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NFTA bus routes to Bills games in the works

They are running a $5 special for stadium trips.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bills games for fans and stadium staff may soon only be a bus ride away with new plans from the NFTA.

2 On Your Side spoke Monday with a transit authority manager and a county lawmaker who has pushed to make this happen.

There apparently will be a so-called "soft launch" for this Saturday's 1 p.m. home preseason game against the Denver Broncos as NFTA buses actually carry fans to and from the stadium.

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NFTA Director of Public Transit James Morrell says, "It's a premium fare. It's going to be $5 each way. And individuals will pay that on the bus or we're looking at the possibility of also using our token transit app but we're not certain yet."

Morrell says they are still in discussions with the Bills organization and the Erie County Sheriff's Office, which currently blocks off Abbott Road in front of the stadium, but he says this regarding a passenger drop-off point near the stadium on Abbott.

"They've been wonderful to work with in terms of trying to get us as close to a point as possible so that individuals don't have to walk too far. But then also be able to pick them up and know exactly where to get picked up."

Again details are still being worked out but Morrell expects there will be different express bus routes with planned pick-up points at seven locations.

They include the main downtown Buffalo bus terminal on Ellicott Street, the transit hub in the Black Rock -  Riverside neighborhood, the University Station park, and ride, Thruway Mall in Cheektowaga, Athol Springs in Hamburg, along with the Eastern Hills Mall in the Amherst - Clarence area and McKinley Mall in Hamburg.   

Morrell says they hope more fans will use this park and ride option as time goes by to alleviate some of the traffic at the stadium. That may especially be important as actual construction begins on the new stadium with its footprint expected to use some current parking lots. Then after the new stadium opens in 2026, there could be some parking capacity issues until the old stadium is demolished to potentially create new lots.    

Morrell says there will be more bus runs from the downtown Ellicott terminal for two different groups of riders. "One to provide service for individuals that are seeking employment out there to work game day services as well as the fans. So individual trips that would arrive several hours before game start and then just an hour or so before game start."

The transit agency says its ridership surveys spurred this move to provide game-day stadium service. 

But some politicians pushed for this transit access even as a previously stated goal of the Community Benefits Agreement is now being negotiated between county lawmakers and the Bills. 

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin spoke to us about her efforts as well as those of State Senator Tim Kennedy. She pointed out that both county and state funding go to the NFTA. 

"I do think it is a consequence of actually productive conversations that I've had with NFTA. I know that I've been passionate about seeing more accessibility to Bills games...starting to capture that data and looking at what it's going to take for transportation to be improved." 

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