Sean Ryan adds to criticism of NFTA following cuts to bus services (WGRZ)

Originally published in WGRZ

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Earlier this week, local lawmakers and riders confronted the head of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, baffled by the cuts to bus services, while receiving over $150 million in funding.

On Friday, State Senator Sean Ryan added his voice to the outrage.

The NFTA says it had to cut down on express routes and some nights and weekend service to keep the remaining buses running on time. They pointed to a driver shortage.

Senator Ryan on Friday said the problem with recruiting those drivers is because of the low pay. One rider directly called out the head of the NFTA, Kim Minkel.

"I think she's completely out of touch," Denise Barr, an NFTA bus rider, told 2 On Your Side. "I think she doesn't understand anything about what it is for me to have to get into a place like here today and get back home.

"I think she has no idea what it is to ride a bus, and I still want to know why they're making six figures a year, and they can't pay their workers a living wage."

Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Local 1342 Transit Union, added: "We had one gentleman who was driving para-transit. He started working, and then he quit because he said at $16 and hour, his 16-year-old daughter makes more than he does."

Ryan said more needs to be done by the NFTA.

"If they tell you it's impossible, we can't get new drivers, that they couldn't possibly pay more, that wages are dictated by the market, don't believe them because it's not true," Ryan said.

In a news release Friday, the NFTA said the average driver earns more than $60,000 a year, and that it has a 93 percent retention rate.