Posts Tagged ‘Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’

FTA Cool Toward Buffalo Light Rail Expansion

November 8, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration is opposing a proposal to expand the light rail system in Buffalo, New York.

FTA planners have suggested that Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority use buses instead of rail to extend the system north to Amherst, Cheektowaga, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The existing light rail line opened in 1964 and local officials during the 1970s made plans to expand it. However, most of those expansion plans have yet to occur due to lack of funding.

Buffalo transit officials have said the northward extension would serve some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and give residents there a one seat ride to downtown.

Buffalo Set to Finish Rail Transit Car Overhauls

May 11, 2021

The Buffalo transit agency said it has about completed rebuilding its light rail car fleet.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s rebuilding project is nearing completion more than five years after the program was supposed to have been completed.

Work is under way on the last vehicle in the 27-car fleet, which will conclude a $45 million program that has had workers stripping  the cars down to the shell in a rebuild process.

The program began in 2004, but the original contractor went bankrupt, leading to delays and ownership disputes.

The rebuilds passed through several companies before completion by Hitachi Rail. The cars, had been built by Japan’s Tokyu Car Company in 1984. Once overhauled, they are expected to operate for another 15 years.

Buffalo Developer Seeks Ideas for Uses of Station

February 23, 2021

Developer Samuel J. Savarino is seeking ideas about how to use vacant space in a Buffalo, New York, railroad station.

Savarino has approached officials in government, businesses, and other interested parties on what uses could be made of vacant space in the 103-year-old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal for which he has paid a $36,000 “pre-development agreement fee” to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

NFTA operates yards and shops at track level at the terminal for its light rail system.

The developer is looking to redevelop 60,000 square feet of indoor space that is located on the building’s second floor and 40,000 square feet of outdoor platform area.

Among the possible uses Savarino has identified are a public market, museum space and restaurants

Savarino estimated the terminal needs $10 million in plumbing and electric work, roof stabilization, and other modifications before redevelopment can proceed.

Buffalo Resume Fare Collection on Rail, Buses

June 29, 2020

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority resumed on Monday (June 29) collecting fares for Buffalo Metro Bus and Rail lines.

Collection of the $2 fare had been suspended on March 27 at the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passengers were also instructed to enter buses and transit cars through rear doors in order to enforce social distancing measures and avoid contact with operators.

With the resumption of fare collecting, passengers will now be able to enter through the front doors.

“We are responding to many business reopening,” said NFTA spokeswoman Helen Tederous.

Agency officials said they believe that COVID-19 cases have dropped to safer levels.

Passengers will continue to be required to wear face masks and to practice social distancing aboard vehicles.

Riders also are being encouraged to use the Token Transit contactless mobile ticketing app on their smart phones.

FTA Skeptical About Buffalo Light Rail Extension

May 5, 2020

Expansion of a light rail line in Buffalo, New York, may give way to a bus rapid transit line instead.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has been directed by the Federal Transit Administration to consider BRT instead of rail because it would cost less and could be implemented sooner.

Extension of the light rail system to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus could cost $1 billion, the FTA noted.

But NFTA earlier rejected BRT and contends that the seven-mile rail extension remains a viable option.

The Buffalo News reported that unnamed “federal sources” said what transit mode that a transit agency chooses is ultimately up to that agency and studying BRT is part of the requirements for an environmental study.

NFTA officials have acknowledged that a light rail extension is expensive and may be a tough sell in the COVID-19 pandemic era.

“The world has changed, and we don’t know what funding will be available to us in the future,” said Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA’s executive director.

The newspaper quoted Lawrence W. Penner, a Long Island transportation advocate who worked with NFTA for many of his 31 years with FTA, as saying the federal agency’s recommendation that BRT be studied again is a “reality check” and a red flag that FTA is not sold on this light rail line.

“It tells me they are hinting to NFTA to get their feet firmly on the ground and look at an alternative that is more feasible,” he said. “FTA is saying bus rapid transit is far more realistic and could be completed far more quickly.”

However, the FTA’s recommendation did favor some sort of enhanced public transit in the “Amherst corridor.”

Although it’s possible that the FTA might ultimately decide that even BRT is not feasible, Minkle doesn’t expect that to happen even thought the FTA recommendation asked NFTA to study the “no build” option.

An earlier NFTA study predicted a light rail extension would generate $1.7 billion in development along its route from downtown to Amherst and increase daily ridership from 20,000 to about 45,000 trips.

Minkle said NFTA rail plan has consistently scored well in all applications for federal funding and received widespread community acceptance.

NFTA rejected BRT in earlier students because it would not attract nearly as many new passengers as rail.

Aside from FTA skepticism, Buffalo is facing fierce competition from other transit agencies seeking a limited amount of federal funding.

NFTA officials have said that construction of the light rail extension is unlikely even in a best case scenario before 2026 and service would not begin until 2030.

Buffalo Rail Transit Projects Get Cold Shoulder from Feds

February 22, 2020

A proposed extension in Buffalo, New York, of a light rail line has failed to clear a key hurdle required by the Federal Transit Administration.

The $1.4 billion Metro Rail Amherst Light Rail Extension project did not make the list of projects eligible for a federal New Start grant.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, had been discussing the project for years with FTA.

Failure to make the New Starts lists means the project will be delayed at least another year and that its cost may increase.

FTA rarely funds projects that have not made its New Starts Program eligibility list.

The project would extend the existing 6.4-mile light rail line from its northern terminus at the University at Buffalo South Campus to Amherst through Tonawanda. The extension would link to UB’s North Campus.

Despite not making the FTA New Starts list a draft environmental impact study of the extension has been released and will be the subject of public hearings on Feb. 25 and 26.

Project supporters are hoping to have federal funding cover half the project cost with the other half shared by the state and local partners.

NFTA has also struck out three time in seeking to get federal funding to extend the light rail line to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal in downtown Buffalo.

NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said that was disappointing but that funding for the extension could come from other sources of capital funding being provided by the state.

“One way or another we will complete this project,” she said while vowing to find other sources of funding.

The agency had sought a federal BUILD grant for the D&LW terminal extension.

Minkel said the U.S. Department of Transportation said it was a “good project” but has signaled its preference for rural efforts, and roads and bridges over urban transit.

In the meantime, work has already begun to build track and overhead wires leading to the Metro Rail Yard and Shops complex on the DL&W’s ground floor as part of the overall $46 million project.

NFTA wants to create a new Metro Rail stop on the Buffalo River side of the station that would return rail passenger traffic to the facility for the first time since the Erie Lackawanna ceased intercity rail service there in 1962.

The Savarino Companies development firm has proposed creation of a public market and other uses for 80,000 square feet of internal and 60,000 square feet of outdoor space at the terminal.

Minkel said $19 million that it requested from Buffalo Billion funds that the state has already approved can be used for the project which means NFTA is about $6 million short of what it needs.

Minkel said the agency can work around that. “The $6 million we identified as nice to have but not essential,” she said.

Other funding sources will need to pay for such things as fixtures, flooring and lighting components.

This could include private foundations, historic tax credits and “other opportunities down the road.”

To finish the D&LW terminal project, NFTA will defer other work on its rail line, including planned projects to replace track and wires in the subway.

Minkel said those project will be completed eventually and that delaying the work will not compromise safety.

Buffalo has the only rail transit system in upstate New York.

Firm Chosen for Buffalo Light Rail Extension

February 27, 2018

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has chosen WSP to provide environmental review and preliminary design work for the first phase of the Amherst Metro Rail extension project in the Buffalo, New York, region .

WSP will refine a 2017 study of preferred alternatives for extending the Metro Rail light-rail system along Niagara Falls Boulevard from the University Station in Buffalo to the University of Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst, New York.

The WSP work will also include exploring options for additional storage and maintenance facilities.

Rail Depot May Become Buffalo Transit Stop

January 30, 2016

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is seeking to expand to the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal in Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo transit agencyThe light rail system has used the terminal as storage space, but now it may provide revenue service there.

An increase in downtown renewal projects is driving the move to use the former railroad station.

Officials said a new “streetscape” hub would create easy access to the downtown area, with suburban shopping malls, city universities, and neighboring attractions, such as Niagara Falls, all benefiting.

The downtown renewal projects are crediting with helping to increase ridership on the light rail line by 39 percent over the past five years.

Buffalo Transit Agency Lands Federal Grant

September 1, 2015

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority of Buffalo, New York, will receive $303,000 in federal funding to train transit workers.

The funds are part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Innovative Workforce Development Program to provide $9.5 million in grants to support 19 workforce training projects in 13 states.

NFTA plans to develop a mechanic and electrician training program that will recruit, train and provide career pathways for traditionally under-served populations.

The program will also provide continuing education for current NFTA employees to enable them to gain the skills necessary to advance to upper-level mechanic and electrician positions.