Re-Imagining the Metro Rail
Looking for old articles on Crossroads Arena reminded me of something I was working on a while ago where I re-imagined Buffalo Metro Rail signage according to NYC standards. They turned out pretty well, even if with our one line they weren’t as visually informative (confusing) as MTA signs. I had multiple variations made for the Special Events station that lets off at the arena with the different names that had been used over the years, along with a generic Downtown one. The same was done with the Seneca Street stop and Pilot Field through its current Downtown Ballpark designation, and I got a good response to one for the closed and now demolished Theater Station. But until I started looking into the background of the arena project it didn’t even occur to me to make a Crossroads.
Currently I’m working on a variation of the Metro Rail signage according the K-D-R standard that found widespread implementation by the CTA beginning in 1977 on Chicago’s L. These are boring too, when they get translated for Buffalo. The design itself was meant to be simple, easy to read and uncluttered. And it is, but when Chicago’s signs feature directions for the Red Line Loop to South Side connections and all we have to boast is the end of the line at University Station, uncluttered becomes boring.
But in making these variations I can’t help but think of the stunted light rail system we have now, lacking in the grand scale of the original project that would have seen lines extending into the northern suburbs and even up to Niagara Falls. The Metro Rail officially opened in May 1985 after six years of construction that was behind schedule, over budget and just generally pissing everyone off. The additional lines never found funding because by then the city population was steadily declining and the fear was that no one would be around to use the existing Downtown to South Campus line.
The original proposal shows several stations beyond South Campus, including UB North Campus and extending into Amherst. The Tonawanda branch would have included six stations and extended into North Tonawanda. These Phase 2 extensions would have tripled the size of the Metro Rail. Consider the fact that our 22 minute long 6.4 mile single rail line right now serves over six million people a year. What would it mean for ridership for Amherst or Tonawanda residents going to a Sabres game or a concert at Canalside? Not to mention the people working Downtown and living in the Northtowns, or vice versa.
There have been numerous proposals and studies over the years to expand the Metro Rail line, from suggestions of connecting the airport with the Church Street Station to former UB president John B. Simpson planning to connect the three UB campuses with a cohesive transportation system, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus supporting expansion of light rail to feed their growing development, and perhaps most importantly (or most tangibly) the reconstruction of Main Street to integrate light rail and two-way traffic.
Developers are embracing the city’s past at Canalside, building on its present with the Webster Block, and bio-tech research is redefining our identity for the future. What if we could connect Western New York? What if Tonawanda, Amherst, and the airport, with all of its local and visiting travelers, all fed into the heart of downtown Buffalo along Main Street?
While we foam at the mouth for any development in our area to prove that Buffalo isn’t out of the game yet, it may come at a price. Over thirty years ago the original proposal for the light rail was made. The physical resources were there for those lines, and by that I mean the space, the real estate. But for how long? It’s time to finish what was started when they broke ground in 1979 and in doing so connect everything that we’ve accomplished since then in rebuilding our city.