By Joyce Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s proposed service reductions would eliminate all bus service from, to and within greater Lockport.
The authority is grappling with ways to close a $7.1 million operating deficit. The list of proposed service reductions and eliminations, posted at the website nfta.com, shows these local bus routes are tentatively slated for elimination:
• Route 44 Lockport, which on weekdays operates between Lockport and University Station in Buffalo. The Lockport portion of the route would be eliminated; and service between University Station and Crosspoint Development Park, Amherst, would be reduced to weekdays only.
• Route 64 Lockport Express, which on weekdays operates between downtown Buffalo and Lockport.
• Route 201 Lockport, which on weekdays operates as a Lockport circulator, with service to Eastern Niagara Hospital and the Tops/Walmart plaza.
• 55 Pine Avenue, a Niagara Falls-to-Sanborn route that makes selected trips to Lockport. All service between Niagara County Community College/Orleans-Niagara BOCES and Lockport would be eliminated.
There are no other NFTA buses servicing Lockport, according to authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer.
The NFTA board of commissioners on Monday approved a preliminary list of 94 bus and subway routes to be cut back or eliminated, in order to reduce authority spending by $7 million in 2012-13.
The list is preliminary and won’t be approved by the commission until February, after a public comment period in Erie and Niagara counties. Five public hearings will be held and the authority is accepting written comments from riders by e-mail and regular mail through Feb. 2.
“Come to a hearing or write a letter and tell us how (service reduction) affects you. It’s important that we hear from customers as part of the process,” Hartmayer said.
Lockport bus routes were suggested for elimination because usage is relatively low, according to Hartmayer.
Daily boarding averages, a count of how many rides from Point A to Point B are given per day, are: Route 44, Lockport-Amherst-Buffalo, 832; Route 64, Lockport-downtown Buffalo, 86; Route 201, in-Lockport circulator, 84. Numbers of riders boarding a bus in Lockport could not be obtained.
“The task was to come up with service reductions ... to the tune of $7.1 million, in order to balance our budget. We selected routes that we thought would affect the smallest numbers of riders possible,” Hartmayer said.
Also in Niagara County, the NFTA target list calls for reduction or elimination of routes between the Niagara Falls Transportation Center and health care facilities in Lewiston; elimination of routes linking downtown Buffalo with Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda; elimination of routes linking North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls International Airport; and elimination of routes linking Niagara Falls bus centers with Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The commission ruled out fare increases to help balance its budget, Kimberley Minkel, NFTA executive director, said in a video message to customers at nfta.com.
“Our goal is to maintain the most comprehensive transit system that our budget will allow, without any compromise to passengers or employees’ safety,” she said.
Five public hearings about the proposed cuts will be held beginning in late January. The dates and hearing places are: 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Erie Community College, north campus; 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at Niagara Falls City Hall; noon and 6 p.m. Feb. 1 at Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; and 6 p.m. Feb. 2 at ECC’s south campus.
Written comments can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by regular mail to Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, 181 Ellicott St., Buffalo, NY 14201, attn: Service Planning Department.