Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NFTA’S Route 201 is vital to Lockport, according to the Lockport 201 Coalition which met Tuesday afternoon at the Dale Association in an effort to keep buses operating in the city.
The circulatory route not only takes residents around Lockport, but connects the people of the city to Buffalo. In return, Erie County folks use public transportation to come to Niagara County.
The NFTA plans to cut Route 201 out of its busing plans in December. Without Route 201, the paratransit service, which carries people in wheelchairs may also be cut.
The Niagara County Rural Transport Service (RNT) connects outlying towns to Lockport and there is some overlap. Will they connect?
It gets tangled.
The busing issue was not untangled Tuesday and time is running out. The Lockport 201 Coalition, the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH) and VOICE-Buffalo are working with Sen. George Maziarz and Henry Sloma, former chairman of the NFTA, to solve the dilema and there are no easy answers.
The NFTA is losing $7 millon a year. Niagara County pays into the NFTA through mortgage taxes, but that’s only a portion of what it costs the public transportation company.
The county is financially strapped, particularly with the uncertainties surrounding the loss of its biggest taxpayer, AES Somerset. The county does not have the money that NFTA wants.
“We’ve talked about,” Chairman Bill Ross said after Tuesdays legislative metting, “We are trying to come up with a solution. It has be very affordable, we haven’t turned our back on them. We know those 45 people are very important. but we also have 216,000 other people.”
Transportation for the disabled takes up much of the NFTA budget, according to Sloma. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits exclusion of the disabled from any program receiving federal financial assistance. The law was extended to include local government.
Route 201 in underutilized. The bus loops the city nine times a day averages 43 customers per workday. However, needy people may not know how to use public transportation. The schedules and the routes are confusing.
How many people are affected? Michael Boron of St. John’s Outreach said, “A lot of our clients have no other means of transportation to help our clients get to the food pantry but anything else they have to do in town ... doctors. It’s not only the Local 201. It’s the much bigger public transportation picture.”
Cheryl Fenn of the Lockport Housing Authority noted there are in 352 units at the Spires, Willow Gardens, Michigan Street. Beacon Heights, Autumn Gardens and Gabriel Drive. Those residents rely on public transportation.
“It’s a matter of getting the bus routes figured out,” said Fenn. “They have to realize the importance of who needs it and are affected by it.”
Heather Bellini of Urban Park Towers said many people will experience hardship. They do not have cars and will be disconnected from Buffalo and access to Western New York.
Maziarz hopes Rural Metro and the NFTA can work out a route to include Lockport. He said there have been several meetings and asked, “I don’t know why they can’t integrate routes.”
Boron read the NFTA mission which is to enhance the quality of life with safe, clean and affordable transportation. He wants the NFTA to meet that challenge.
Members of Buffalo groups attended the meeting. Marie Malinowski of VOICE said, “It’s a big issue everywhere. Buffalo, Niagara Falls, everyone should be treated as well as we possibbly can.”