The Federal Transit Administration has requested that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) include looking at the option of Bus Rapid Transit along with extending the Buffalo Metro Light Rail as part of the planning and environmental review process. This could delay advancement of the project by three to six months.
The NFTA also needs to review existing annual local, state and federal financial funding levels. This is to ensure they will have sufficient capital resources over the next 20 years to ensure that the existing NFTA Bus, Paratransit and Rail fleets have vehicles, maintenance facilities, stations, track, power, escalators, elevators, communications, fare collection, bus shelters and other equipment in a state of good repair. This is necessary so riders can count on the safe and reliable service they depend on before embarking on either extending Metro Light Rail to Amherst or Bus Rapid Transit on the same corridor. The NFTA should make public their Five Year and Twenty Year Capital Needs Assessment planning documents. This would confirm that they can maintain a state of good repair for Metro Bus, Paratransit and Light Rail along with system expansion.
Governor Cuomo faces a $12 billion state budget shortfall. Instead of increasing annual NFTA State Operating Assistance, will it be cut? Will the promised additional $100 million state capital infusion to NFTA over the next five years also be reduced to balance the state budget? Given the current and future economic downturn as a result of COVID-19, this could reduce the promised $1.7 billion in economic growth if the Light Rail Extension was built.
The NFTA needs to look at the Albany Capital District Transportation Authority for how the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit works. CDTA has been successful in winning several discretionary grants from the Federal Transit Administration for introduction of BRT in Albany.
Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Railroad, MTA Bus, New Jersey Transit and 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.