Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center
The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center was built to replace the Greyhound Terminal at 672 Main St. and the Trailways facility at Pearl and West Huron in Buffalo, New York. In 1947, it was recommended that a central bus terminal be built in Buffalo by the temporary Niagara Frontier Rapid Transit Commission. In 1970 a study was conducted for the feasibility of a central bus terminal, funded by the New York State Department of Transportation. The feasibility report provided a projection of preliminary uses and space requirements that would be adequate through a 25 year design period, incorporating both transportation and non-transportation uses.
The New York State Legislature authorized and granted funds for the NFTA to build a Metropolitan Transportation Center on April 19, 1970. In September of 1972, the Authority’s Board of Commissioners approved contracts for real estate appraisal and soil testing of the site and architectural design leading to site demolition and clearance in December of 1974. Preliminary plans located on the block bounded by Eagle, North Division, Ellicott and Oak Streets were presented to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority by the architectural firm Cannon Design, formally known as the Cannon Partnership. The contract for the Transportation Center’s construction was signed on January 31, 1975 for the 15,000 square foot concourse and 55,000 square foot, eight story office tower building design.
The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center represented a major element in Buffalo’s redevelopment and represents New York’s commitment to the improvement of transportation in the area. The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center was described as a “hinge building” by Cannon Design (“Architects Call Terminal”) at the heart of physical regeneration in Buffalo. Suited to handling more than 800,000 passengers a year, the building was designed to be the epicenter of the city’s commercial passenger service. Although construction was delayed during the winter months due to Buffalo’s January 28th blizzard (known as the Blizzard of ’77) and severe winter weather conditions the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center was opened in the summer of 1977.
The building is located in downtown Buffalo and occupies the full block bound by E. Eagle St, Oak St, N. Division St and Ellicott St. The site is rectangular in shape and surrounded by the Buffalo & Erie County Library to the north, on grade parking to the east, Eagle parking ramp to the west, bus parking to the south and Fireman’s Park to the southwest. The building design is broken into two different distinct elements; the horizontal terminal at grade and the vertical eight story office tower on the north end of the site. The exterior materials of limestone panels, gray solar glass and black aluminum plate reinforce the concepts of solid and transparency and the bold juxtaposition of the two in this international style building.
From the north the building appears solid and monumental towering eight stories high. Its façade is made of limestone panels with one horizontal strip window spanning the eight stories appearing as a dark void with gray solar glass and black aluminum plate. On the north end of the west façade, protruding from its rectangular footprint, single story limestone panels funnel toward the fully glazed doors nestled within limestone walls and canopy, above which spans a horizontal band of limestone across the entire building footprint with an eight story limestone wall rising from the north end. Inlaid within the fold of the raised “L” shaped limestone band sits the eight story grey solar glass and black aluminum plate clad office tower. The limestone band houses the concourse structure, mechanical equipment and provides a protective overhang to the glass walls of the concourse around the east, south and western perimeter.
On the interior, the idea of transparency is continuously carried out throughout its design with a substantial use of glass on the 15,000 square foot concourse level. Floor to ceiling glass walls are used all around the concourse giving passengers a direct view of incoming and departing busses. The two story concourse structure is exposed revealing 140 foot long trusses cantilevering to both the east and west, providing 30 feet of covered passage to all the buses and taxi standing area to the south. Above the trusses are clerestory windows along the building perimeter and a series of triangular skylights that run east to west along the length of the building allowing for an abundance of light within the space.
The office tower is comprised of 55,000 square feet of virtually open space with all enclosed spaces pushed toward the interior to allow for maximum flexibility of the partition free plan and minimize obstruction of views to the exterior from the within the space. The office tower, limestone and glass on three sides, aimed to reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling systems and introduce nature into the space by designing all windows to be operable. The Buffalo Metropolitan Center was the first building in Western New York to use taut-skinned aluminum plate, found on the eight story office tower.
The construction contract for the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center was signed on January 31, 1975 with construction beginning two months later. By the following winter, construction was restricted due to Buffalo’s harsh winter conditions. By March of 1976, construction was about 42% completed with work being limited to interior installation of the electrical system and heating and air conditioning systems until the break of spring. After bearing two winters through construction, the terminal was opened to the public in the summer of 1977.
181 Ellicott St. in located in the Buffalo Central Business District which is bound by W. Tupper St. to the north, Michigan Ave. to the east, the Buffalo Rover to the South and S. Elmwood Ave. to the west. This location was chosen due to the desire to connect the terminal as much as possible with the fabric of the Buffalo Central Business District. At the time of its proposal, there were preliminary plans for a pedestrian mall development along Main St, just two blocks from the terminal. A second proposal for transportation through Buffalo was also under investigation by the New York State Department of Transportation. A high-speed railroad passenger train was proposed connecting New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo with possible expansions to Cleveland and Toronto. Based on the findings of the feasibility report, a downtown station would be the most desirable location.
The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center is the first use of taut skinned aluminum plate in Western New York. It also deviates from the design trend of fixed windows of the period with all windows being fully operable. This design reduces the dependency on mechanical heating and cooling systems while simultaneously creating a stronger connection with the outdoors.
Located in the heart of downtown Buffalo, the Buffalo Metropolitan Center was intended to symbolize the rebuilding of a once thriving city. At the time of its construction, Buffalo’s population had been decentralizing leaving a smaller, poorer population in the city center. Creating a city wide rapid transit system with a central bus terminal located downtown was projected to create an increase in the daily number of trips to downtown, where 15 percent of the total jobs in the region were still located (Goldman 271). The Metropolitan Transportation Center, funded by New York State, represented a commitment to the improvement of transportation in Buffalo and Western New York. The terminals bold design represented a city of confidence. The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center was a building for the public looking toward the future, with NFTA advertising the slogan “Routing for you.”
While some found the bold design of the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center to represent the confidence of the redeveloping city, others were not as impressed with its modern design. A former employee of Cannon Design, Brian Brady, describes the experience of the new terminal as “not lyric, but efficient, the metaphor not stage sets but machines,” in comparison to the romantic experience of the DL&W Terminal built in 1917 in an article published in the Buffalo Currier Express on July 3, 1977. He describes the building as a “machine to load buses” designed for the function of drawing in passengers, separating them from their luggage and placing them onto buses. Brady also counters the idea that the concourse level made of glass created a link to the surrounding streets, unifying pedestrian and vehicular traffic by pointing out that visual connection at eye level is broken by buses. While the bus station was embraced as an eloquent example of modern architecture by many, others believed in the need for something more picturesque.
The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation center was considered a fitting example of Modern Architecture at the time of its construction with its simple facades, rectangular geometries and abundance of natural light. The terminal was welcomed with open arms with the ideology that it was to be the precursor of a revitalized Buffalo. With such a heavy social agenda the terminal gained attention from the local press appearing in the papers multiple times throughout its construction process. Upon its completion it was recognized as successful example of modern architecture.
Although built the late 1970’s, the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center is still clearly identifiable with the Modern Movement. While the terminals physical embodiment may still barely be older than a generation, its conception predates construction by over a century ("History of Transportation”). The Metropolitan Transportation Center is potentially at risk of complete exterior and interior renovation. In 2009, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority applied for funding from the TIGER Grant Program competition. The NFTA believes that with the location being qualifying as an ARRA Economically Distressed Area and 28 percent of the population living in poverty, redesigning the Metropolitan Transportation Center and adding more retail tenants is necessary in order to increase economic activity downtown and promote regional use of the public transportation system. If granted the funds to complete this project, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority risks significantly altering the substantially intact original design by a complete renovation according to preliminary studies and designs already considered having local and state support.
"Architects Present Plans for Bus Center." Buffalo News 14 Aug. 1973: n. pag. Print.
"Architects Call Terminal 'Hinge Building' to Help Downtown Regeneration." Courier Express [Buffalo] 26 June 1977: C-9. Print.
Brady, Brian. "NFTA Terminal Fails to Excite Architect Claims." Buffalo Courier-Express 3 July 1977:
Dearlove, Ray. "Transport Center to Open Monday for Public Viewing." Buffalo Courier-Express 26 June 1977: C-9. Print.
Goldman, Mark. "The 1970s: A Decade of Loss." City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2007. 270-75. Print.
"History of Transportation Center Can Be Traced Over 100 Years." Buffalo News 25 June 1977: A8. Print.
"New Buses Arrive for Suburban Runs." Buffalo Courier-Express 19 Mar. 1976: n. pag. Print.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Transpo Center: Downtown Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center Pre-opening Inspection and Dedication Ceremony, June 27, 1977. Buffalo: Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, 1977. Print.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The Metropolitan Transportation Center Renovation Project. N.p.: n.p., n.d. PDF.
Schifferie, Ron. "Transportation Center Near Completion." Buffalo Courier-Express 13 Aug. 1976: n. pag. Print.
Steele, David. "Then and Now: Buffalo's Bus Stop." Buffalo Rising. N.p., 1 May 2013. Web. 16 May 2014. .
Voorhees, Alan M. The Financial Feasibility of a Metropolitan Transportation Center in Downtown Buffalo: New York State Project 5585.01: Prepared for Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. S.l.: Voorhees & Associates?, 1970. Print.