saysha Richardson says her schedule and bus pass schedules do not mesh well.

"Every day I go to school and sometimes when I come home I'd rather catch the 18 because it's closer to my house, rather than the 23," Richardson says, "and they won't let me on the bus because it's not on my bus pass. I don't think that when they extended our school day, I don't think they considered how we get home at night. I play a lot of sports. I play basketball now and I play varsity, so my games get out at 8 o'clock and that's when my student pass expires."

Parent Keith Jones says the buses and trains are essential because many families do not have cars.
 

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Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Parents and students says they want better service from the NFTA.

"A lot of Saturday activities for parents and stuff. There's a lot of innovative things going on in the Buffalo Public School system that's on the weekend: the Parent Centers and stuff like that," Jones says. "Everybody's not rich. Contrary to everybody's belief, every household do not have a automobile. So, our parents that want to be involved can't be involved because there is always going to be an issue about this transportation."

Parents and students also say the NFTA is too rigid enforcing rules for getting on board on time, when students are trying to get home on dark afternoons and evenings. The protestors also want authority police officers better trained to deal with students, using restorative justice procedures.

Responding to WBFO's request for comment, the NFTA issued the following statement: “NFTA/Metro is proud to provide more than 20,000 student trips each school day. Our long-standing agreement is with the Buffalo Board of Education. Any suggestions or changes in policy and/or procedures needs to be directed to the district.”

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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