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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rob Ortt
ALBANY — A bill ensuring that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority receive its entire allotment of state funding was passed Monday in the New York State Senate.

The bill, which has now passed both houses of the state Legislature, corrects an issue that previously allowed funds dedicated to the NFTA to get diverted from its general fund to the state for governmental purposes, according to state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.

“The NFTA is the backbone of local public transportation and plays a vital role in our region’s industrial, commercial, and residential development,” said Senator Ortt. “We need to continue these services and protect transportation options for disabled and elderly riders. With the structural and fiscal challenges facing the NFTA, they need a reliable funding stream. ... NFTA revenue should be reinvested in our local infrastructure – to move goods and workers and to attract tourists and jobs – not swept to the state general fund.”

Ortt had previously encouraged the NFTA to apply for part of a $47.5 million federal grant geared towards public transit as a means of saving a bus route within his district — Route 57. That route, which runs between Niagara Falls and Tonawanda, was marked for cancellation by the transit system.

He also noted that he and his colleagues fought for more money in Albany for the NFTA — a total of $6.4 million for the NFTA in the recently adopted New York State Budget. Of that amount, $2.5 million was earmarked to help the NFTA maintain current schedules for some of its bus routes. And, $3.9 million is for capital assistance.

The NFTA responded, saying that Metro is working on rerouting another route to cover much of the eliminated portion of the 57 after June 21 and will be continue to offer Paratransit service for the eliminated portion of Route 57 through March 31, 2016, in order to give riders an opportunity to make other arrangements going forward.

The Niagara Falls-to-Lockport NFTA route — 55L — is also slated for cancellation, with Friday set to be its last day. There's been no mention of the 55L from Ortt's office and a request for comment from the senator on whether Monday's bill would affect it has not yet been returned.

The NFTA says that the route is being shuttered due to "extremely low ridership." A study done from October through December showed that only 28 people rode the bus between Lockport's Locust Street bus stop and BOCES. Riders of that route, however, say those numbers are off.

A meeting is being held today at 2 p.m. at Independent Living of Niagara County's Niagara Falls office to discuss a plan to have the 55L reinstated.


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