In an effort to stave off projected cuts in service and routes, State Sen. Mark Grisanti  has started an online drive to convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo  and other Albany leaders to free up $10 million in emergency aid for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
Grisanti started his effort following last week’s decision by the NFTA Board of Commissioners to adopt a 2012-2013 budget with major reductions to 57 bus routes. The agency is grappling with a projected $15 million budget deficit. It might lay off as many as 170 workers.
The route cuts won’t take place until April 1, when the NFTA starts its new fiscal year. A series of public hearings about the proposed cuts are set for late January at various Erie and Niagara County locations.
Reduced state and federal funding, along with rising costs, are the primary reasons for the projected deficit.
The NFTA’s bus and Metro Rail lines are expected to serve between 29 million and 30 million riders by the end of its current fiscal year on March 31.
Earlier this fall, the NFTA sought $10 million in emergency aid from Cuomo, but to date has been rebuffed. The authority is also seeking an additional eight megawatts of low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority.
Currently the NFTA receives one megawatt of low-cost hydropower from the power authority, while New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority receives 98 percent of its power from NYPA’s hydropower allocations.
Grisanti said the online petition drive, which he hopes to present to his fellow Albany lawmakers, may be enough to secure the emergency aid and low-cost hydropower sought by the NFTA.
“If we want to be open for business in New York, then we should not be cutting vital services that bring people to these businesses for work or for stimulating the economy.” Grisanti said. “Western New York has a loud voice, and by signing our online petition, we can show the governor and other lawmakers in Albany how important it is to not cut our bus services.” In 2009, the state approved a $2.26-billion rescue plan for the MTA. The plan includes a $250 million state aid allocation to the MTA in the new state budget.
“The NFTA’s request for $10 million in deficit reduction assistance and eight additional megawatts of low-cost NYPA power is reasonable and equitable in comparison,” Grisanti said.
The petition can be found on Grisanti’s homepage and Facebook page.