© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Transit advocates talk federal cash to extend the Metro Rail

Citizens for Regional Transit

As Washington, DC talks about spending vast sums of money on transportation, local mass transit supporters see that fresh cash as a way to pay for extensions of the Metro Rail into Amherst, Buffalo's East Side and the southtowns.

Engineering drawings for the rail extension deep into Amherst are in the works and a very short extension in downtown Buffalo, curving around KeyBank Center to the old DL&W terminal station, is well underway. Paying for their construction might be where the Washington struggle comes in.

During the quarterly meeting of Citizens for Regional Transit Thursday evening, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Surface Transportation Director Thomas George said there will be lots of fighting for transit cash.

"Regardless of how much is out there, every community has a project and the key, I think, is that we as a community as a whole, including elected officials, are all pulling in the same direction," George said. "Consistent with our messaging, if we're not all together, there's a lot of communities that will step into this void. Competition will be tough."

The meeting also talked about what more money could do to ease inequalities in transportation, because if you don't have a car, you can't get to a lot of job sites. Perhaps 30% of the local population can't afford a car, limiting access to good-paying jobs.

"Forty percent of regional jobs are going to be along that Metro Rail corridor, which could add an assessed value of about $7.7 billion or more, which strengthens the tax base," said Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council Executive Director Hal Morse. "We always wonder, can the federal government, state governments, somehow bail us out? Somehow, we also need to grow some local resources to be able to support public transit."

CRT President Doug Funke agreed that transit extensions are a key to equity in economic development and jobs.

"It's a very powerful engine for moving people and if we can extend it to the rest of the region, it would be the spine for moving people quickly and moving a lot of people to destinations throughout the region," he said.

Even as the Amherst extension is being designed, the transit advocates want work started to come up with a route and a plan for an extension from Buffalo's East Side to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The goal is to push for final design when the Amherst extension opens.

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.
Related Content