Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Spectrum
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Letter to the editor: UB Students Need to be More Vocal Proponents of MetroRail Expansion

Editor’s note: This letter remains in the condition in which it was sent. All photos and photo captions were provided by the author and included in their letter.

By Matthew Verrelli

Buffalo’s MetroRail was designed to connect to UB’s North Campus. Yet almost 40 years since the system inception, trains are still stuck at South Campus. Of course, we have the campus shuttles, the Stampede and NFTA buses which connect students with the region, but these are all stop-gaps that seek to fill the void left by the absence of true rapid transit at the North Campus. The failure to deliver the full build out of the MetroRail system, for whatever explanation is admissible, has left North Campus disconnected and isolated. This reinforces the auto-centric nature of the entire complex and encourages students and faculty to fill the sea of parking scattered throughout. At best this inconveniences, at worst, outright excludes those who cannot, or choose not to, drive to campus.

While I have my own opinions about the development of the North Campus (like that it was a billion-dollar state funded boondoggle that reinforced, if not encouraged, the exodus and disinvestment from urban centers that ran rampant in the latter half of the 20th century), the failure to deliver rapid transit, perhaps the only saving grace of the entire master plan, is an embarrassing result of racist and classist attitudes that have persisted in the academic ivory tower for far too long. 

nfta maps.jpeg
Courtesy of Matthew Verrelli

Proposed alignments for the Metro Rail from a 1975 NFTA report. All Phase 1 routings were envisioned to reach North Campus. 













Earlier this month the NFTA held two ‘drop-in listening sessions’ regarding the renewed proposal to expand the MetroRail to North Campus. At these sessions students and faculty could review planning documents as well as speak with planners to ask questions and provide comments about the project. These meetings are a vital component of any large-scale capital improvement project, where public opinion has the power to make or break a project. Despite the merits of an expansion, one thing became increasingly clear to me as these outreach efforts went on: more students need to speak up and participate. Many seemed lukewarm towards, or disinterested about, the proposal altogether.

I believe this can be attributed to the fact that many students are in all likelihood transient residents of the region. It can be easy to sit back and take the role of a spectator if you don’t see yourself staying in Western New York after you graduate. I argue that students, who are expected to constitute a significant majority of future riders, cannot sit idly by as NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard-ers) attempt to de-rail this project with hateful and xenophobic fear mongering. An organization known as Stop the Metro formed this past summer in response to surveying work being conducted on Niagara Falls Boulevard, purportedly related to the MetroRail expansion. This kicked off a reactionary wave of resistance by detractors who continue to oppose the project on questionable grounds.

screenshots.jpeg
Courtesy of Matthew Verrelli

Derogatory comments made in the Stop the Metro Telegram chat likening transit users to criminals and drug users. Identifying information removed.

















A common alternative suggested by opponents to expansion of the rail system is bus rapid transit, or BRT. I fully support the concept of BRT and its development on other corridors (such as Bailey Avenue), to build BRT in lieu of a proper MetroRail expansion to North Campus would be a costly and harmful mistake. It would only serve to delay the continued need for a rail connection for several reasons. 

For starters, the UB Stampede and NFTA are suffering from a nationwide bus operator shortage that is not expected to alleviate anytime soon. Rail on the other hand requires fewer operators to move more people. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, light-rail can move more than 8 times as many passengers per hour when compared to buses, and with significantly reduced emissions. As a result, existing bus operators could be reassigned to service other routes such as those the NFTA cut in 2022 due in part to the operator shortage. 

Buses under perfect conditions are incapable of moving as many passengers as rail, BRT cannot physically move as many buses as would be required to make the dedicated bus lanes appealing in the first place. The number of buses required would be clogging the bus lanes thus negating the benefit derived from dedicated lanes in the first place.

As numerous studies and decades of planning have shown, connecting the MetroRail to North Campus is the only practical solution for the transportation bottleneck between UB’s disparate campuses. As UB students we need to be vocal proponents of MetroRail expansion such that a handful of hateful and misinformed NIMBYs don’t stand in the way of creating a more equitable and resilient region. 

If you’d like to provide a comment in support of the project, you can do so via email at transitexpansion@nfta.com. These will be entered into the public record and carry a great deal of weight when projects are evaluated or go for funding.

early rendering.jpg
Courtesy of Matthew Verrelli

Early rending of a North Campus station.

Comments


Popular









Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Spectrum