Faced with the possibility of reducing bus service to Ralph Wilson Stadium during Buffalo Bills home games, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has set two public hearings to garner input about the proposal.
The hearings are set for Monday, July 19 at Erie Community College's City Campus and Tuesday, July 20 at the NFTA's Transportation Center on Factory Outlet Boulevard in Niagara Falls. Both begin at 6 p.m.
Unless the NFTA and the Bills can craft an agreement that may help the authority underwrite the seven routes it runs to the stadium, the authority's commissioners may opt later this summer to cancel the service. The routes, which include two from Niagara County as well as ones from Clarence, Cheektowaga and Buffalo, attracted a total of 1,556 riders last season and cost the NFTA $17,889 in terms of an operating subsidy.
The NFTA bus from downtown Buffalo is usually packed. The 38-seat bus averaged 39 riders last season. Conversely, a route from the Niagara Falls Aquarium average just 12 riders on the 38-person bus. Three other routes - ones from the Clarence Mall, Thruway Mall and Main & Niagara in downtown Buffalo - averaged less than 20 riders.
The total NFTA riders were less than 1 percent of the 490,898 people who went to one of the seven regular season games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The NFTA continues to talk with the Bills organization about the bus routes. The NFTA is hopeful the Bills will want the service to continue and offer help, either in the form of a direct subsidy or ad space promoting the service, or both.
The NFTA has run ads in past years on the Bills scoreboard, but the authority paid for those ads.
Bills game-bound riders has the source of frequent discussion among NFTA commissioners, especially in recent months as they grapple with route reductions and adjustments. The long-simmering issue was the source of a discussion during a late May NFTA Board of Commissioners meeting. It comes as the NFTA is poised to start a set of hearings about revised route and fare structures that may take effect this fall.
The buses in the Bills' bus lot across Abbott Road from the stadium.
Most NFL teams offer various forms of public transportation options to their respective stadiums. In the American Football Conference, only the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs do not offer public transportation options while the National Football Conference, the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the sole teams not offer that option.