CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is expecting a spike in ridership for its Buffalo to Lancaster Route #46 when the new Walmart Supercenter on Walden Avenue opens next month.
“We added 12 trips on Saturday, and 11 trips on Sunday,” said NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer, “knowing that this was going to be a very, very popular route.”
But as things now stand, those riders would be getting off the Metro bus out on Walden Avenue, and those who ride the outbound #46 Metro buses would have to cross 6 busy lanes of traffic.
Hartmayer said NFTA officials asked for permission to use the store’s parking lot to drop off passengers, but Walmart officials said no.
Walmart’s refusal to allow buses onto store property recalled a tragedy more than 20 years ago that took the life of a teenager. She was killed while trying to cross Walden Avenue to get to work at the Walden Galleria.
Cynthia Wiggins, 17, the mother of a toddler, was struck and killed by a pickup truck, after a Metro bus let her off in the street because snow was piled up on the sidewalk.
The Walden Galleria was accused of discriminating against inner city riders—the #6 bus route came from Buffalo’s East Side—and mall owners (and the NFTA) reached an out-of-court settlement with Wiggins’ estate for more than two and a half million dollars.
Now Hartmayer says, the NFTA has come up with a new plan that would allow buses to use the far east end of Walmart’s property designated for delivery trucks.
“Which is where the delivery trucks actually travel–turn around, pick up, drop people off, right at the east end of the store, and then the bus would travel out towards Walden Avenue.”
Because many of the Route #46 riders come from Buffalo, Common Council President Darius Pridgen has asked Walmart to allow the buses.
“I don’t want to be in a battle with Walmart. This is about lives,” Pridgen said.
Pridgen believes Walmart officials should use the example of the Walmart at the Thruway Plaza—which will be replaced by the new Supercenter–where there is a shelter for NFTA riders, although Walmart does not own the property.
“The bus goes right onto the property. It might not go up to the front door, but it goes right onto the property. So they were used to having that access.”
Other elected officials are also turning up the heat on Walmart. State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, whose district includes parts of Buffalo and Cheektowaga has written a letter to Walmart’s CEO, asking for reconsideration of the Metro bus decision.
Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski is also appealing to Walmart to admit the buses. Hartmayer said, a local Walmart representative has taken a look at the NFTA’s latest proposal, and officials are more optimistic than ever Walmart might allow the buses.