The current economic difficulty facing the NFTA provides the WNY area with an unique opportunity to offer to its citizens a community wide benefit provided in few other locations in the world. It also may be a kick start to a change in attitude that our community sorely needs, where we can become a region that is looked on by others as a place where its citizens are progressive, economically smart and world class leaders.
In reviewing the NFTA’s operating budget it appears that its total operating cost is 250 million dollars. The revenue it generates from its passengers is about 60 million dollars, or 24%. The other 76% of the cost is paid for primarily from various governmental subsidies (41%), capital contributions (17%), other sources of income (14%), and what seem to be annual deficits (4%). Nationally, the average subsidy to US public transit expenses approximates 75%, so this seems to be the norm, and clamoring for the NFTA to do more with what it has seems like a no win proposition.
Let’s now imagine a system without fare boxes on its buses and light rail cars, where passengers freely board these mass transit vehicles to go to work, school, or shopping (nationally these three categories comprise 75% of all mass transit rides). Further imagine the same system safely transporting our aging population, encouraging increased urbanization, reducing traffic congestion, avoiding the need for roadway expansion costs, parking lots, and also providing increased health and environmental benefits.