Tag Archives: NFTA

The Bus Doesn't Have to Suck

4 Sep

The NFTA is known for being quite mediocre – not surprising from an authority traditionally run by wealthy campaign benefactors who have no need to actually use the NFTA’s core transportation services, except the airport. 

That’s likely why we have a rather nice, well-organized, well-executed airport. 

When it comes to trains and buses, I’m not the first to note the fact that our NFTA-Metro signage is not only the longest in the country, but uninspired, corporate, and boring. Most cities in the world have a simple logo, often denoted with an “M” or a “T”, or some similar abbreviated branding. Many cities have also cut deals for unified street furniture that’s paid for by the manufacturer through advertising (see Wall, Astral) and don’t treat customers like a nuisance. Even Rochester’s RGA now has bus stops that flash “next bus” information. 

I was reminded of this while driving through suburban Toronto this past weekend, and I spotted this bus. What a simple, neat way to make public transportation seem inviting, if not downright cutting edge. Maybe the NFTA can focus less on cutting deals for waterfront land it has no business owning in the first place, and more time making its ground transportation better for everyone. 

 

The Bus Doesn’t Have to Suck

4 Sep

The NFTA is known for being quite mediocre – not surprising from an authority traditionally run by wealthy campaign benefactors who have no need to actually use the NFTA’s core transportation services, except the airport. 

That’s likely why we have a rather nice, well-organized, well-executed airport. 

When it comes to trains and buses, I’m not the first to note the fact that our NFTA-Metro signage is not only the longest in the country, but uninspired, corporate, and boring. Most cities in the world have a simple logo, often denoted with an “M” or a “T”, or some similar abbreviated branding. Many cities have also cut deals for unified street furniture that’s paid for by the manufacturer through advertising (see Wall, Astral) and don’t treat customers like a nuisance. Even Rochester’s RGA now has bus stops that flash “next bus” information. 

I was reminded of this while driving through suburban Toronto this past weekend, and I spotted this bus. What a simple, neat way to make public transportation seem inviting, if not downright cutting edge. Maybe the NFTA can focus less on cutting deals for waterfront land it has no business owning in the first place, and more time making its ground transportation better for everyone. 

 

The Outer Harbor. Again.

11 May

When I first started blogging about local issues in mid to late 2004, one of my first topics was the Outer Harbor. At that time, the NFTA was circulating three competing centrally-planned proposals for that land – the parkland proposal, the nice proposal, and what I called the “Elevator to the Moon” proposal, because it seemed to offer everything up to and including that feature.  I also called it Amherst-sur-Lac. (Of course, the NFTA picked that plan way back in early 2005. We’re still waiting.)  The Buffalo News endorsed it, as well. 

Parkland Edition

Mixed-Use Version

Elevator to the Moon Plan

The biggest problem with the Outer Harbor isn’t land use; it isn’t whether we lay a strip of parkland along the lake, or whether we turn the whole damn thing into little more than a seasonal festival grounds. 

The biggest problem is how contaminated that area is – and that’s not counting the fact that our self-perpetuating governmental, quasi-governmental, authorities, and public benefit corporations can’t decide who should own the land and control the process. It falls under the ECHDC’s jurisdiction, but is owned largely by the NFTA. Still. 

I’m not sure why the bus company owns land on the waterfront. Or why it should. Or why it hasn’t divested itself of it yet.  Or why it’s sat on it for 50 years. 

The contamination is longstanding and acute. It makes “what to do with the Outer Harbor” a moot question until millions of dollars are spent to fix it. 

Ultimately, what’s going to happen is a lot of finger-pointing, a never-ending process of public hearings, public “debate” over how the land should be used, and absolutely zero direction from Mayor Brown. We’ll probably have at least one or two lawsuits, and Donn Esmonde will periodically exit his semi-retirement to scold everybody, invariably supporting whatever group is first to court to seek injunctive relief. We’ll have the NFTA protecting its turf against the city, the state, and the ECHDC. We’ll have loads of renderings, 3D models, and maybe even a fly-through video presentation of what might be built there, but none of it will ever happen. 

10 years from now, the Outer Harbor will likely look largely as it does today because the primary goal of all these competing entities and interests is self-aggrandizement and self-perpetuation. It’s going to take initiative and motivation to pull together the money it’s going to take to turn that land into something that won’t poison anyone who spends more than a few hours at a time there, and money is hard to come by nowadays. 

Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter whether the NFTA owns the property or someone else does. What ought to happen is that government involvement should be quite limited. A zoning plan with architectural guidelines should be drawn up, streets should be plotted and paved. Utilities should be brought to the properties, and a broker retained to market them. 

When it comes to projects such as this, Buffalo seems allergic to anything except a centralized plan, but what happens to this potentially valuable property ought to be left almost entirely up to the private sector. 

As for the parkland demanded by the Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor, I don’t have any problem with direct waterfront access being preserved for the public, and don’t have a problem with a strip of parkland bordering whatever development takes place and the water. What I would be opposed to is any notion that the entirety of that property be turned into parkland.   

The Outer Harbor should someday be home to people and retail businesses that support residential city living. Access should be available by boat, car, and the Metro Rail should be extended south to the small boat harbor and Tifft Nature Preserve.  

This area has been patiently waiting for decades for someone to carefully restore it to a safe and attractive use. Maybe this time we’ll get it right. But I’m not holding my  breath. 

Shorter NFTA

22 Oct

Shorter NFTA:  Despite our decades-long track record of sitting on outer harbor land and doing nothing with it, we will not turn it over to ECHDC until we are satisfied that ECHDC will not sit on that land for decades doing nothing with it.

Shorter Shorter NFTA: We know fail.

Ryanair to Niagara Falls?

10 Jan

The local media kept likening Ryanair to JetBlue, which is completely off. JetBlue may be a low-cost carrier (sometimes), but although they feed you only chips, they do have comfy seats and free live TV. Ryanair’s seats don’t recline, and any amenity except the lavatory costs extra. Even customer service is at the equivalent of a 900 number.

Not long ago, it was reported that Ryanair was going to start transatlantic routes, offering fares as low as £8 – about $16. Given the ridiculous taxes and fees you pay to fly nonstop to Europe out of Toronto Pearson, that route at that fare would render the Niagara Falls airport incredibly popular indeed.

And from Dublin, you can fly Ryanair extraordinarily cheaply to just about anywhere throughout Europe (Salzburg, Venice, Barcelona, Krakow, etc.)

I am so rooting for this to happen.

Petition to Rename Buffalo's Airport after Tim Russert

18 Jun

Thanks to WBEN for letting me promote this in peak drive-time, live with John and Susan. To sign the petition, click here.

Some have criticized this as being disproportionately too generous for someone who was just doing his job, or was just a mere journalist, and I guess there has been some Russert fatigue setting in among some. Some suggest he shouldn’t receive this honor because he’s a liberal Democrat. Or because he was too easy on George Bush. Or because he’s not an aviator.

All of those criticisms miss the point.

The point isn’t that he was a well-respected journalist. The point isn’t that his was the political junkie’s program of record on Sunday morning. The point isn’t his politics or anything like that.

With Tim Russert, you have a favorite son; a man who never forgot where he came from and was a tireless, vocal ambassador for his hometown, its past glory, and its future potential. When people turned on Meet the Press during football season, they got a reminder of Tim’s roots with his “Go Bills” signoff. When the Sabres were in the playoffs, he expressed his support for them. He wrote a book about growing up in Buffalo that shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. He helped to promote Buffalo Old Home Week/Homecoming.

Orange County named its airport after an actor, John Wayne. Liverpool’s airport is named after a singer/songwriter, John Lennon. John Wayne was an Iowan who lived in Orange County. John Lennon was a favorite son, like Russert. It beats naming a stretch of Route 20, and is, I think, more appropriate than putting his name up in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Want People to Ride Public Transit?

22 May

Gas prices could go up to $7.00 or $8.00 per gallon, and it won’t be enough to get people out of their cars. They might select different cars, but individual transportation will not die completely.

If you want people who are happy with their cars to consider using public transportation, it would be good to make that transportation clean, modern, efficient, and reliable. Big Billy Fuccillo buses need not apply.

So, consider this rubber-tired newfangled tram-bus, now rolling in France:

This is a bus-train, basically a train on rubber tires instead of rail tracks. The vehicle is designed to function exactly like an urban streetcar with a low floor that is level with boarding stations. The vehicle is guided by a centre track in the street and is meant for urban city streets, as shown above.

That’s all well and good for the city and throughout the suburbs. But what about speedier commuter rail? Quick trips between downtown and East Aurora, Hamburg, Orchard Park, Clarence, Lancaster, etc. Something like this would do just nicely:


Photo courtesy Kecko via Flickr.

Intercity and intracity rail expansion would be great for the Buffalo area. If only we had the money and political will to build it.

Hype-Brids

16 May

The NFTA recently transformed a lot of its buses to diesel/electric hybrids. So did Toronto’s TTC. But in Toronto, they discovered this:

Toronto’s new and expensive hybrid buses are saving less than half the amount of diesel fuel the transit agency – and the governments that paid for them – claimed.

The Toronto Transit Commission and the federal, provincial and city governments said as recently as March that the new hybrid diesel-electric buses – which cost $734,000, compared with $500,000 for a conventional bus – were using 20 to 30 per cent less fuel.

But the TTC’s current fuel-savings estimate, incorporated in its 2008 budget after tests on the new fleet last summer, is just 10 per cent – although officials expect that number to improve.

Since hybrids only make sense in stop-and-go, heavy traffic*, I’d wager that the fuel savings in the Buffalo-Niagara region is even lower still.

The NFTA says:

Metro estimates a 25% to 30% reduction in fuel based on the efficiencies of the hybrid drivetrain.

If Toronto is getting 10 – 20% savings, I’d bet that we’re getting 5 – 10%. If that.

*The hallmarks of hybrid engines are engine start/stop, occasional electric propulsion, and brake regeneration. For that to make sense, you need to be stopping and braking a lot. Hybrid vehicles make zero sense in zero traffic WNY.