Mass transit has been around since the days of the stage coach, ferrying passengers from one point to another for a fee. As cities grew, a mode of transit was needed to ferry passengers from point A to point B within the city…and the basis of modern day metro bus, trolley, and subway rail service was born.
Mass transit as we know it is not designed to be a profit bearing system, but a public service where passengers contribute a small percentage of the operating costs with government agencies providing most of the funding. But in these days of government wanting to get out of the public service business, transit systems are finding it hard to cover increasing budget deficits.
In western New York, the NFTA – Niagara Frontier Transit Authority - not only controls the bus and rail system; but also the airports and the harbours. Therefore; the NFTA views their service as one that should turn a profit. To that end, the NFTA continues to cut the service of a desperately needed mass transit system in Buffalo and surrounding areas. A local commercial claims that Buffalo ranks third on the poorest cities list when it comes to citizens making ends meet.
In letters to the editor in the Sunday, December 18, 2011 Buffalo News, one writer stated that 78% of the Metro rail ridership does NOT own a vehicle. Metro rail is one of the areas currently being targeted for cuts in service. Less than two years ago when the NFTA proposed the last batch of cuts to the service riders informed NFTA administration that if service was cut, they would be out of a job. The service was cut.
Now the NFTA is proposing another round of cuts to the service to the tune of some 18% cutting out millions of rides per year. Again people will find themselves out of work for lack of being able to get to their job. Winters can be harsh in western New York prohibiting long walks to a job or a bus stop – which are never cleared of snow drifts.
Not only does a cut in service hinder local citizens trying to reach work or school; the lack of service is a severe deterrent for visitors to the area. Niagara Falls is an international tourist sight with visitors from all over the globe. Many of these areas have superb mass transit systems and the citizenry do not use private vehicles; as a result, the visitors to the area do not drive and are unable to take advantage of all the area has to offer.
Whether it be a loss in jobs or a loss in tourism, the western New York area’s economy remains in a bad way all because the NFTA views a public service as a million dollar money maker.
Mass transit systems are a source of a boost to the economy whether it be by creating jobs or getting people to their jobs; it is a viable source for economic recovery but only if the system is not viewed as a cash cow to line the pockets of someone who only sees the money and more than likely the closest they have ever come to a bus is passing one on the street.
For those of us who depend on the mass transit system; we remember when getting there was no problem, and can only dream of getting there in two hours if at all.