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Thread: a few Downtown Buffalo, NY questions

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    a few Downtown Buffalo, NY questions

    This is a relatively picky question, but while doing some research on the Yellowstone Trail in the Buffalo, NY area (it took Main St through DT Buffalo), I found conflicting high-resolution images on the aerial photo websites. Since Main St is a transit-only 'mall' through the downtown area, I was looking at Washington St as a possible 'detour' around it, but one of the air image websites shows it striped as a two-way street (Google) while the other (Mapquest) shows it striped as a one-way street (southbound only).

    Which is correct (most recent)?



    Second, I note that Buffalo vacated and sold off several blocks of the streets radiating outward from the downtown area's central square. Is that decision(s) considered now to have been a mistake?

    Also, how is ridership on that rail transit line and in retrospect, was building it worth it?

    Mike

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    I believe the blocks you speak of my have been closed off for a 1970s concrete convention center. Definitely considered a huge mistake, not to mention its now considered out of date.

    Ridership on the Metrorail, per mile, is supposedly the best in the nation. I'm not sure where I read this but perhaps someone will come along later to back me up. Was it worth it? It certainly doesn't make money, but then again I don't think any transit system does. Keep in mind its only five miles and is incomplete. It was orginally meant to go to the University of Buffalo in suburban Amherst, but that never happened.

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Second, I note that Buffalo vacated and sold off several blocks of the streets radiating outward from the downtown area's central square. Is that decision(s) considered now to have been a mistake?
    Very much; it's now seen as one of the city's biggest planning mistakes, almost on a par with the UB North Campus, Lower East Side urban renewal, and the Niagara Thruway. Superblocks were a key element of Buffalo's 1971 downtown plan (written by Ian McHarg, believe it or not). It described the radial street pattern as "confusing", and recommended closing off all the diagonals, as well as some minor east-west streets.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery/data..._1971_CP_2.JPG

    Also, how is ridership on that rail transit line and in retrospect, was building it worth it?
    Armchair planners will say that the Metro Rail pedestrian mall on Main Street in downtown Buffalo was responsible for the decline of the street's retail businesses. Actually, it's a myth; the department stores along Main closed either because the entire chain folded (L.L. Berger, Hens and Kelly, Sattler's), or because they were bought out by a national chain, who eventually closed the downtown location because they "didn't do urban" (Hengerer's > Sibley's > Kauffman's, AM&As > Bon-Ton).

    Buffalo's Metro Rail has among the highest ridership per mile for any light rail transit system in the country. One problem, IMHO, is that the region has always been lazy when it comes to follow-through with public works projects. Metro Rail is built, and no effort is made to expand the system. Millions of dollars are spent on extensive streetscape and landscaping projects, which are never maintained after they are completed. Pocket and linear parks are built, and then forgotten. Wayfinding signage is erected, and the signs left to rust, with missing signs never being replaced.

    One problem with expanding Metro Rail is that the most logical paths for rail extension -- mainline rail corridors -- don't serve the region's most rapidly growing areas. Since Buffalo's founding in the early 1800s, population growth has always been strongest towards the northeast. However, mainline rail never connected Buffalo with Amherst, Williamsville and Clarence. Future rail expansion towards the northeast would have to be grade-separated, and thus extremely expensive. Rail lines to the east serve mostly industrial areas, with few residential neighborhoods within walking distance of any stations. There are plenty of lines to the south, but the Southtowns have always been the most sparsely settled part of the Buffalo region; any rapid transit service to Hamburg, Orchard Park and points further south wold probably receive very little ridership. There is a stub-out for a future Tonawanda line, but the NFTA is considering selling the parcel where the portal for the line would be placed.

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Very much; it's now seen as one of the city's biggest planning mistakes, almost on a par with the UB North Campus, Lower East Side urban renewal, and the Niagara Thruway. Superblocks were a key element of Buffalo's 1971 downtown plan (written by Ian McHarg, believe it or not). It described the radial street pattern as "confusing", and recommended closing off all the diagonals, as well as some minor east-west streets.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery/data..._1971_CP_2.JPG
    Thanx. Is there any near-term potential for restoring any of these streets?

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Armchair planners will say that the Metro Rail pedestrian mall on Main Street in downtown Buffalo was responsible for the decline of the street's retail businesses. Actually, it's a myth; the department stores along Main closed either because the entire chain folded (L.L. Berger, Hens and Kelly, Sattler's), or because they were bought out by a national chain, who eventually closed the downtown location because they "didn't do urban" (Hengerer's > Sibley's > Kauffman's, AM&As > Bon-Ton).

    Buffalo's Metro Rail has among the highest ridership per mile for any light rail transit system in the country. One problem, IMHO, is that the region has always been lazy when it comes to follow-through with public works projects. Metro Rail is built, and no effort is made to expand the system. Millions of dollars are spent on extensive streetscape and landscaping projects, which are never maintained after they are completed. Pocket and linear parks are built, and then forgotten. Wayfinding signage is erected, and the signs left to rust, with missing signs never being replaced.

    One problem with expanding Metro Rail is that the most logical paths for rail extension -- mainline rail corridors -- don't serve the region's most rapidly growing areas. Since Buffalo's founding in the early 1800s, population growth has always been strongest towards the northeast. However, mainline rail never connected Buffalo with Amherst, Williamsville and Clarence. Future rail expansion towards the northeast would have to be grade-separated, and thus extremely expensive. Rail lines to the east serve mostly industrial areas, with few residential neighborhoods within walking distance of any stations. There are plenty of lines to the south, but the Southtowns have always been the most sparsely settled part of the Buffalo region; any rapid transit service to Hamburg, Orchard Park and points further south wold probably receive very little ridership. There is a stub-out for a future Tonawanda line, but the NFTA is considering selling the parcel where the portal for the line would be placed.
    Very interesting.

    I certainly do hope that they 'keep their options open', but I also realize the incredible cost of building these lines and that the 'numbers' are likely not there yet for such expansions.

    What's the status of Washington St, the first parallel street east of Main St (one-way or two-way)?

    ----------------------

    Speaking of rail transit, I am still amazed when I look at maps of the electric powered rail transit network that the USA had 90-100 years ago. In addition to at least one 'trolley' line in pretty much any place with a couple of thousand or more population, at one time, likely about 1910 or so, it was almost possible to travel between NYC and points fairly deep into Wisconsin - entirely via electric interurban streetcars. There were only a few gaps totaling about 150 km, mainly in NE Indiana and NW Ohio, to prevent such an adventurous trip.

    Here in NE Wisconsin, it was possible to travel between Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac with a branch from Oshkosh to Omro, WI via electric interurbans, although there was never a connection built between that little 'network' and the lines into the Milwaukee area (which went as far north as Sheboygan, WI).

    It is truly fascinating and I sometimes wonder what they would look like today had the automobile not appeared. Precious few of those lines survive today, Including a couple in the Chicago area - the CTA's Yellow ('Skokie-Swift') line and the CSS&SB (to South Bend, IN) and the East Troy, WI railroad museum trackage between East Troy and Mukwonago, WI.

    Mike

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Speaking of rail transit, I am still amazed when I look at maps of the electric powered rail transit network that the USA had 90-100 years ago. In addition to at least one 'trolley' line in pretty much any place with a couple of thousand or more population, at one time, likely about 1910 or so, it was almost possible to travel between NYC and points fairly deep into Wisconsin - entirely via electric interurban streetcars. There were only a few gaps totaling about 150 km, mainly in NE Indiana and NW Ohio, to prevent such an adventurous trip.
    From about 1910 to 1922 it was actually possible to travel between Elkhart Lake (eastern Wisconsin) and Oneonta (upstate New York) using only continuous electric interurban lines for the entire trip. Of course, it would have taken a few days, and there were various layovers and transfers between 20-30 different interurban companies, but it could be done.

    Incidentally, that trip would have taken one through Buffalo along the way.

    There were some gaps in upstate New York that prevented going all the way to New York City.

    Here in NE Wisconsin, it was possible to travel between Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac with a branch from Oshkosh to Omro, WI via electric interurbans, although there was never a connection built between that little 'network' and the lines into the Milwaukee area (which went as far north as Sheboygan, WI).
    Connections were planned, some even partially surveyed, but ultimately none were ever built to link the interurban systems of southeastern Wisconsin and Winnebagoland/Fox Cities/Green Bay.

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