LOCKPORT – The bus that circles Lockport nine times a day will do so for the last time Dec. 2, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority confirmed Thursday.
MetroLink Bus 201 will be canceled because of low ridership and high operating losses, NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said.
Karen Carroll, a member of Lockport’s Bus 201 Coalition, said during the public comment period at Wednesday night’s Common Council meeting that she had learned from NFTA sources that the route will be dropped.
The NFTA had planned to do so in May but kept Bus 201 going in the face of complaints from local politicians and advocates for the poor and elderly, who comprised most of the route’s sparse clientele.
However, the agency asked Niagara County to provide $1 million in additional funding for the route and for county bus service in general, and the county said no.
“We never could come up with that $1 million without hammering the property taxpayers,” said Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield.
County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said, “I’m not speaking for the Legislature, but as far as my budget is concerned, I don’t have $1 million.”
Michael Boron, director of the Outreach Center at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, said NFTA officials promised to continue running the appointment-only paratransit service despite the closure of Bus 201.
Hartmayer confirmed that service will continue for up to a year, depending on how long federal funding lasts.
Paratransit, which costs $4 per ride, is available to those living within three-quarters of a mile of a bus route.
“It’s available to people who have been certified as unable to ride regular service,” Hartmayer said.
He said the NFTA still is considering alterations to Bus 44, the route connecting Lockport with downtown Buffalo via Amherst. He said the NFTA will inform local officials and activists in early November if that route can pick up some of Bus 201’s stops.
Glatz said there’s still a chance that the county’s own Rural Transportation System could become involved, but Ross said that it may not be practical.
That service is aimed primarily at connecting outlying areas with Niagara County Community College in Sanborn.
Bus 201 made a circuit of Lockport’s public housing complexes, mobile home parks and shopping areas.
But Hartmayer said the route was averaging fewer than five riders per run, or 43 per day.
Only 6 percent of the cost of the route was coming from the $2 fare, meaning the NFTA was losing $1,254 a day on Bus 201.
“We extended that service for seven months,” Hartmayer said. “This wasn’t something that was done in a vacuum. There was considerable effort on Metro’s part to see if there was some way we could extend service.”