The Buffalo Belt Line

After posting on the original vision for Buffalo’s Metro Rail, a friend sent me an email inquiring about the Buffalo Belt Line, a transit system that formed a belt around the city at the turn of the century, with nineteen stops in various parts of town:
Just saw your Metro Rail Post. I forgot about the whole Main Street as an indoor mall concept! Thanks for sharing that. I am also fascinated by the Belt Line RR that serviced Buffalo until the late 1920′s. See this link. It seems that the tracks are still there, look at the Google map I did adding the stations that used to exist. They are all gone except the one on Amherst Street. It runs next to FWS on Elmwood, Tri Main, Central Terminal, Larkinville, Exchange Street (waterfront), La Salle Park and so on. What an amazing tourist vehicle this could be. -JI

The question is, would it be possible to recreate the Belt Line in Buffalo at this point in time, and if so, would it be practical? 
Lead image: A belt line car: www.buffaloah.com and The History Museum
Buffalo-Belt-line-map-2.jpg

About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

50 comments
"Realist"
"Realist"

Whatever> " we'd get better bang for buck overall. "

That's about as close to you expressing an opinion here so we're getting somewhere. There is nothing wrong with being of the opinion that "we'd get get bigger bang for buck" for automobile subsidies over rail.

But it is just your opinion. Others have differing opinions and make good arguments of why investment in other modes of transportation are a better value. After acknowledging your opinion of autos are better than rail, put some facts forth to back your opinion up. Shifting goalposts for your preferred mode of transit moves the conversation nowhere.

Whatever> "Your figuratively/literately remark wouldn't explain things you & MR wildly imagine anyone else writes… but at least you guys are great at reminding us all what straw men look like, lol"

I really think that you think you are being clever by making deflections, strawman arguments while accusing others of making them, goalpost shifting, part-time conservatism, "objectivity" cloaking etc. You may not notice how easy these lame tactics are to spot by me and anyone not of the "realist" hive still reading at this point (notice how I edited your "objective," non-committal "other arguments have been made" and "bus" deflection out of the bang-for-buck quote above. No need for irrelevant filler.)

It would be nice to have an honest debate over these issues with someone more comfortable with their biases and ideas. Calling your bs out is fun but it would be better to have an actual conversation on the pros vs cons.

whatever
whatever

real>"You presume gas taxes, tolls, and other user fees fully pay for the transit options you like"

No, I didn't/don't presume the "fully". I've said that's how it could/should be done - when you've repeatedly asked me. This would involve outlawing any redirecting of gas taxes (or Thruway tolls, etc) for any other uses along with no more use of general taxes for road-related spending.

Still, even without that improvement happening, users of cars&trucks do already pay a lot in fed-state-county taxes on gas/diesel, proportionate to how much they drive. So that shouldn't be overlooked when debating who's subsidizing whom.

Regarding public transit - it isn't about what I "like" but what's most cost effective for the most people in each place. Of course if $ grew on trees it would be great to have all the rail paulsobo fantasizes about.

In Buffalo area I think there's good arguments that we'd get better bang for buck overall with buses for a given amount of spending including fares.

In some other places that differs. Case by case.

Your figuratively/literately remark wouldn't explain things you & MR wildly imagine anyone else writes… but at least you guys are great at reminding us all what straw men look like, lol

"Realist"
"Realist"

Whatever> "have you been taking reading lessons from Ricchiazzi?"

I chose not to play your interpret-what-I-say-literaly-when-I-want-but-I-can-interpret-things-figuativly-when-I-please game. If MR doesn't fall for cheap debate tactics either, more power to him.

On the Peace Bridge: Didn't Higgins recently pledge federal money to make up for a deficit of toll money to complete the plaza project? I don't have a subscription to the BN so I can't look there.

Anyway, that really isn't the point I was making above. You presume gas taxes, tolls, and other user fees fully pay for the transit options you like and don't even factor in fares and other similar user fees when dismissing transit modes you don't like. I'm just pointing out the uneven standard your are holding each option to in this and several other BRO transportation articles.

ForestBird
ForestBird

The first photo is not of a Belt Line car - it is the IRC's electric streetcar "ONDIARA", a private car available for group outings & tours.

Some European transit experts were brought to Buffalo before the Rabid Transit was built; they recommended against a subway & one suggestion was to use the Belt Line route. They were laughed out of town by the papers, one cartoon (Tom Toles?) depicting a toy train set running in circles around Buffalo.

whatever
whatever

real - it wasn't a 'standard' I held anything to either. My comment you asked about was replying to brownteeth's question above it: "What about a private rail company?"

That's the only point I mentioned a private co, in that context replying to him, then to you.

(lol - have you been taking reading lessons from Ricchiazzi?)

I'd have no objections to asking the feds to consider public transit on the Belt Line using their funding criteria if anybody wants to try. I just pointed out I think those criteria include two things which I'd guess would derail the funding - their demand for a local dedicated tax revenue stream & what the feds (not me) would define as enough growth in transit ridership. Shooting a messenger doesn't change those inconvenient truths if they're true, which I think they are and nobody here disputed.

Regarding PB, as I've said multiple times on here but you'll keep pretending I didn't - the plaza project should be funded entirely by user fees such as tolls.

I fully agreed with canceling the new bridge and its supposed need for general tax $.

"Realist"
"Realist"

Whatever> "I wonder do you mean enough riders to make it sufficiently profitable..."

I don't know. I'm "guessing" just like you. I'm also using a similar thought process you use to support road construction-widening-anti downgrading of highways. Lots of people voting with their feet for rail and bus transit, therefore, lots of people would support a theoretically better form of public transit.

I wouldn't expect a piece of public infrastructure to be privately operated or profitable. That's not the standard you hold deficit ridden roads or the Peace Bridge to, so it would be contradictory to do so with rail.

There many reasons why someone would prefer automobiles to public transit. Some like the the convenience (perceived or otherwise), to others it's a "class thing," and some just hate the sound of screeching rails and whistles. I'd suggest sticking to these or other arguments rather than propping up the good government one only to drop it when it comes to funding things that fit your preferences (see latest PB discussion).

whatever
whatever

ket/real - first, are you familiar with how 'guess' differs from 'conclusion'?

Second - by 'healthy base' in this, I wonder do you mean enough riders to make it sufficiently profitable to motivate a private co as brownteeth suggested while charging a fare price the market would bear?

real>"would provide a healthy base of riders for a new rail line"

Also, another q would be how many x per day would Belt trains have to run to get that many riders, and what are cost implications of that many?

My _guess_ was based on all that sounding expensive and recalling how we were told recently by Esmonde & Pridgen, etc that even a $0.25 fare increase is huge in Buffalo.

That's why I said guess, not conclusion as you helpfully changed it to - lol

Nobody's stopping any private co from considering brownteeth's idea.

(although there's still killjoy Dan....)

real>"You don't take a clear stance here but it seems like you aren't crazy about state (county or federal) funding for this sort of thing."

I'm not crazy about fed $ for roads or public transit. I'd say simultaneously end fed gas tax and fed funding for both of those, then leave it to states & counties/locals. That would be more efficient and more equitable.

Then in NYS, use taxes on gasoline & diesel (which could raise to make up for federal going away) exclusively for publicly owned things which vehicles of those taxpayers make use of. Counties/locals all would do the same, adding in their taxes at the pump like they do now. Legislatures at each level would still sort out in budgets the where & when of it all, as happens now.

However, if we're stuck with current federal involvement, then we're also stuck with criteria the feds apply when deciding. As I said, I think they largely base it on estimated ridership growth and on willingness of local govt $ contributions (which in this case I think means city taxpayer, I doubt Poloncarz or county leg would fund it - no, I can't prove)...

….both of which I'd guess, not conclude, means Belt transit wouldn't have happened even if Dan hadn't ruined it by speaking up.

But he did. Now we'll never know.

"Realist"
"Realist"

Whatever> "If a private co operated it, I'd guess the relatively low number of customers..."

I'm curious to know how you arrived at the conclusion that ridership would be relatively low. The buses that service the st least the northern portion of the beltline, and the Metro Rail, are standing room only during peak periods. If a more efficient public transit option were provided, I have no reason to believe that plenty of these riders, as well as motorists, would provide a healthy base of riders for a new rail line. Interesting that when there have been discussions here on spending on road infrastructure you make the opposite conclusion that there are enough users to self-pay for new roads.

Whatever> " shifting around how transportation $ are spent here doesn't sound like the kind of private sector job growth which Cuomo supposedly intends the 'billion' to be used for."

You don't take a clear stance here but it seems like you aren't crazy about state (county or federal) funding for this sort of thing. That's a significant departure from points you made elsewhere on the role of government towards transportation infrastructure. Isn't more efficient movement of people, goods, and services one of those things that it is okay for government to pay for? It is when it comes to roads, so why is this not the case for rail transit?

I actually agree with you that putting passenger rail along the beltline would not be a great use of resources. Both because of reasons you mentioned (cost and redundancy with other transit options) as well as issues of compatibility brought up by Dan. I just think it it is interesting that a lot of the points you've made arguing for road construction (despite similar cost and redundancy issues) have been turned upside down to argue against rail.

whatever
whatever

It seems moot anyway considering what Dan informed us about incompatibility on this track of freight train and public transit, but just for fun....

bt>'Would a public entity have to operate this? What about a private rail company?'

If a private co operated it, I'd guess the relatively low number of customers would mean the fare prices would have to be prohibitively high in order to fund expenses - not to mention generating profit. High fares would drive its ridership even lower as time goes on.

Realistically, I'd wonder how many customers would ride this per day instead of public bus lines which would still be directly on major streets Niagara, Hertel, Amherst, Fillmore, etc - and how high a fare would they be willing to pay.

bt>'Would that make it eligible for that billion dollars?

Although it would employ people, shifting around how transportation $ are spent here doesn't sound like the kind of private sector job growth which Cuomo supposedly intends the 'billion' to be used for.

It's apparent the spending yes/no for that billion is entirely up to him. But he's described it as for attracting new outside economic activity to WNY. A new privately operated rail transit line would shift some local spending away from gasoline stations and NFTA fare boxes. That wouldn't sound like true growth.

whatever
whatever

dav>'There is a large part of the population that avoid riding buses but would take a train. Maybe its a class thing'

True, maybe a class thing in part. I've never felt that way personally against buses when I've needed one, but yes some people do.

Still, looking at those existing bus routes overlapping pretty much the whole Belt, it's difficult to envision where there'd be a lot of new transit ridership who currently use cars and refuse to use buses but who'd make a switch for commuting by trains on the Belt.

brownteeth and others would, so it wouldn't be zero, but my point was to question whether anywhere nearly enough numbers to result in big federal funds.

As for "difference between waiting in a station and waiting on a street corner" -

sometimes sure, but in this case waiting for buses after dark on Hertel, Amherst St, Niagara, or Fillmore might be more often perceived as safer than waiting in Belt stations which wouldn't be directly on major streets. Yeah, they could try to alleviate that with security measures for stations, but as happens for NFTA Metro stations it drives up operating costs which have to come from somewhere.

Dan
Dan

Again, Paul, you're looking at connecting one destination to another. Transit doesn't work like that. It connects sources of traffic to destinations. People travel between home and work, home and school, home and an airport. The kinds of destination-to-destination trips you describe -- Daemen to Buff State? -- are far less frequent. The exceptions are when there's an extremely close symbiotic relationship between the destinations; for example, UB North and South Campus, and a very large airport with a city center that contains tens of thousands of hotel rooms, and is the convergence point for a very large transit system, as well as (Chicago, Hong Kong, etc).

Cleveland has a fantastic rail system that runs between the airport and downtown. The trains are two cars long at the most, and on the western portion of the Red Line, through what are considered the most stable neighborhoods in the City of Cleveland, carry a fraction of the passengers of Buffalo's Metro Rail. It's a great service, but it's not well used.

Minneapolis has a light rail line that connects major destinations - the airport to downtown to the Mall of America. However, there's hundreds of thousands of people living close to the line between those areas, in stable, dense middle class neighborhoods. That's not the case in Buffalo, where large parts of the city between landmarks like Central Terminal, the Walden Galleria, and so on are depopulated, or separated by large industrial areas, and there's not a large enough critical mass of residents to support rail transit.

Dan
Dan

From the original post:

> Buffalo Belt Line, a transit system that formed a belt around the city at the turn of the century, with nineteen stops in various parts of town:

> Just saw your Metro Rail Post. I forgot about the whole Main Street as an indoor mall concept! Thanks for sharing that. I am also fascinated by the Belt Line RR that serviced Buffalo until the late 1920's.

1) The Belt Line was not built as a transit line. it was built to connect through trains to the NYCRR Water Level mainline route to the International Bridge and the Niagara Falls branch line. It also had the benefit of serving a then-burgeoning industrial area in Black Rock.

2) The Belt Line remains an active freight line. It was never abandoned. Buffalo's three other railroad belts, the DL&W, Erie and Lehigh Valley, were abandoned between the 1960s and 1980s. Those other belts were considered redundant with consolidation, along with the NYCRR Peanut Line in Amherst, and the Lehigh Valley Thruway and NYCRR Gardenville lines that bypassed Buffalo to the south.

3) Passenger service consisted of short trains powered by slow steam locomotives. The line was never electrified, and never operated with rapid transit cars, streetcars, interurbans, or similar equipment. Service was infrequent; about every 30 minutes at peak. Passenger service didn't resemble contemporary rapid transit at all; it was more like a commuter railroad with very shortly spaced stations.

4) Passenger service on the Belt Line ended in the late 1910s, after there was a movement to electrify the line by elected officials and civic clubs. Service ended not because of the Kensington Expressway, short-minded civic leadership, or the like, but due to declining ridership, competition from cleaner electric IRC streetcars that operated on much shorter headways, and the need to relieve congestion on the larger NYCRR network in the region.

5) The closest thing Buffalo had to true rapid transit before Metro Rail was a small part of the IRC network, where portions of some lines had their own right-of-way. The Niagara Falls High Speed Line had its own right-of-way built to mainline standards, grade-separated viaducts, and multiunit trains. The line failed in part because trains still ran on Main Street in Buffalo. In the city, parts of the Parkside line ran in a transit-like ROW; it sucked away a lot of commuter passengers from the Belt Line.

There were plans for an East Side subway that were shelved when WWI started. A Boston-like streetcar subway for downtown Buffalo was also planned in the early 1920s.

Dan
Dan

> Dan you should be "Downer Dan". : )

Sorry.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for the expansion of rail transit. However, the NYC Belt Line was never considered in earlier studies from the 1960s and 1970s, and it was probably for a good reason. The original Blue Line plan was a part of a grander ABC (Amherst Buffalo Corridor) development scheme.

Through the 1910s, civic leaders promoted electrification of the Belt Line for a hybrid streetcar/rapid transit system, but those efforts failed. The issue: even with some sections having four tracks, the Belt Line was just too jammed with freight traffic. The Belt Line was considered a choke point in the NYCRR network and the source of untold delays.

Part of the old DL&W belt in North Buffalo was seriously considered for a North Buffalo extension, but the NFTA has been selling off portions of the former right-of-way in recent years.

Up and coming
Up and coming

Dan, I can't thank you enough for providing some logic/reality into this debate.

paulsobo
paulsobo

Yes, I brought that up. You cannot mix Light Rail and Heavy Rail on the same track.

Yes, there is also Heavy Freight on the east-west portion of the Beltway.

However, there is room for a double track to be constructed for Light Rail.

However, freight could be redirected to a reconstructed NY Central Line with is further north toward Linden (I think).

Regardless of the strictness of federal rail laws or whether they are obeyed or not, things like public transportation should not be ignored as urban priorities.

Basically Buffalo was doing everything right and we have the good bones to prove it up until 1950. For the last 60+ years we have been decaying and demolishing everything that would allow us to attract new growth.

Many of our historic residential and commercial buildings demolished.

Our world class railways demolished (Lehigh and DL&W and others).

Our world class industry and technology gone.

Our world class culturals and history are largely ignored.

We can only complete on the world stage by using what we were to propel us into the future. The worlds new cities built around sun and freeways and sprawl...those we cannot compete.

Reconstructing our golden age will make us a world class midsize city...and that should be our goal.

Also...connecting all our urban college campuses together to create a super campus...would be huge.

Also...connecting all our engines of growth together would also create synergy and amplify growth.

I cannot say it enough...our leaders and businesses and cultural institutions...everyone in Buffalo tends to do things alone. Its one reason why Buffalo continually lags Rochester. Rochester fights over cross networking from Business Committees to local college committees to local cultural committes. There is constant cross polination if ideas and best practices. Im not a fan of Rochester but when they do something right...Buffalo should not be an ostrich and ignore it.

Up and coming
Up and coming

You were right a couple articles ago when you said, "demand creates light rail, not the other way around." Until people come to grips with this reality nothing will change.

travelman
travelman

Dan you should be "Downer Dan". : )

I understand that this is a pipe dream, but without ideas and forward thinking we are just going to continue to stagnate. Certainly this is not a new idea, but timing is often the key. There is so much positive activity happening right now that the idea of the Belt might be timely.

I agree with urban_bmm that this is worth a feasibility study despite the true realities Dan has posted. You get no where without asking.

Why not get Rocco Termini on board (pun intended) so that he could have a station at the FWS building called Rocco Terminal! lol

BTW when I stated, "Why not start with a run that went from Central Terminal to Larkinville and the Waterfront Development and back again." it was not as public transportation. I thought that was clear. It would be a tourist opportunity for this areas we as a community are focusing on. But I'm sure Dan will chime in again to pop my dream bubble. lol

Bring Back The Belt, Bring Back The Belt, Bring Back The Belt, Bring Back The Belt ....

city_girl
city_girl

This is really worth a feasible study. This should have been looked into when the light rail was first proposed. It could serve as a generator for development in the city's more distressed neighborhoods both on Eastside and Westside. Maybe not all at once, but strategically implementing legs of the project. And, definitely needs to be tied into comprehensive planning of the adjacent neighborhoods, not a piecemeal project.

Dan
Dan

> The Light Rail airport extension and the Beltway are the exact same track from the DL&W Station to the Central Terminal.

No. It's a similar route. NOT the same track. It's illegal for Buffalo's LRVs, and for most transit vehicles in the country, to operate on active freight lines. Even a single physical standard gauge rail connection between a rail transit and freight system can be a problem.

Also, there's the issue or electrifying the line. Freight cars can be much taller than the upper limits of Metro Rail's catenary.

brownteeth
brownteeth

As a car owning city dweller I would totally adjust my driving habits if the beltline were brought back. I have never used the buses in Buffalo for many reasons, some you cited, but an all encompassing train would be a game changer for me and many like myself. Given that much of the infrastructure is still in tact this may not be as far fetched as other ideas presented here.

Would a public entity have to operate this? What about a private rail company? Would that make it eligible for that billion dollars?

Dan
Dan

> Why not start with a run that went from Central Terminal to Larkinville and the Waterfront Development and back again.

Most public transit trips are home to destination, not destination to destination. Transit that connects destination to destination has largely been a failure, except lines connecting very busy airports to very large city centers.

Dan
Dan

The Belt Line is unusable for transit today.

1) There is very heavy freight train traffic along the Belt Line. Trains are much longer than those of 100 years ago. Freight trains have very long stopping distances. There are still many industrial sidings along the line that are used, so there's many complex freight movements. It wold be impossible to run transit service at anything resembling a regular frequency.

2) There are very strict federal regulations about the design of passenger rail vehicles that can share tracks with freight trains. The regulations are much stricter than most other countries, and have been cited as one reason why commuter rail service has been slow to take off in the US. You just can't stick any old light rail vehicle on the Belt Line.

3) Buffalo used to have three belt lines that would route rail traffic around the city, and up into Niagara Falls, or over to the International Bridge. The Lehigh Valley and DL&W belts were abandoned years ago. The old NYC Belt Line is all there is; one reason why it has such heavy freight traffic. If there's an accident on the Belt Line, freight rail traffic throughout the region will be backed up for hours or days.

4) The route largely duplicates the function of the existing Main Street Metro Rail line. Buses from the north and east would feed into the Belt Line, and thus diverting passengers away from Metro Rail.

5) Federal laws that require freight rail to give way to passenger rail have been largely ignored and unenforced. Also, for local governments and related agencies, railroad companies are notoriously hard to work with. Railroads are in their own world, and basically do what they want to do.

Passenger service on the Belt Line stopped nearly 100 years ago. You can't blame the Kensington Expressway or cars for this, but rather, IRC streetcars with much higher service frequencies.

Rand503
Rand503

Okay, sorry.

And yes, Whatever, all these proponents of more rail think that money just rains down upon our fair city for any cool projects we come up with. Then they complain that the NFTA isn't spending enough to maintain what we do have!

As I said, I would support such a thing only if it were tied with a comprehensive plan of the Central Terminal. Otherwise, it really isn't needed.

davvid
davvid

I agree that there are many challenges but I just want to add something about ridership numbers. There is a large part of the population that avoid riding buses but would take a train. Maybe its a class thing, I'm not sure. It may be about the difference between waiting in a station and waiting on a street corner. Either way, I believe a better train system may expand ridership by attracting those who previously gave up on public transit in Buffalo. I can't say that it will attract enough new riders to immediately make it worthwhile but it could over time change some common perceptions and behaviors.

whatever
whatever

I'll ask all of you the same question Rand asked in the light rail thread -

If you lived in Buffalo, how much extra in city taxes would you be willing to pay for this?

Even if it's less costly than light rail and even if some rights-of-way land and some track are available, this wouldn't be free to construct, purchase equipment for, maintain every year, and employ people to operate.

I ask regarding city taxes because the NFTA doesn't have taxing power. The NFTA in theory could try raising system-wide bus fares and light rail fares to pay for this. But in practice that's never well received with the public, politicians or Esmonde.

I'd also doubt that the county legislature or even new County Exec Poloncarz would favor using or raising county taxes for this.

The state wouldn't consider it with our 'billion' since supposedly that's for private sector job creation corporate welfare projects.

If I'm not mistaken, federal funding for transit projects depends on factors including projected ridership growth and commitments for local govt revenue contributions. There won't be much if any ridership growth compared to current bus routes (which would have to also be kept) covering about 95% of the Belt Line's path -

Niagara on west, Hertel & Amherst St on north, Fillmore on east, & Seneca St on south.

Federal requirements for local govt contributions brings us back to my question.

So wouldn't that leave the city govt/taxpayers as the funding source of its initial and ongoing yearly costs?

Or if not raising city taxes, should the city cut from current spending? Which departments?

(or maybe the city could use Kickstarter so expats can donate? lol)

No doubt this was an awesome thing 100 years ago before buses and cars existed, and labor costs were much lower, etc.

However now wouldn't it be pricey with low usage after the novelty wears off, and almost entirely redundant to bus routes we'd still also have to keep?

paulsobo
paulsobo

The Light Rail airport extension and the Beltway are the exact same track from the DL&W Station to the Central Terminal.

If you built the Light Rail to the Central Terminal then you would also have reactivated about 25% of the Beltway. Thats huge.

There is a difference between Heavy Rail which was the beltway and Light Rail which we have now. So they would either have to be separate lines or the beltway converted to light rail.

Either way....this would go along way towards attracting people back to the city. Particularly those who to young, to poor or to old to have a car.

Much of what is happening in Buffalo is along the UB extension, Airport Extension and Beltway. You just cant argue with that...and building those lines would only re-inforce that growth.

M-Rodgers
M-Rodgers

Love the idea of at least getting the tourist component started. And, you know my heart lies with the Terminal.

travelman
travelman

It could happen in smaller stages....

Why not start with a run that went from Central Terminal to Larkinville and the Waterfront Development and back again. Use it as a tourist attraction. I have been on a few Central Terminal tours and they are always packed. A tour could start with a breakfast and tour at Central Terminal, Lunch and shopping in Larkinville, a concert or dinner on the Waterfront and back to your car. Based on the result of this the redevelopment of another stage may then make sense...

townline
townline

It doesn't really go anywhere near any of those museums.

Jack
Jack

Yes, Central Terminal, ECMC, Elmwood (potentially really useful if Rocco's FWS & Grote St stimulate other projects there), and don't forget Larkin. Science Museum? The tracks are a little too far to the east, but a station and shuttle could work for that site.

Exchange Street Station? Actually, a few renderings I've seen of Canalside's Aud site show a "transit station" (that looks like it could be an entrance into a lower level access to the railroad tracks that would be right under it).

No new project is going to be cheap, but using existing railroad right of way is the approach many cities have found to be most economical when extending their transit systems.

r-k-tekt
r-k-tekt

Great idea, but......The NFTA actually constructed a turnout at LaSalle station to tie into the existing rail line heading out to Tonawanda across Kenmore Ave, Sheridan, Brighton...look where that is.

Rand503
Rand503

One more point. Am I correct in assessing that if this line were reconstructed, it would tie the museums on Elmwood with the Science musuem, so that they are just steps away from a station?

We could finally link many of our cultural institutions together for tourists and visitors. A shuttle bus from Kleinhan's to the nearest stop would be a short ride for people coming from around the city or Amherst. They could park at UB and take the current train, and then transfer to Beltline train, and then shuttle. That is stretching it -- easier by car. But parking has always been a problem at Kleinhan's, especially in the dead of winter.

The same can be said for those attending downtown conventions and theater, sporting events, or the Chippewa district.

Rand503
Rand503

And thanks for the link! It's difficult to find any info about the Beltway. I know at the History Musuem, they have a time table from around 1900 or so, and it shows trains arriving at each station less than ten minutes apart during rush hours.

Darwin Martin was known to walk to the Parkside station from his newly built house on Jewett parkway to the Larkin Soap company, which had a stop right by the factory. Talk about door to door convenience!

Of course, on his off days, he had his chauffeur drive him in his Pierce Arrow.

paulsobo
paulsobo

I'd support reconstructing a Buffalo landmark

Rand503
Rand503

Technically, there was and still is a station at the Central Terminal.

Although I'm not a fan of spending tons of money for mass rail transit in Buffalo, of all the crazy-ass ideas, this is the least crazy-ass. IN addition, to Paulsobos lists of benefits, I would argue that the construction of such a line wouldn't be terribly expensive and there is no eminent doman issues -- the line is already there. However, I don't know who owns it or who has the right of ways.

Second, it goes through established neighborhoods with feeder bus lines. It would not be difficult to reroute some existing bus lines to feed to the Beltline and we would have an instant all encompassing transit system.

Third, I like the idea of taking pressure off of building parking downtown, as people could park at the Beltway station and then ride to a variety of workplaces.

I am skeptical that the Beltline station would do much for development on the east side, but it could not hurt. Best of all, it might give a purpose to the Central Terminal.

And for that reason, I suggest that we find an all encompassing use for the Central Terminal and the Beltline railroad: Find a purpose for both and then try to obtain federal money to realize the vision. This would tie the CT back to the city in a way it was was built, and it might actually have a purpose.

For these reasons, I would not support a stand alone Beltway line being rebuilt, but I would support if it were tied to the redevelopment and reuse of the CT.

paulsobo
paulsobo

I've been espousing this for more than 20 years. If this is so unanimous then why can't we get it done.

There are 5 big things I like that the belt line allows

1. It would integrate ECMC with the downtown Life Sciences Campus. It could allow ECMC and UB to focus on Psychiatric and Sociological Sciences. IE an expansion of our life sciences campus.

2. Based on above, it would allow NYS Mental Health to move off Buffalo State to ECMC.

3. It would integrate Buffalo State and DYouville with the other Colleges creating a super Campus. Allowing all those duolicitive generic degrees to be more specialized to fill in the gaps Buffalo employers need without having to go outside Buffalo.

4. Both would go through the Central Terminal, supporting its reactivation

5. Larkin District would be included and both Galleria and airport would be just a few miles

JimB
JimB

I see the current Exchange Street Amtrak station was a stop on the Belt Line. If the Belt Line was ever revived, it would be a great opportunity to build an actual station, instead of the hut there now.

Jack
Jack

In 1986, Buffalo News music critic Dale Anderson wrote an article in Gusto that described a plan to integrate the Belt Line into the newly opened Metro Rail system (“The Belt Line: The old Belt Line railroad circling through Buffalo is still in use. Some even think it could be revived as part of our transit system.” Buffalo News 26 July 1986: Gusto 3.).

It was a wonderful fantasy--not totally unrealistic at the time. Unfortunately (despite being a major pack rat), I never saved a copy of the article.

Lego1981
Lego1981

With a reliable and useful transit line, we may be able to solve the issue of 'surface' parking over powering this city as less people would have to drive.

LouisTully
LouisTully

That's awesome! I never knew what that house was on Amherst and I've always admired it.

grad94
grad94

it would be -fantastic- to return passenger traffic to the belt line.

SoBlo
SoBlo

I've always been for re-establishing the belt line for mass transit use and expansion of the current MetroRail. I'm not completely familiar with all the exact bus routes the NFTA has in the city but I would have to think that this, combined with a rapid transit bus service like Cleveland implemented, would make the system much more efficient in terms of cost and service. I see so many empty buses criss-crossing the city that it would make more sense to concentrate efforts on a simple system that would actually entice people with vehicles to use for a variety of reasons.

If you reopened the belt line with those stations and put rapid transit bus services on most of the major east-west streets (Amherst, Ferry, Delevan, Walden/Best/Summer, Genessee, Broadway, William, Clinton, Seneca) you could connect the neighborhoods between the loop and main street spine of the rail system.

It would make the city more accessible to those relying on mass transit and open it up to those who want to use mass transit.

300miles
300miles

These tracks are still in use for commercial rail, correct? Any info about how they are being used today? What other rail lines does it connect to?

Matthew.Ricchiazzi
Matthew.Ricchiazzi

(apparently I clicked "submit" too many times... sorry for the double posting)

Matthew.Ricchiazzi
Matthew.Ricchiazzi

This would be awesome. The heavy rail is already there. Eminent domain or lease the rail lines, buy a few trains, and throw up some platforms. We could have a really impressive regional rail system (beyond this loop) on the cheep.

But look at how long it takes to get Brian Higgins on the right page with waterfront development (a harbor front park and removing the skyway took years of convincing).

I'm not sure that our electeds have the capacity to multitask...

How can we aggressively pursue public investments in a regional mass transit system?

Who thinks the NFTA does a good job of, well, anything?

Who thinks creating another duplicative layer of unnecessary government, like ECHDC, will speed things up?

I think 90% everyone on this website understands that mass transit is the direction we should go -- especially the repurposing of underutilized railways into heavy rail transit.

I hope that this conversation evolves into a discussion about how we go about achieving this....

... we could organize to hijack the WNY Development Council, to make the point that we want the $1 billion for Buffalo to go to mass transit, not the politically connected oligarchs of the region who are already rich and enjoying steady streams of taxpayer money...

Matthew.Ricchiazzi
Matthew.Ricchiazzi

This would be awesome. The heavy rail is already there. Eminent domain or lease the rail lines, buy a few trains, and throw up some platforms. We could have a really impressive regional rail system (beyond this loop) on the cheep.

But look at how long it takes to get Brian Higgins on the right page with waterfront development (a harbor front park and removing the skyway took years of convincing).

I'm not sure that our electeds have the capacity to multitask...

How can we aggressively pursue public investments in a regional mass transit system?

Who thinks the NFTA does a good job of, well, anything?

Who thinks creating another duplicative layer of unnecessary government, like ECHDC, will speed things up?

I think 90% everyone on this website understands that mass transit is the direction we should go -- especially the repurposing of underutilized railways into heavy rail transit.

I hope that this conversation evolves into a discussion about how we go about achieving this....

... we could organize to hijack the WNY Development Council, to make the point that we want the $1 billion for Buffalo to go to mass transit, not the politically connected oligarchs of the region who are already rich and enjoying steady streams of taxpayer money...

bobbyraz49
bobbyraz49

Once upon a time...Buffalo was a forward thinking city !

bobbyraz49
bobbyraz49

Thanks for the image.

Once upon a time Buffalo was a forward thinking city !

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