I see that train a comin'... Advocating for a train station at the Central Terminal in Buffalo

Our nations history often follows the track of innovation. Railroads helped to build this country. There was a time where we relied on them to carry people, food, raw materials…etc. There was also a time where travelling by train was actually seen as glamorous. In our modern society however, it seems like we have fallen off the tracks. I think its easy to see why train travel isn’t always selected as a first choice: It’s fairly expensive, it isn’t the fastest option, routes are sometimes lacking or don’t offer enough trains, and schedules can frequently be unreliable.

Here in my hometown of Buffalo, we have two Amtrak stations. One station sits out in the suburbs and is fairly busy – I’ve been here a few times as a passenger. The other station I personally have visited once…and only once – years ago. It resides downtown off the beaten path behind our baseball stadium. When I went there, it was to pick up my sister who was visiting during the summer. I didn’t have a car at the time, and my sister didn’t have a cell phone (again this was at least ten years ago!). The station? It was closed. There was literally no one around, and no place to wait. It was hot and her train? It was delayed nearly three hours. I had also drunk too much coffee as per usual, which made the experience all the more enjoyable! >_<

Since then, I’ve essentially acted as if we only have one Amtrak station. Our downtown station is wildly inadequate. It’s inaccessible and in my opinion, it’s unsafe. There’s no place for people to escape the weather (be it hot or cold), no access to bathrooms, and no security. There’s no way to know if a train is delayed, or early. Nada. To make matters worse, recently, the station was damaged during a heavy rain and they announced that the station was closed until further notice….I would argue that it comes from neglect…

Now it might seem like a rather strange story to share here on my blog, but when I heard of a recent proposition to build a new train station, I had to share my thoughts. The dire reality that is our current train station has been a frequent topic of discussion between my sister and I. She really loves trains, and I really like history so we often find ourselves passionately discussing what we would do in terms of our transportation woes in this area (among other things!). 

The recent discussion regarding building a new station comes as no surprise. Buffalo has been steadily picking itself back up after years of economic challenge, and is more vibrant and alive than ever before. With the success of Canalside, it’s not at all surprising, that anyone would want to increase accessibility to our downtown region, for both natives and visitors alike. Our current station is an embarrassment, especially in contrast with the many great things that have been happening here. So when I heard that Brian Higgins was suggesting we need to build a new station, I ran to my computer to find out more!

Higgins is advocating that we consider building a new station now, rather than later. Apparently, the two primary locations being considered are Canalside and The Central Terminal. In my opinion, this is a no brainer. The Central Terminal was a train station!!! The same architect who worked on Grand Central Station designed the gorgeous art deco building! The Central Terminal was built for the New York Central Railroad and served as a station for over forty years from 1929 through 1979. Now? It sees some tours, some odd parties and otherwise sits…. waiting for it’s second chance. There have been talks, about utilizing the building for living space, shopping, office spaces, etc. But for some reason, the idea of utilizing a train station, as a train station has largely been absent from the chatter.

The idea of building a station by Canalside is not a horrible idea, but in my opinion, it’s nearly insulting when we have a historical building just lying in wait. The Central Terminal resides away from the main downtown area, which could help to keep traffic congestion at bay. The terminal could even be used as a traffic hub; with busses and taxis (*cough* *cough* Uber?? *cough* *cough*) ready to service residents and visitors alike.

The Central Terminal and Grand Central station are almost like cousins… it would be great if we looked at Grand Central as an inspiration. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pick up a coffee from a café, grab a paper from a newsstand and then board your Amtrak train to New York in a gorgeous 1920s art deco facility??

In today’s reality, you can only stand outside waiting for your train and hope it doesn’t rain…or worse: snow.

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