Buffalo Trolley and Canal Boat Company

By Michael R Weekes – UB BSIE 1984:
At the end of the summer season I was chatting with the operator of The Hatch Restaurant, who runs Brand-On Services.  He mentioned that parking and congestion were really becoming a challenge.  I think anyone who comes down to the waterfront on the evening of a major event understands this issue first hand.
 
I realize that there are more than 10,000 parking spaces in downtown, but it can be a long walk to Canalside or Erie Basin Marina, especially for the elderly and families with young children in tow.  I don’t mind the walk from the Lafayette Hotel, but many folks find this a significant challenge.
 
With The Hatch expansion (see here), development of the Webster Block and other activity, it is estimated that there will be at least 300 more cars than there will be parking spaces at Erie Basin alone.
 
I thought this might make a good problem for the SUNY School of Industrial Engineering to take a crack at.  As an alum from UBIE class of 1980 I fondly remembered my industrial internship class, where I got the chance to solve a real problem at a real company in my senior year (Westwood Pharmaceutical).
 
I asked Professor Mark Karwan, the leader of the IE program, if any of his senior students might consider the idea of looking at the people-tram concept as a worthwhile challenge.  To my delight, two students came forward to examine the issue.
 
On December 7th, 2012 in Bell Hall Room 438 at 10 am, the students, Areea and Wie will present their findings. They have established a people tram route and schedule as well as other solutions to address the problem.
 
In addition, I have found a source for Kubota tractors in Springville and people-mover trams to meet the hardware requirements (see top image with safety rails). I have also sought a quote from an Amish craftsman to take some traditional trailers and convert them to people trams (8′ x 17′) with lines like a canal boat.  I am reviewing an estimated three year cash flow pro forma with the SBA at Buffalo State for a Buffalo Trolley and Canal Boat Company.  
 
This could eventually lead to a more vibrant park/station area under the I-190 one block west of Pearl Street Brewery where tickets and souvenirs could be sold.  We have shopped the idea around to many regional stakeholders and the response has been positive.  The idea does seem to be economically viable.  We have yet to work out all the details but this offers an uncommon technical analysis of a good idea.
 
I invite any Buffalo Rising readers and other waterfront stakeholders to come and hear what the soon-to-be-engineers have to say.  It is great to see students earning credit for Buffalo-boosting projects.
 
This problem can be handled proactively and offers visitors a new, fun way to reach the waterfront safely and with less hassle.  I am asking local lot owners if they would like to offer a park-n-ride option to standard fees.

About the author  ⁄ Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

13 comments
brownteeth
brownteeth

That's an obvious option to us city dwellers but let's face it, suburbanites are afraid to use public transpo in Buffalo. Plus there's a novelty to these that makes them unique. Depending on the route I like the idea of a bit of sight seeing that can be done on these vs the Subway that is sort of a cave on the inside. And some people don't want to park in the midst of the all the commotion of an event.

I also like the vibrancy these may add to downtown. It adds more of a human element when you have 25 people essentially outside cruising around as opposed to inside their car or the subway. We need more "pedestrian" action downtown even if it is in the form of an open air trolley.

Up and coming
Up and coming

I think it's a great idea. I could see one of these driving around the whole city in the summer time. I think the owner could make a killing.

Linksfiend
Linksfiend

A contibuting factor may be the only entrance to Canalside events is over at the Naval Park. If a second entrance was added over by Main/Perry, more cars might choose to park in the lots along Perry.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

8 Universities? What are counting as a University? Or did you just mean "College?"

Only UB and Niagara University are universities.

Buff State, Medaille, Canisius, Daemon, Villa Marie, are all colleges, not universities.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Why not just take the MetroRail for Free? You can park anywhere in downtown and be at canal side within minutes...

BI
BI

With the 8 universities in the Buffalo area, this kind of data gathering and project exploration makes great use of Buffalo's educational economic assets. I am sure that more work like this leverages a major local asset and provides a a win-win for everyone involved. Nice project Michael. How do we raise awareness of these kinds of efforts before the local news outlets?

ivan putski jr
ivan putski jr

Maybe they could get one of those amphibious "duck" trolleys like they have in Boston...love to see that thing hit the water at that old ramp at LaSalle Park....cruise up to Crawdaddys and then maybe over to RCR Yacht club and on to pavement to Dug's Dive

whatever
whatever

"all we get are naysayers"

Huh?

pub - who are the naysayers so far that you're referring to?

I don't notice any comments above that aren't open minded about the idea.

I'm open minded too. Let's see what the students' study says about how many days/hrs per week they'd predict sufficient demand for trams, and what ongoing expenses they'll estimate for personnel, liability, etc.

Perhaps for summer weekends & holidays it's something there'd be enough demand and ECHDC would pay for this out of its funding stream (although I don't think the marina and Hatch are within Canalside bounds?) ... &/or maybe the City would find $ for it.

I'd guess any suppliers/contractors involved (including Amish) would have to go though bidding, compliance, etc. - possibly also community benefits agreements if Canalside is involved - but maybe they'd be willing to.

Pubmoney1
Pubmoney1

Wow, Somebody comes up with a good idea, does the research and legwork and all we get are naysayers. Lets see what the students come up with. Let the small business center do it's work. This loop could include cobblestone, casino, Buffalo River, and the far Erie Basin Lots. When the rinks/new hotels come on line it could be used to be a mini tour bus with commentators.

__|bflo|__
__|bflo|__

Um, not sure why you say Canalside isn't connected to downtown. Just drive straight down Pearl or Washington and you're there. You can also head straight down Elmwood (Straight on L. Terrace) make 1 turn and you are there. You can also take the metro rail and you are there. Pretty connected - and not very hard to figure out. If you look at a map the Skyway really doesn't get in the way of Canalside at all...

I'm sure the Skyway takes up some space that could be used for parking, but it couldn't be that much - I mean it is an elevated highway so the actual foot print is pretty small.

ss1111
ss1111

Part of the problem is many of the lot's nearest Canalside are reserved for monthly permit holders during the day and there is no one there at night (unless there is an event). If there were credit card machine's in the lots near Pearl Street, I would happy to pay $2.00-$3.00.

millertime486
millertime486

It is a unique idea but I would like to see where the parking numbers came from. Harbor center will be adding over 900 parking spaces right across the street from canal side. It seems like that should be enough on non game day nights. Anyways, it would be a neat idea and I look forward to more information about it

paulsobo
paulsobo

Get rid of the skyway access ramp and connect Canalside with downtown. Thats the elephant in the room!!!

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