Consistent general maintenance of the limited Metro Rail system and its stations is crucial to achieve the vision of increased ridership. Recent moves by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority should help. But there is much more to be done.
Transit commissioners recently approved the sale of outer harbor lands to two state agencies. And they unveiled a massive new project to replace Metro Rail’s escalators. Both moves signal a major shift of concentration toward the NFTA’s core mission of moving people from point A to point B.
There was unanimous approval for the sale of 354 waterfront acres to the state parks system and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. The ceremonial $1 sale means the authority can get on with fixing broken escalators and making sure that the elevators are cleaned on a daily basis.
These things may sound minor but they are not. As The News’ Robert J. McCarthy recently reported, the daily “housekeeping” situation at several stations has declined. Bad conditions translate into fewer passengers, who have options beyond the 6.2-mile system.
Those who don’t have options have had to put up with broken escalators – a survey determined that four of them, or one-sixth of system capacity, were out of service. The authority has unveiled a replacement project that is expected to cost millions of dollars. Humboldt-Hospital ranked as the most affected station, with two of its four escalators closed.
The NFTA is planning a complete replacement program for most Metro Rail escalators, and that’s a start. But the authority could address escalator vandalism, usually caused by kids jumping on them or riding on the handrails, by placing uniformed officers in different locations. Strike an agreement with the union. Having someone standing nearby in uniform should help to deter a lot of the damage and may cost less than repairs. In addition to more human surveillance, improve the video surveillance that is already present in some – but probably not enough – locations.
The four-year escalator pilot project will initially concentrate on problem stations such as Delavan-Canisius and LaSalle, followed by Allen-Medical Campus. Along with that work is the daily cleaning and, in particular, sanitizing of the elevators in the stations. The need for that work should go without saying and perhaps circles back to the need for a more visible security presence.
The Metro Rail is a 30-year-old system that last underwent a major rehabilitation project in 1999. It is overdue for a broader overhaul but in the meantime, taking care of the details is important.