Buffalo Metro Rail

Buffalo Metro Rail
Metro Rail
Locale Buffalo, New York
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 15
Daily ridership 23,200 (avg. weekday, FY 2008)
Began operation 1985
Operator(s) Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Electrification Overhead lines 650 V DC
[v · Legend
Unknown BSicon "utINTa"
University originally South Campus
Unknown BSicon "utÜST"
Unknown BSicon "utINT"
Unknown BSicon "uetABZlg"
Tonawanda turn-out
Urban tunnel station on track
Amherst Street
Unknown BSicon "utÜST"
Urban tunnel station on track
Unknown BSicon "utINT"
Delavan/Canisius College originally Delavan-College
Unknown BSicon "utINT"
Urban tunnel station on track
Urban tunnel station on track
Allen/Medical Campus originally Allen-Hospital
Unknown BSicon "utÜST"
Urban straight track + Unknown BSicon "ugKHSTa" + Unknown BSicon "PORTALg"
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
Fountain Plaza originally Huron
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
Lafayette Square
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
Unknown BSicon "ugAKRZu"
Unknown BSicon "ugÜST"
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
Erie Canal Harbor originally Auditorium
Urban straight track + Unknown BSicon "ugKHSTe"
Special Events (certain times only)
Urban non-passenger end station
Rail Maintenance Yard
Unknown BSicon "utINT"
station with off-street bus loop
Unknown BSicon "ugHST"
fare-free section

Buffalo Metro Rail is the public transit rail system in Buffalo, New York, USA; it is operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The system consists of a single, 6.4-mile (10.3 km) long line that runs for most of the length of Main Street in the City of Buffalo, from First Niagara Center in Downtown Buffalo to the south campus of the University at Buffalo in the northeast corner of the city.


Transit type

Metro Rail is a light rail transit (LRT) system as characterized by the American Public Transportation Association [1] although it shares many characteristics with "heavy rail" metro systems.

Along 80 percent of its track(5.2 miles (8.4 km)), it operates in a high-speed underground subway environment with high-level platforms. The remaining 20 percent of the alignment (1.2 miles (1.9 km)) is on the surface in a dedicated transit mall separated from automobile traffic with low-level platforms (mini-high level platforms provide handicapped access to one door per train at the south end of each station). Trains in the downtown transit mall do interact with automobile traffic at cross streets, where movements are governed by non-vital traffic signals.

Metro Rail operates electric multiple-unit light rail vehicles (LRVs) in two-to-four car trains with power drawn from an overhead catenary system. The Buffalo trains and SEPTA in Philadelphia are the only modern rigid-body (non-articulated) LRVs operating in North America.



When the construction on Metro Rail began in 1978, it was intended to be the first line for an extensive system that would spread throughout the city and suburbs. However, during the construction of the line and afterward, Buffalo's population declined significantly (by approximately 55%, from around 580,000 in 1950 to about 261,000 in 2010), and the new line's ridership was much lower than originally anticipated. The cost of the urban section was so high that no funding was available to extend the lines into the suburbs, including the Amherst campus of the University at Buffalo. Efforts to obtain funding for feeder lines have met with little success.

The downtown business district

The construction of the pedestrian mall along Main Street downtown coincided with the decentralization of the region's population and retail market. Like many other cities in the Northeast U.S., suburban shopping malls were being developed closer to regional population growth and regional wealth. This shift in retail concentration and regional wealth resulted in downtown Buffalo losing many of its long-time anchor department stores and smaller shops to suburban malls and strip plazas. It was these retailers that originally served as some of the major traffic generators for Metro Rail. Overall, the area's economic health declined in the 1980s, reducing the potential passengers and the tax base available to fund the system.

The city of Buffalo is planning to reintroduce cars onto Main Street in a shared trackbed/roadway. Curb parking lanes will be provided for short-term visitors. The project started in 2008 and is expected to be completed by 2011.[2]

Operations and practical information

Metro Rail runs daily; weekdays from approximately 5:10 a.m. to 12:50 a.m., Saturdays from 7:05 a.m. to 12:50 a.m., Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m (although bus service is available until approximately 12:30 a.m. in the same area). Trains run as often as once every ten minutes at rush hour, and generally no less often than once every twenty minutes. A one-way ticket is $1.75. An all-day pass costs $4.00, which allows users of the pass unlimited rides covering the entire rail and bus system for the service day. Monthly passes are also available, either by a calendar month, or by a continuous 30-day period.

In September 2008, the NFTA began an earlier starting time to the weekday schedule in response to an 11% increase in ridership over eight months of growth. In July 2008, the authority claimed the passenger count "...eclipsed the July 2007 tally by 23 percent".[3]

Fares are collected through a proof-of-payment (POP) system (sometimes erroneously referred to as an "honor system"). Tickets are checked periodically by roving NFTA ticket inspectors and occasionally by transit police on trains and in stations. Travel on the above-ground portion of the system is free (zero-fare public transport), though ticket machines are available at outbound above-ground stations for passengers continuing on to stations in the subway portion of the line. If a rider does not possess a valid proof-of-payment, a citation may be issued similar to a traffic ticket and a penalty may be imposed if the court finds a passenger guilty of non-payment.

A normal one-way trip takes 22 minutes from end to end, though it may be faster nights, weekends and holidays.

Metro Rail and Metro Bus schedules are posted at the NFTA Metro Website.

Stations and points of interest

Station Points of Interest
University University at Buffalo South Campus
Amherst Street Buffalo Zoo, Delaware Park, Parkside Neighborhood
Humboldt-Hospital Canisius College, Sisters Hospital, Medaille College, Delaware Park
Delavan/Canisius College Canisius College: (Koessler Center, Athletics), Record Theatre
Allen/Medical Campus Anchor Bar (birthplace of the Buffalo-style chicken wing), Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Allentown district
Theater Shea's Performing Arts Center and the Buffalo Theatre District
Fountain Plaza Chippewa Entertainment District
Lafayette Square Buffalo Convention Center, Buffalo City Hall, Buffalo Central Library
Church Buffalo Transportation Center, Downtown Farmers Market, Erie Community College-City Campus, Main Place Mall & Tower
Seneca Coca-Cola Field,[4] One HSBC Center
Erie Canal Harbor First Niagara Center, Buffalo Downtown Waterfront
Special Events First Niagara Center (Trains only travel to and from Special Events station to service events at the Arena; at all other times Erie Canal Harbor station is the southern terminal.)

Rolling stock

Buffalo Light Rail Vehicle

Configuration 2- to 4-car trains
Length 66 ft 10 in (20,371 mm)
Width 8 ft 6.5 in (2,604 mm)
Tare 35.5 short tons (32.2 t)
Passenger capacity 140 (51 seated)
Rail gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
(standard gauge)
Power supply 650 VDC
Manufacturer Tokyu Car Corporation
Note Fleet Numbers: 101-127

Fleet size: 26
Control: 4 chopper-controlled Westinghouse motors
Car body type: double-ended, non-articulated

v · Tokyu Car Corporation of Japan. One car (number 125) was damaged in transit and later purchased by a restaurateur, Bertrand H. Hoak, of Hamburg, as an addition to Hoak's Armor Inn restaurant on Abbott Road, near Armor Duells Road. The car has since been sold.


In May 2006 it was announced that all of the LRVs would be rehabilitated by AnsaldoBreda. The rehabilitation will feature many improvements. The improvements will include enhanced video monitoring of the railcar interiors, upgraded brakes, rebuilt HVAC systems, rebuilt door systems, a brand new white, blue and gray interior, upgraded propulsion, and repair to the body shells. In addition, the railcars will receive new monitoring systems, automated announcements, new door chimes, and interior/exterior LED signage to replace existing rollsigns. Total project cost is an estimated $40 million for rehabilitation of 27 Metro Rail cars.[5]

The project originally used SuperSteel's manufacturing facilities in Schenectady, New York. However due to loss of orders and the economy, SuperSteel closed the facility in April 2009, costing 175 jobs and delaying the rehabilitation.[6] The project for the time being has been moved to Gray Manufacturing Industries, located in Hornell, New York.[7] AnsaldoBreda has proposed to purchase the former SuperSteel plant, originally opened in 1996. If this purchase was completed, AnsaldoBreda would have completed all remaining work on the NFTA contract in Schenectady. If this purchase was not completed, the remaining work would have been done at Gray Manufacturing's facilities in Hornell,[6] which was what ultimately happened. The first two cars were due back in revenue service in July 2010.[8]

Plans for expansion

There are no viable plans to expand the system. Some downtown business groups occasionally call for the removal of the transit system so that they can return to normal vehicle traffic and curbside parking, hoping that this measure might recreate the prosperous days of the past. Without extended branches in the suburbs, the system serves primarily a declining city population and those suburbanites who take buses or cars to one of the outer stations. The truncated system serves 23,000 passengers daily.

One group, the Citizens Regional Transit Corporation (CRTC), advocates for expansion.[9] As indicated in their statement, the CRTC seeks to educate the public, public officials, their authorities and agencies in the Buffalo-Niagara region about the benefits of a comprehensive transportation system including an expanded Metro Rail.

In April 2011, the group stated that the six hundred block of Main Street, which has the tenant Shea's Performing Arts Center , along with hotels and bars, should be converted into a mixed automobile and rail system, such as the ones in San Francisco and Toronto.[10] Many public officials have brought in criticism of the project, and the CRTC has expressed concern as well.

University line extension

On Monday, December 4, 2006, in The Spectrum, a publication of the University at Buffalo (UB), it was announced that UB President John B. Simpson is planning to get a project underway that would connect UB's three campuses via a transportation system. The proposed systems included a subway, trolley or light rail.

Airport corridor

The Airport corridor would begin in Downtown Buffalo, near the current Metro Rail's Church station, and continue in an easterly direction in/out Division Sts., diagonally in a northeastern direction near Jefferson toward the Buffalo Central Terminal, cross Broadway, and then continue eastbound in its private right-of-way to the Thruway Plaza, Walden Galleria and Buffalo Airport.

Tonawandas corridor

The Tonawandas corridor would operate from LaSalle Station northwesterly to the City of Tonawanda using the abandoned Erie Railroad tracks.

The NFTA purchased twelve Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars in the 1980s to serve the Tonawanda turn-out, a proposed Metro Rail extension to Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. These cars were built by the St. Louis Car Company and acquired by Cleveland, Ohio's Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority second hand in 1953. It was determined after initial trial runs that the PCCs were too wide for existing station platforms and the plan was abandoned. The PCCs were subsequently sold to the Brooklyn Historical Railway Association (BHRA), from where they were scrapped in 2003 when the BHRA folded.

Annual ridership

Numbers are from the Federal Transit Administration's National Transit Database[11] (1996–2006) and Buffalo Business First[12] (2007–2008).

Year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Ridership 7,135,746 6,918,812 7,213,82 6,335,643 6,568,165 6,355,955 5,797,407 5,857,687 5,478,002 5,373,321
Year 2006 2007 2008
Ridership 5,631,864 5,543,100 6,860,000


See also


External links

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