April 19, 2019
It’s about time that Downtown Buffalo embraced development that prioritizes people over parking. With free Metro Rail, frequent bus service, a growing network of bike lanes, and improvements to the pedestrian realm, enhancing access to Downtown hinges on multi-modal transportation options and dense, mixed-use development. By replacing dead zones of asphalt with housing and businesses, our city center will become a vibrant destination with buzzing sidewalks. Continuing business as usual will not do: Downtown Buffalo will never succeed by competing with the suburbs on the basis of parking.
As we announced in our previous post on transforming transportation, GObike is proud to be partnering with Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation to create a comprehensive transportation program for the foundational development 201 Ellicott, a forward-thinking mobility hub in Downtown Buffalo. A mobility hub connects people to multiple modes of transportation through real-time travel information and other amenities for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, ride-hailing services, car-share, bike-share, and more. Our previous post described how mobility hubs and commuter programs will help transform our transportation system to become accessible, sustainable, equitable, and aligned with regional goals. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has been leading the region in this arena through their GOBNMC program and capital investments on campus. In addition to serving as a mobility hub, 201 Ellicott is bringing 200 units of affordable housing and a fresh food market to Downtown Buffalo. This increases the residential supply by over 9% in a district with the highest demand for affordable housing, according to the City’s 2017 Housing Opportunity Strategy.
The 201 Ellicott development will be located on a currently underutilized site in the heart of Downtown between the Central Library and the NFTA’s Metropolitan Transportation Center. It is underutilized because vehicle storage on a surface lot is a poor use of prime Downtown real estate. The project has sparked some opposition because it is replacing a 375-space surface parking lot with a mixed-use building that provides 29 parking spaces for market customers. This concern is based on the misperception that Downtown has a parking shortage, and that this project would exacerbate it. In fact, there is a glut of parking in Downtown Buffalo. A recent Downtown Access Study by Buffalo Place found a surplus of over 4,250 publicly available off-street parking spaces in Downtown Buffalo during peak hours. Accounting for the impact of future development over the next five years (including 201 Ellicott), the surplus will still be over 2,900 spaces. There is also a surplus of on-street parking, and the City of Buffalo’s new Downtown Access Parking Plan (which we strongly support) will create over 500 new on-street parking spaces throughout Downtown, while increased meter rates will improve turnover and availability of parking for visitors. Already, 115 new curb parking spaces have been created near Canalside.
About the Mobility Hub
201 Ellicott will be the Buffalo Niagara Region’s first mixed-use residential Mobility Hub, connecting tenants and visitors with a variety of mobility services. The location is both walkable and bikeable, with a Walk Score of 87--Very Walkable and a Bike Score of 78--Very Bikeable for most trips (see how Walk Score works here). Ample indoor bicycle storage with a repair station will be provided for the development’s residents, while outdoor bicycle racks will be available for visitors to the fresh food market. The mobility hub will pursue becoming a bikeshare hub host as a part of a grant application submitted for Downtown bikeshare expansion.
The mobility hub is easily accessible to bus and rail, with a Transit Score of 70--Excellent Transit. It is a quick stroll to both the Lafayette Square Station and Church Street Station for the Metro Rail, which travels for six miles along Main Street from Canalside to the University at Buffalo South Campus, with interim stops at major employment centers such as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The development is also close to eight bus stops serving over 30 bus routes, and is adjacent to the NFTA Metropolitan Transportation Center, a hub supporting local, regional, and national bus transportation by carriers such as Coach USA, Greyhound and Megabus. There will be a transit shelter built into the development on Ellicott Street, which will include a screen with real-time transit information and messages about other mobility options. The mobility hub is a 10-minute walk from the Buffalo-Exchange Amtrak station, with daily service to west to Niagara Falls and east to Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and New York City.
201 Ellicott will include amenities for both car-sharing and ride-sharing. Initially there will be one car-share hub occupied by Zipcar, one of the country’s leading on-demand car-sharing networks, with a potential second car to be added based on demand. One car-share vehicle removes up to 13 personally-owned cars from the road, and 54% of Zipcar members got rid of a personal vehicle after joining the car-share network. For added convenience, the design will also accommodate a pick-up and drop-off area for ride-sharing services.
While the design of 201 Ellicott prioritizes people over cars, existing parking supply in Downtown Buffalo provides ample accommodations for tenants and visitors who drive and park. The mobility hub is within a 5-to-10 minute walk of several commercial parking lots and garages and hundreds of spaces in excess of current parking demand.
Finally, through membership to Go Buffalo Niagara, all residential and commercial tenants of the mobility hub will be provided with commuter benefits, including guaranteed ride home, discounts to GObike and Reddy Bikeshare memberships, a tenant mobility portal, and personalized assistance.
Join Us in Support
GObike Buffalo supports the 201 Ellicott Mobility Hub as it contributes to our vision of an active mobility culture within connected, and sustainable communities. With the mobility hub’s focus on affordable housing and fresh food access, it aligns strongly with our collective efforts having a positive impact on wellness, our environment, our streets, and our economy. Please show your support for this important project by attending the upcoming public hearing with the Buffalo Planning Board today, Monday, April 22, at 4pm in Buffalo City Hall Room 901.