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Buffalo Must Have a "5-Minute Ferry" From Central Wharf to North End of Outer Harbor

5-minute ferry pictureIf you can make your transportation infrastructure picturesque, do so. If you can make your public transportation friction-less, do it. If it can connect people to line-of-sight destinations, do it.

Vancouver does it. Not one, but two, ferry companies provide 5-minute headways to Granville Island from downtown Vancouver, a 3-minute ride. Together, an amazing 2-1/2-minute headway on this one route. One literally can go to the dock and immediately board a waiting ferry anytime between 7:00am and 10:00pm.

Yes, we have a bicycle ferry and a new ferry landing. It just doesn’t operate frequently or long enough. And it ain’t picturesque. On weekends, there are long lines waiting to board at either end, and waits can be long. We need extra capacity and much more frequency on weekends than the current ferry can handle. Conversely, on weekdays, sometimes the large boat (49 peopke and bikes) can seem under-utilized. More, smaller ferries solves those issues. And cuteness counts. That is part of the value—how far and wide images of the ferry and Buffalo get diseminated. Google “Granville Island Ferry” to see what we mean. The transportation becomes an icon.

The ferry of choice in Vancouver is from off-the-shelf plans of naval archictect Jay Benford of the Benford Design Group,2 either a 12- or 24-passenger vessel. The smaller vessel can be constructed for about $80,000. One operator has also created a simple but photogenic Aquabus to facilitate bicycle, stroller, and wheelchair travel. Frequency of service is very important in public transportation. With up to 12 trips an hour, the hourly capacity per vessel ranges from 144 (12-passenger ferry), to 288 people (24-passengers).

Two vessels operating at 5-minute headways could transport almost 600 people per hour. They can load and unload from either side Such a ferry service would reduce demand for Outer Harbor parking and automobile use, and funnel people through downtown Buffalo and the Inner Harbor.

One can imagine future expansion with point-to-point crossings from LaSalle Park to Erie Basin and from Erie Basin to the Buffalo Lighthouse. A useful public service and a busy, festive, friendly public image. Mobility for all. The ferry gets able-bodied citizens, and maybe our bicycles across.

What about that elderly, the physically challenged, or the parent with small children in tow? Or a group of friends that meet up and decise on some spontaneous exploring? A small fleet of low speed vehicles (LSVs) and electric scooters should be available at the ferry and the Buffalo Harbor State Park. Also in the Canal District and points north along the Shoreline Trail to the Tonawandas). Golf carts, often modified, are fixtures in resort communities nationwide, and more LSV options pop up every day. Polaris, better known as a maker of snowmobiles, has a much-improved version of its electric car, known as the GEM. Estrima, has a brillianty conceived vehicle, the Biro, that weighs less than half of the GEM and is less than six feet long and only 3’5” wide. Bicycles are longer and almost as wide.

Check it out: Ideally, users could use public transportation swipecards to operate the vehicles, which would be limited to perhaps 12-15mph. Passes could be purchased from a machine on site, just as in a public bicycle rental program. Like the small ferries, the electric vehicles could themselves become objects of Instagrammic adoration.