The 6 mile MetroRail serving the City of Buffalo is called by many detractors as the “train to no-where.” All you get is a trip from the foot of Main St. along and under it terminating at the City Campus of the State University of New York @ Buffalo. There is a real love hate relationship with this route. The users appreciate and flock to it. I being one. I have no problem driving to the campus and hopping the train to get downtown for an event.
The detractors who still bash this “train to no-where” are pretty much the same people who were opposed to its construction in the first place. The next group of detractors represents the younger folk who see a bare-boned 6 mile route and automatically presume the route represents the original intention. And the last are the people of the suburban communities of Tonawanda and Amherst that opposed and continue to oppose expansion of the route into their neighborhoods. They represent those among use that drive everywhere. They will complain about the high cost of gasoline but they will drive 2 miles to a supermarket to save fifty cents on a half-gallon of milk. Riding urban transit is also below their station in life.
As a result of public opposition, this area does not have an integrated people mover system that can transport people to and from the massive 25,000 student Amherst Campus of SUNY or the City of Lockport. Nor, can you ride the LaSalle Corridor into the Tonawandas and quite possibly the tourist meccas of Niagara Falls.
Forward thinking cities have taken a completely different approach and prosper as a result. The original City of Portland, Oregon rail system has been expanded into a 52 mile city/suburban operation with plans to expand 3 more miles across the Columbia River into the State of Washington. Salt Lake City completed a rapid transit route only in 1999. It was a 10 mile route from Salt Lake City to the suburb of Sandy. Over the past 13 years that single line has been transformed into a Blue, Red, and Green Line system as a result of West Valley – Jordan Extension, Salt Lake City International Airport Extension, and Draper Extension. Several other expansions are under consideration.
At this moment Atlanta, Baltimore, Austin, Hamilton (Ontario Canada), Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Edmonton (Alberta Canada), Virginia-Beach/Hampton Roads, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Monterrey Bay, Ottawa (Ontario Canada), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Francisco, San José, Seattle, Toronto (Ontario Canada), Waterloo (Ontario Canada), York (Ontario Canada) all have rapid transit route extensions in the works.
What is Buffalo, NY doing? Today the train station at the Theater District is being removed to make way for the cars of suburbanites who don’t want rapid transit in their communities, don’t want to ride rapid transit downtown and are adamant the only way they will patronize anything in the city is if they can drive there to park or avoid having to walk a bit by being dropped off directly in front of their venue.
Finally, to prevent expansion into the southern suburbs, a 1000 car parking ramp will be located right at the Buffalo River terminus of the rail route in the heart of the Historic Erie Canal Harbor District so workers can hop the train to their jobs in the medical campus located 2,000 feet from the Theater District at the Allen-Hospital Station.
Compared to the rest of the nation we don’t get it. We want others to think we are this major league city while continuing to refuse development of major league infrastructure. In the end, I don’t think that attitude will serve us well.