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Buffalo schools, NFTA close to new, better bus pass agreement

Mike Desmond

Buffalo Public Schools and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority are close to an agreement on student busing, said to offer better service at a lower price.

For 28 years, city students have ridden Metro Bus under the same agreement - one without a designated end. It limits routes students can use to and from school, and creates problems for afterschool activities like sports or theater because time runs out each day on the bus passes students carry. That means students have to pay for a bus ride home.

A new Metro Bus system could allow computer coding on the bus passes for students participating in afterschool activities. Last night, the Buffalo School Board was briefed  on the state of talks between the district and the NFTA.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said it will be a good deal when complete.

"They haven't heard about it and they have to vote on it, but we do have a new arrangement with the NFTA that we've solved," Cash said, "and the students would be the great beneficiary of a new arrangement with NFTA around bus passes, much expanded service and use at a lower cost."

District General Counsel Nathaniel Kuzma said the "i's" aren't dotted and the "t's" aren't crossed, but the agreement is close and potentially could be completed when the board of each agency meets next month.

"The NFTA and the district are working in good faith with each other to implement this new system by the start of the school year and that will be contingent on both of our boards approving that," Kuzma said. "Now both of our boards don't meet again until September. Now, in fairness to the NFTA, I don't want to release too many details at this point in time because they may not have shared details with their board."

Bus passes go to 10,500 students at city public, charter and parochial schools at an annual cost around $8 million - and Kuzma said time is short getting the deal done.

"The passes have to be laminated, printed, delivered to the students. Orientations have to be given on how the passes are to be used. It is a laborious process," he said. "So we're hoping that staff is going to be able to get working on that, starting this week."

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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