Redeveloping Downtown: Transit Options Canalside-Cobblestone

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) is evaluating the potential expansion of its metro-rail service; a 6.4-mile light rail line that runs from downtown Buffalo to the University at Buffalo’s  South Campus.

dlwSince before its original debut some 30 years ago, Western New York residents have been talking about extending the line four additional miles to the University’s larger North Campus.

Accordingly, an ongoing study to evaluate options to do just that, Transit Options Amherst, has generated wide interest and support. That report is expected to be complete by the end of 2015 and issue a preferred alternative for expanding the line north.

Receiving considerably less publicity, but also significant, the NFTA is evaluating the southern terminus of the rail line for a possible extension to the Buffalo’s Cobblestone District. In partnership with the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) and Empire State Development (ESD), NFTA has engaged consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct the Transit Options Canalside-Cobblestone to examine extension possibilities at the southern terminus of the line.

The Canalside-Cobblestone study will evaluate a short-term extension of the line onto the former DL&W terminal with the following goals:

  • Enhance overall transit access throughout the Canalside & Cobblestone districts
  • Facilitate the reuse & reactivation of the DL&W terminal
  • Provide the capability to extend metro rail service beyond the Special Events Station

NFTA_Cobblestone_altAAdditionally, during the stakeholder and public forums hosted on October 15, the project team also highlighted the importance of considering a possible extension in the context of supporting redevelopment of the district’s properties. Immediately adjacent to the DL&W terminal, there are nearly 30 acres of surface parking lots, currently serving the First Niagara Center and HSBC Bank. These lots represent significant potential for new private development, building upon the preliminary success of the Canalside and Cobblestone Districts.

The study has identified two alignment and station alternatives for extending the line to the DL&W terminal. Alternative A establishes a new alignment along South Park Avenue, utilizing the existing track 4 on the outside of the terminal as well as a new track, encroaching upon the city right of way. The station, in this scenario, would be a standalone platform structure with the ability to connect up to the terminal’s second level and provide a pedestrian bridge across to the First Niagara Center. The advantages of this alternative include potential 24/7 access to the station, regardless of the operations of the terminal, no need for modifications to the terminal and a close proximity to the First Niagara center and potential development sites.

NFTA_Cobblestone_altBAlternative B internalizes the track alignment to the terminal, utilizing existing rail rights of way and train bays. The station platforms would be located on the west side of the terminal and take advantage of a location near the Buffalo River for amenity and café-type developments. Modifications to the terminal would be required to build the station and provide second floor access to First Niagara Center, in addition to moving existing storage track within the terminal.

This project represents a great next step towards redeveloping downtown Buffalo and building a multi-modal transit-oriented city.

To view more details about this project and provide comments to the NFTA, please visit:

Canalside and Cobblestone districts
Amherst and Buffalo corridor
Erie and Niagara counties