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LOCKPORT - A bus that connects Lockport housing projects to local stores will cease operations in mid-December unless Niagara County comes up with cash.
That was the message Friday from Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer, who said fares on Metrolink Bus 201 are generating only 6 percent of the route's operating costs.
During the authority's budget crisis, the NFTA was planning to drop Bus 201 in May, but it kept the route running because of urging from local officials and the public.
However, usage of the bus hasn't improved. "Bus 201 continues to limp along with very low ridership," Hartmayer said.
He said the current average number of passengers on Bus 201 is 43 per day, which rounds off to about five per circuit. That was a small increase from the average of 39 riders a day during the first quarter of this year.
Hartmayer said the NFTA figures it costs $1,336 per day to operate Bus 201. The average daily fare collection on the route is $81.50.
In February, then-NFTA Chairman Henry M. Sloma sent a letter to Niagara County, making the argument that the cost of Metro Bus services in the county exceed by about $1 million the amount of money the county gives the NFTA.
By state law, the county must send the NFTA one-quarter of its mortgage recording tax. That payment totaled $910,000 in 2011.
Sloma suggested that a slice of the county's sales tax revenue could be earmarked for the NFTA. The suggestion was greeted with no enthusiasm whatsoever in Lockport.
"I don't think that's been discussed much," Legislator W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, said Friday.
McNall, chairman of the Administration Committee, said the subject could be raised at next week's Legislature meeting.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com