Metro Bus restores express lanes and adds free service to parks | Local News
Metro Bus will soon restore express routes cut in February after successful new recruiting efforts helped ease a severe shortage of drivers.
Helen Tederous, spokeswoman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said seven of the eight bus routes cut on Feb. 13 will be reinstated on June 19, providing direct access to and from downtown and several suburbs.
“We’ve had success in new signings, plus school will be over and that will give us some breathing room,” she said.
The restored express service includes No. 60 – Niagara Falls, No. 61 – Tonawanda, No. 64 – Lockport, No. 66 – Williamsville, No. 69 – Lancaster, No. 74 – Hamburg and No. ° 81 – East Side. The only route not expected to resume is #67 – Cleveland Hill.
Still, the extended wait times for weekend and night buses that also came into effect on February 13 are not yet expected to return to normal.
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“We won’t be restoring faster progress over the weekend at this time,” Tederous said, “but hopefully we will as we recruit more drivers.”
Commuters affected by the changes expressed displeasure when the cuts were announced over the winter, but NFTA officials said they had no other choice due to a nationwide shortage of drivers which was also reflected locally. At the time, they reported a driver contingent down to 61 from normal levels, along with a shortage of 57 mechanics, 24 maintenance workers and 18 administrative and management staff.
Several local politicians, including state senator Sean M. Ryan, criticized the authority for not paying competitive salaries and losing potential drivers to private delivery companies. In April, however, the NFTA opened its contract with more than 1,000 employees represented by Amalgamated Transit Union 1342 and negotiated a 15.25% raise over three years. The NFTA also noted recent success in attracting workers through its own recruiting efforts.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority agreed to a new contract with its drivers and mechanics providing for a 15.25% increase over three years.
Metro Bus will also expand service on June 18 with free rides to several area parks. Tederous said the NFTA noted the success of similar service by the Capital District Transportation Authority in the Albany area and decided to implement Sunday service through Aug. 13.
Free rides will be available from the downtown bus station to Knox Farm, Chestnut Ridge, Niagara Falls, Como, Beaver Island, Akron Falls, Evangola and Fort Niagara parks.
“There is no charge and we encourage people to try it,” she said, adding that initial plans called for three trips to and from the parks from opening to end of the day. and advising runners to check local timetables.