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A new state audit recommends the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority consider eliminating at least part of its police department, end Metro Rail’s downtown free fare zone and implement a host of other measures it says could result in significant savings.

The Authorities Budget Office issued its report following a 2011 request by Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, in a review conducted from July to October of 2012.

While the office noted the NFTA has instituted significant savings from its own measures, it says it could now realize $3.3 million in savings and new revenues by working with municipal police agencies to provide security on Metro Bus and Rail and the two airports it operates.

“We found that other upstate transportation authorities do not employ their own police officers,” the report said, “but instead rely upon municipal law enforcement agencies to ensure that transit riders and authority property are safe and secure.”

The authority responded to the report with its own observations, noting the Transit Authority Police Department has evolved over the years into a highly trained agency, the operation of which is constricted by union regulations.

It also cited its own belt-tightening initiatives over the past few years, especially the route restructuring that resulted in a $7.7 million savings since last year. The authority also cited its own studies regarding the free fare zone it said its considered and rejected for financial reasons, while agreeing with several recommendations and promising to study their implementation.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com