Comment 87491

By Jesse (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2013 at 18:43:06

There are a couple inaccuracies in this article that I would like to correct, as a citizen of Buffalo.

Buffalo Metro Rail runs above ground in the downtown pedestrian plaza zone in the central business district. It goes underground as it leaves downtown and runs as a subway the rest of the way to its terminus at the city line. It was originally planned as the reverse - subway downtown and elevated rail in the rest of the city - but was changed late in the design process. This was done partly because of the high water table downtown, but also because of NIMBY issues, with residents protesting against elevated rail, which they viewed as unsightly.

The zoning code is a little more complex. There was a "Transit District Overlay" added that covers the blocks immediately surrounding the subway stations (not even the whole street), and removes some of the more egregious suburban form requirements. In practice, it frequently not been enforced, with variances given out to just about anyone who asks.

In the next year, we will be adopting a new comprehensive rewrite to the zoning code (dubbed the "Green Code") that puts a solid emphasis on walkability, mixed use business districts, and high quality urbanism. The drafts look fantastic, but of course it will all come down to enforcement. The difference of course, is that at least you will need variances in order to create sprawl-oriented designs, whereas now you have to jump through hoops to be allowed to create decent urban buildings.

I will say that even as truncated and underfunded as it is, Buffalo's rail line is a success. The single 6 mile rail line carries about 1/5 of the ridership of the entire regional (two county) public transportation system.

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