Tonawanda News

October 25, 2013

LEFFLER: In WNY, wheels are a must for upward mobility

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Let’s go to Delaware Park for the day, shall we? 

I wonder what the best way is to get there. Let me cruise over to map.google.com and make myself a map. 

Type type click. Lockport, NY to Delaware Park, Buffalo.

If I want to go by car, it’ll take 34 minutes to go 28.2 miles.

But what if I don’t want to drive? There are occasions when I want to go to Buffalo and not have to drive. Or more accurately, not have to drive home. 

I could take the bus. It would take an hour and 48 minutes. More than three times the length of time it would take by car. 

Heck I could probably bike there just as quickly. Fortunately, Google Maps can figure that out, too — with freakish accuracy, I might add. By bike it would take 2 hours even. 

What about Metro Rail? If I add that to the equation, it shaves 34 minutes off the trip. But that’s assuming I catch it at the right time. 

Of course, taking the bus assumes that I catch it at the right time. Or for that matter, the right day.

See, NFTA buses don’t run in eastern Niagara County on weekends. Which, ironically, is the best time to go to Delaware Park. It’s also the most likely time that I’ll want to go to Buffalo without having to drive home.

Welcome to Western New York, where having a car is pretty much a requirement. Where we have a train system that travels a whole six miles in a straight line in the city of Buffalo and otherwise our “public transit” is buses, which don’t run on weekends in my neck of the woods. 

I have often joked that Western New York is still in the Bush recession. No … the other Bush. I’ve also wondered aloud whether part of the blame for that is our lack of mobility. 

Stay with me here. 

Let’s say you live in Medina and want a job in Buffalo. With no viable public transportation, you’re looking at a daily commute of 41 miles in 48 minutes if you take the Thruway, or 45 miles in just under an hour if you prefer to not pay the toll.

Assuming 20 miles per gallon, you’re also looking at a daily cost of $15 to get back and forth. 

Most people aren’t going to want to deal with that frustration or cost. I mean, $75 a week just to get back and forth to work? So you either have to move to Buffalo or take a job a lot closer to Medina. 

For all intents and purposes, Western New York is very segmented. You live in North Tonawanda, you work in North Tonawanda. If you switch jobs, you move. 

What if we could live in one place and work somewhere else? It would enlarge the job possibilities for all of us. It would create more competition. And more economic opportunity. It would be good for employers and employees alike. 

But with no viable public transportation, forget it. And with no plan by the NFTA to ever improve, we’re just going to have to be happy living where we work. And vice versa. 

My question is, why are there no plans to improve? And why are we OK with that? 

I understand wanting to be proud of where we’re from and defending Western New York when outsiders mock it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want to improve. We should all get together at Delaware Park and talk about it. 

Just not on a weekend, OK?

Scott Leffler goes places. Just not via the NFTA. Follow his whereabouts on twitter @scottleffler.