Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Route 201 Lockport circulator bus service will cease after Nov. 30.
C. Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, confirmed the coming end of service this week.
The city-town circulator bus, which makes nine trips per weekday between low-income housing projects, retail and medical-professional corridors, was targeted for shutdown this past May 1 due to NFTA budget constraints. After protests by community groups and local elected officials, NFTA postponed the shutdown and agreed to look again at whether the route could be salvaged.
Six months after its reprieve, Route 201 remains poorly used by residents and is a money drain, Hartmayer said Friday. Average ridership is 5 per trip or 43 people per day, and their fares are covering only 6 percent of the $1,336-per-day cost of operating the bus. Thus it is being dropped from NFTA’s roster when new schedules take effect systemwide on Dec. 2.
The authority is still looking at ways it and Rural Niagara Transportation could work together to provide some Lockport circulator service, Hartmayer said.
Rural Niagara is a federally funded towns-to-cities bus service operated through the Niagara County Department of Social Services. Two of its four bus routes run through Lockport four times a day, following some of the same main corridors as NFTA’s 201.
NFTA Route 44, a Lockport-Amherst-Buffalo bus, will remain in service when the new schedules take effect. The authority is looking at whether the 44 and Rural Niagara buses could “dovetail somehow, to less the impact of the loss of the 201,” Hartmayer said. “We are still trying to work through that.”
NFTA will continue paratransit service around Route 201 for up to a year, based on availability of federal funding for it, Hartmayer said. The on-demand, “door to door” service is for persons who are medically certified as unable to ride regular buses.
Repeatedly this year, the authority has suggested to Niagara County that it could “save” Route 201 — and protect other bus routes in the county — by contributing more money to NFTA operations. Figures tossed around ranged between $850,000 and $1 million more a year, on top of the approximately $900,000 a year it contributes by allocating 0.25 percent of county mortgage tax receipts.
The county does not have the extra money to contribute, without forcing an increase in the county tax levy, legislators have said.