NY: NFTA Officials Offer 'Fare' Trade in Route Cuts

Feb. 17—BUFFALO — The NFTA may increase fares to preserve more local bus routes under a new plan being considered by the board of commissioners.

During a meeting Thursday, the board directed Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority staff to begin a public hearing process that would lead to a formal vote on the proposal which looks to close a multi-million dollar budget gap by increasing fares for various services while restoring some bus routes that were being considered for reduction or elimination.

The new proposal calls for an increase in the standard adult bus fare from $1.75 to $2 and calls for price changes in several other areas, including the adult day pass, which would move from $4 to $5, and the monthly pass, which would be increased from $64 to $75. The increased fares would allow the authority to collect additional revenue and put the agency in a better position to maintain existing routes, including several that were in jeopardy in the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport and the Town of Lewiston.

"It puts the majority of the routes back into service," said NFTA spokesman Doug Hartmayer, who stressed that the proposal has not yet been formally approved.

However, bus Route 200 in North Tonawanda, 201 in Lockport and 210 in Niagara Falls are still scheduled for elimination, though members say a final decision would not be made until the hearings take place.

During a nearly two-hour meeting Thursday, the board said the NFTA will look at selling waterfront property in Buffalo and further scrutinize internal practices to cut employment, health care and energy costs though a two-phase process.

The NFTA has been grappling with a $7.1 million budget deficit for several weeks and announced plans earlier this year to reduce or eliminate some bus service in Niagara County in an effort to cut costs. The latest fare hike proposal follows a series of public hearings held by the authority during which dozens of residents in the Falls and Buffalo suggested they would accept increased fares if it meant maintaining bus routes they considered vital.

The current fare hike plan would require a formal vote to approve by the NFTA commissioners before it can take effect. Hartmayer said the proposal calls for the fares to increase on May 1, if it is adopted by the board. The board is expected to consider the proposal after considering comments from the public.

Users of NFTA services will have two chances to voice their opinion on the new plan next month. A first public hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. March 21 at Niagara Falls City Hall, 745 Main St. A second will be held at 6 p.m. March 22 at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

The authority is also accepting written comments which should be delivered to the attention of the Surface Planning Department at the NFTA, 181 Ellicott St., Buffalo, 14203. Comments may also be emailed to planning@NFTA.com. All comments must be submitted by no later than March 22.

For a complete list of the proposed fare increases and bus route changes, visit metro.nfta.com/Routes/ServiceReductions.aspx.

Copyright 2012 - Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.