NFTA Metro announced yesterday they are cutting almost all of the system's remaining 15-minute bus frequencies come March 8th--extending them to 20 minutes waits. (This will affect riders using #20 Elmwood, #5 Niagara-Kenmore, #3 Grant, #23 Fillmore-Hertel, #12 Utica and #19 Bailey. The #15 Seneca is also seeing its route shortened by 3 miles along every-other weekday bus trip.) This is a fourth round of cuts since the pandemic started. The first was May 24th, then another on June 21st, and a small one on Dec. 29th--slashing number of trips on the MetroRail per hour.
NFTA staff have said at Citizen Advisory Committee meetings these small pre-emptive cuts are to save themselves from rolling off a "fiscal cliff." As a result, BTRU and others have called and emailed US Senators and US Representatives urging for federal relief dollars. NFTA received a $61 million grant in March and a $43 million grant before the New Year. They're not flushed with cash, but they're not broke.
It's true that ridership is currently running at 50% of pre-pandemic levels, but we're also emerging out of the height of an infectious disease pandemic with 15% of adults across the county vaccinated so far. Why fuel a death-spiral now? These cuts are contrary to the spirit of why NFTA Metro received federal relief, offsetting the loss of state operating assistance and farebox revenue.
We hate harping on NFTA-Metro because they cannot solve every problem, but this development is disastrous for bus riders, and virtually no public engagement was done before cuts likes these were decided or proposed. Nothing was said at the last Citizen Advisory Committee meeting, January 28, that another round of cuts was looming. In fact many transit authorities across the nation are trying to restore cuts during the early part of the pandemic.
Members of Buffalo Transit Riders United - BTRU are in correspondence with a group of local lawmakers to try to compel NFTA to reverse course. Lawmakers often want to hear from people affected by these cuts. If the plight of bus riders upsets you as much as us, please join the Facebook Group BTRU-ly Heard.
SIDE NOTE: No, NFTA didn't post any announcement that bus service was seeing another round of cuts. They merely posted an advisory March 25th, 2021 of route changes coming March 7th without any explanation or context. (That's business as usual for them.) We spent an hour scanning through the PDFs searching for changes, and emailed NFTA staff observations. An NFTA staff member emailed back Friday afternoon, confirming the route changes is a cut to service. We don't know why NFTA makes it so hard to tell riders what is changing every time they update routes. - Simon Husted