Niagara Gazette

February 19, 2012

EDITORIAL: New NFTA plan a vast improvement

Niagara Gazette

— We were heartened to see that commissioners t the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority listened to the outpouring of public opposition to their plan to severely cut bus routes in the region.

While we wouldn’t be surprised to learn talk of route cuts was really meant to soften the blow of rate hikes, the NFTA’s financial situation is a matter that needed to be dealt with in any event.

The new proposal put forth does a significantly better job of maintaining services and the fare increase proposed in lieu of those route cuts is reasonable. Most importantly, riders overwhelmingly agreed that a 25 cent increase in the cost of a bus ride is a small price to pay when compared to the significantly larger problem of finding a way to get to work, school and other engagements.

We were also glad to hear a renewed promise by the NFTA to sell its share of Buffalo waterfront property. A word of caution here, though: We’ve heard this promise many times before by the NFTA and it hasn’t happened yet. A quick resolution shouldn’t be all that difficult. The Erie Canal Harbor Development Agency has proven a responsible steward of Buffalo waterfront redevelopment thus far and an equitable sale price shouldn’t be too tough to come by. The sale of this property would constitute a win-win for waterfront development, for which there is already considerable momentum after decades of false-starts, and for the NFTA in addressing its budget shortfall.

Riders from across the region deserve the lion’s share of the credit, though. They were, from the outset, engaged in the process and never shy to tell those who make the decisions how it would impact their lives. Western New York is a tough place to live if you don’t have a car. Suburban sprawl has moved many of the region’s jobs far away from its urban centers in Buffalo, the Tonawandas, Niagara Falls and Lockport. Residents in these places rely on those buses to earn a paycheck. Cutting back on their transportation options would only further hurt the region’s unemployment problem. And turning to a fare increase fairly puts the cost burden for the bus system where it belongs, with the people who most regularly use it. We’re grateful that the NFTA recognizes severely cutting bus routes would, at its worst, isolate residents in poverty-stricken pockets of our cities, further exacerbating a generations-long problem of income inequality in the region.

In order to allow for upward mobility for all Western New Yorkers we must first provide literal mobility — and that would be the NFTA’s job.

We encourage the NFTA, after two planned public hearings next month, to adopt this new proposal, sell its waterfront stake and continue to focus on its core mission — helping Western New York get where it needs to go.