Best of Buffalo should be accessible by bus

University needs to do its students and its city a favor by partnering with NFTA to provide free public transit

As UB expands its presence downtown with its much-touted medical campus, there is still a glaring omission from the university’s involvement in the city: The presence of undergraduates exploring and enjoying what downtown Buffalo has to offer.

Despite the thriving and expanding cultural hub of downtown, which features a vast array of restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and concerts, too many UB students don’t make it off of North Campus. It’s all too easy to become swallowed up by the suburbia of Amherst and the ease of dormitory life.

This is exacerbated by the inconvenient detail that the only form of escape from the relative isolation of North Campus comes in the form of an hours-long trip via campus shuttles and the Stampede, or the almost-invisible and irritatingly expensive options offered by the NFTA, Buffalo’s public transit system.

The NFTA runs buses throughout the North and South campuses and downtown and also runs a metro rail from South Campus to the waterfront. Unlike UB’s Blue Line, a shuttle that runs from South to downtown every 30-60 minutes, the metro runs three times an hour and stops in areas dominated by appealing attractions that so many UB students currently don’t get to enjoy, like Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Allentown and Canalside.

It’s not just students who are missing out. The City of Buffalo could use the extra business. For a university named after the area, this institution doesn’t do much to help its students support local businesses. If UB can support a bus to Amherst bar The U, it can do more to encourage the student body to look beyond Maple Road and the Student Union.

And UB wouldn’t even have to do much to get more students riding the bus – there’s already an established program that serves many local universities. Buffalo State, Canisius and Erie County Community College, among others, participate in the NFTA’s College Transit Pass Program. The program supplies all students with unlimited NFTA access, which participating universities pay for at a discounted rate.

If smaller colleges like ECC can afford to supply its students with passes, certainly UB could find the funds. Access to the NFTA would reduce, or possibly even eliminate the need for the Blue Line, and the savings from such a reduction could help fund the NFTA program. Students pay a transportation fee, and that payment should get them NFTA passes – especially since many students pay their fee and don’t end up relying on shuttles or the Stampede.

It’s true that not all students would use their passes. But having the option would encourage more students to try out the metro, and knowing that their transportation fee helped fund it might offer a financial incentive as well.

And undoubtedly, a large portion of the student population would use these passes with great aplomb. Students who currently commute via car from areas downtown could simply hop on the Metro, saving gas money and taking another car off of the road.

The University Heights would then have a centrally located bus and metro station that students could access for free, encouraging a greater resident presence on South Campus and resulting in a greater influx of students travelling the short distance from the Heights to events and businesses downtown.

UB is aware of the potential currently wasting away in the NFTA. A recent 20-month study conducted by a UB professor examined the results of supplying students and faculty with Metro Rail passes.

Not surprisingly, the study revealed that the participants left their cars behind in favor of walking or biking and taking the metro, leaving at least 108 extra empty parking spaces at each weekday. Most critically, 69 percent of the participants said that they used the Metro to see new places in Buffalo.

There’s so much to see and do in Buffalo, as this issue of the paper reveals. All students need is a little encouragement to explore the urban playground that is downtown Buffalo – and a way to get there.