Buffalo Metro Rail expansion chances improving

Buffalo, NY – A proposal released recently by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority would match the transit system to the current needs of riders. But even bigger changes could be coming that anticipate future needs for metro rail service.

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The restructuring proposal lays out changes primarily for bus service and fares. But another consultant's report is due around the end of April that eventually could drastically change the rail system.

Consultants are studying the wisdom of extending the subway system. And, even before the report comes out, some believe the idea is gaining steam. NFTA Executive Director Larry Meckler said the six-mile stretch of light rail got a bad rap for many years. But Meckler said ridership is up - way up.

An estimated five million people a year ride the subway.

Meckler said a lot has changed since the last time the idea was studied in 2001. Meckler said the UB 2020 plan and increased airport traffic also help make the case for extending service. Federal guidelines for light rail have changed too. And the Obama administration is pushing for increased mass transit with policy and federal dollars.

But, even if recommended in the upcoming report, any plan to extend Buffalo's Metro Rail system would take at least ten years to realize.