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NFTA and UB explore possibility of expanding commute into Amherst

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If the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) goes through with one of its current expansion plans, UB students may be taking the subway to get between North and South Campus instead of the Stampede buses.

NFTA, which provides transportation services throughout the Buffalo Niagara region, is looking to expand either its bus or metro rail system from South Campus in Buffalo to Amherst near North Campus. The rail system’s current route only goes about six miles, starting on South Campus and ending at the harbor downtown.

NFTA is still not sure of when the expansion will start and is still in the initial planning stages. Implementing a new system, particularly an expanded railway, could take several years. According to Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs, NFTA is exploring either a bus or rail expansion because “that’s what people have been asking for.”

If the expansion takes place, it could have a major impact on UB’s current transportation system. The university would no longer provide the Stampede bus service, which runs between North and South Campus, if the new rail or bus system was efficient and effective, said Maria Wallace, director of UB Parking and Transportation Services.

Wallace said the expansion of the rail network or busing system is “a great idea.”

“The university would support this initiative if the service is reliable and comparable to our current Stampede service,” Wallace said

There are three possible options for the expansion.

One would be expanding the metro rail system that runs both under and above ground from South Campus to Amherst. Another would be a new rapid transit system with bus lanes to help them move faster. And a third option would be to simply have the NFTA buses replace the Stampede’s current routes.

Wallace said UB would have to look into whichever expansion plan NFTA choses and decide whether or not its more efficient than the current Stampede system.

NFTA transports approximately 24,000 commuters each day, according to Hartmayer. If it were to expand, the number of commuters would double.

Hartmayer said people prefer the metro because passengers can stay on for an entire ride instead of having to transfer multiple times. While buses may require passengers to transfer, its expansion would cost less than expanding the railways.

NFTA is still unsure of the project cost because it has yet to choose a plan, but a railroad expansion could be costly. The current 6.4-mile NFTA rail line cost $535 million to build more than three decades ago, according to The Buffalo News.

NFTA’s expansion into Amherst would travel in routes to Bailey Avenue, Niagara Falls Boulevard, Maple Road, Sweet Home Road and Rensch Road, according to The Buffalo News. Another route would go through Millersport Highway, Buckeye Road and Sheridan Drive.

If the new transportation system is similar to the Stampede, it would have to handle all of UB’s class loads and current route frequencies.

The cost is contingent upon many factors, Wallace said. It depends on which plan NFTA chooses and which routes are selected.

Some students are also open to the idea of UB and NFTA working together.

Sandilya Jandhya, a graduate electrical engineering major, said students are very much used to Stampede and he doesn’t know how much will change if the buses were gone.

“As far as connectivity goes, if the [NFTA buses and railways] go through the same routes as the Stampede, I think it will be good,” Jandhya said.

Muhammad Khan, a senior mechanical and aerospace engineering major, said the majority of his classes are on South and the buses aren’t very consistent. He looks forward to a new system where there will be no traffic and he can transfer between campuses quicker.

Other students think the Stampede should stay as it is.

“It’s better to have our own system that is primarily for UB students, it’s more reliable to get you from place to place on campus,” said Jessica Victor, a sophomore business major.

Yanitza Mercado, a freshman psychology major, is open to the expansion because it would allow students to explore the entire city and go off campus more often. But she prefers the Stampede because she doesn’t know if the new system will be as frequent.

“It would be more convenient to keep the system the way it is, rather than implementing a new system because the buses that we have now just stay on campus,” said Sterling DePaul, a sophomore environmental engineering major.

NFTA is seeking input from students and others in the Buffalo community to help it come to a final decision.

NFTA held an open house this summer and will have more this fall where people can come and review the current plan. Based on the feedback from the community within the next few months, NFTA may have to consider other alternatives.

Around December of this year, stakeholders, consultants and the community will review and analyze all of the information gathered from the open houses. NFTA will then come out with a locally preferred alternative.

Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at gabriela.julia@ubspectrum.com


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