Public transit rider advocacy group voices safety concerns of bus passengers

May 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to take unprecedented measures to ensure the safety of its drivers and passengers, including rear door boarding on buses, increased cleaning schedules and the suspension of fair collecting. However, a local rider advocacy group is urging the NFTA to do more in regards to public safety.

Credit File Photo

In a list released Monday, Buffalo Transit Riders United unveiled a 5-point plan which focuses on “changes and improvements around the issues of transportation and mobility justice."

BTRU Spokesperson Simon Husted said the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered the group's other priorities, for the time being.

“We wanted to make it clear what are the big priorities that bus riders feel that the NFTA and other decision makers need to be putting forth.” he said.

One of the top priorities, Husted said, is increasing the dedicated funding for bus transit.

Buffalo Transit Riders United Spokesman Simon Huster at a rally in 2019.
Credit Simon Huster

“Not just to maintain what is currently available,” he said. “But hopefully, in the distant future, to restore cuts that were done as far back as 2012.”

The increased funding, Husted said, could be used to prevent route slashing and possibly restore routes which were previously slashed.

Other points of BTRU’s editorial include extending the distribution of personal protective equipment to transit riders as well as the drivers.

NFTA spokesperson Helen Tederous said the authority agrees with many of the points BTRU is making, especially in regards to public safety, but she doesn’t believe there is a need to distribute masks to riders.

“Because there is such a decreased volume of riders out there” she said. “We’re not having that problem. We continue to monitor this, but we have not seen really a great number of riders not having it. The majority of our riders are abiding by those new restrictions.”

Another point the group made was to ask the NFTA to halt any long-term planning until there was more community engagement. Tederous said a lack of formal meeting does not mean the NFTA is not working with the community. 

“We take what they say very seriously,” she said about the number of different rider advocacy groups in Western New York. “We want input from the community.”

Tederous said the NFTA looks forward to working with different rider groups to improve all facets of transit riding moving forward.