Light rail for WNY

With the fiasco of the Fast Ferry and the looming failure that is Renaissance Square, it’s likely not the best time to be talking about new money-pit projects for western New York.

But one issue that has always mystified me is why there has not been a more intense, or at least more vocal, push for extended light rail and commuter rail in the area.  I’ve talked to many local and state legislators about it over the past few years, and the answers given have been hollow and unsatisfying.

The Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Albany corridor is stuck in a death-spiral of economic stagnation, yet connecting them via a robust commuter system would let businesses tap into a regional workforce rather than merely local ones.  And that’s not even mentioning the additional boost that connecting such a system to the NYC/Hudson region would bring.  Add in connections to Canadian rail via Toronto and Montreal, and the BUF-ROC-SYR-ALB corridor could thrive.

I’ll admit I’m not up on the economics of the situation, or the administration of such a system (private vs. public), but in my mind the largest obstacle is the running joke that is NYS government.  On a local level, I think getting Bob Duffy1 and Byron Brown together to talk about such a system would be a good start.  Add a couple of business leaders like Tom Golisano and Bob Davis to the conversation, and something might come of it.

I can only imagine that there are hundreds if not thousands of workers and jobs that are separated in cities only 60 minutes from one another upstate.  So we have the fuel.  How can we not want to build an infrastructure to get that economic engine running at full throttle?

  1. Who is my neighbor, BTW; I think I’ll actually mention this to him next time he’s walking his dog by my house. :-)
posted 8/23/08 at 10:35am to Local, Politics · 2 replies · »

2 replies to “Light rail for WNY”

  1. Rick Marshall said:

    As someone who lived and worked in Albany for many years (including a lot of newspaper work covering state and local government), I’m not sure I would categorize Albany as being in a”death-spiral of economic stagnation” – but I definitely agree that a better commuter system between the regions you mentioned would be quite a boon.

    Unfortunately, Albany seems to be devoting all of its time and money on the ridiculous idea that a convention center is all they need to turn Albany into Manhattan. It’s like that whole “Buy a Monorail” episode of the “The Simpsons.”

    I wrote about it a while back for Metroland, the alt-newsweekly for the Capital Region, if you’re interested:

    Aug 24, 2008 at 1:23pm
  2. Tony said:

    Sorry Rick – I really shouldn’t have mentioned Albany in that sentence. My economic statements apply specifically to Western NY, and I was talking about the entire Thruway corridor merely as part of the larger point of connecting a stagnant BUF/ROC region to the rest of the state.

    Edits to follow for better parsing and clarity. Thanks for keeping me sharp. ;-)

    Aug 25, 2008 at 10:22am

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