BUFFALO, N.Y. -- State and city leaders say plans are already in the works to ease the congestion experienced this past weekend when an estimated 100,000 people visited Downtown Buffalo.
Some drivers waited hours trying to get into the City and find parking. Most ventured to Canalside to see the world's largest rubber duck.
Sam Hoyt, regional president with Empire State Development, said Canalside leaders are already working with the New York State Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority to better communicate traffic flows to drivers and "spread out" some of the incoming vehicles.
Hoyt said better communication is also needed in terms of informing drivers about open parking areas.
"We have lots of surface parking lots that are less than a block away that people just aren't aware of and aren't necessarily using," Hoyt said, referring to the Sabres lot to the east of Key Bank Center that was barely used on Sunday. "So we need to do a better job communicating about the parking availability."
City leaders are also doing a post-mortem to see what short-term changes can be made to ease congestion.
Long-term, spokesperson Michael DeGeorge said several projects are in the works. For instance, the City is working with the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council on a study to specifically look at the traffic situation in and around Canalside. That study started about 6 months ago, DeGeorge said.
City leaders also believe a couple of projects already in the works will help improve the traffic flow: cars return to the lower portion of Main Street next year, and construction is ongoing to make Pearl Street a two-way road.
DeGeorge also said the city is exploring possibilities to add more parking spots near the waterfront.
Leaders at all levels of government are quick to encourage the public use mass transportation, including the light rail.
The NFTA has two park-and-ride locations along the metro rail line. The LaSalle Station parking lot has 732 free spaces, and just to the north of there, the University Station at UB South has another 312 spots.
Drivers can park in those lots, pay a small fee and ride the metro rail all the way to the stop right near the Central Wharf.
Hoyt said he does not believe any additional exits are needed off the Thruway, and he doesn't believe removing the Skyway would have any positive impact on Downtown event traffic and parking. He says communication is the best fix.
Part of that communication will include new "wayfinding" and directional signage along the waterfront. Empire State Development put out an RFQ, or a request for qualifications" to find a company to develop a signage system. The state expects to approve the winning bid in October.
"We need to do a better job communicating what the parking opportunities are, what the public transportation opportunities are and directing people so that we minimize the congestion," he said. "We take seriously the concerns, but we're thrilled with the popularity of Buffalo's waterfront."