Convert the Amherst “Peanut Line” Railbed into a Multi-Use Trail
Convert the Amherst “Peanut Line” Railbed into a Multi-Use Trail
It is time for the Amherst portion of the former Canandaigua-Niagara Falls Railway, known as the Peanut Line, to be converted into a multi-use trail for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists. We request that the Planning Board proceed to draft this project into the Comprehensive Plan, and that the Executive Board take all necessary measures to initiate its development.
This is a new era of Western New York’s revitalization, buoyed in part by residents’ expectations to utilize publicly owned greenspaces for recreational activities, fitness, and commuting by bicycle. The strategic investments of Buffalo, the Tonawandas, Clarence and Akron into their pathways have provided great benefits to their residents. Data collected by Parks and Trails New York(1), the New York Parks & Conservation Association(2) and the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy(3) consistently demonstrate that many of the doubts held by those that are opposed to path improvements are removed once the paths are developed.
Established in 1853 as the Canandaigua-Niagara Falls Railroad, the line was acquired by the New York Central Railroad in 1858. Batavian Dean Richmond, president of New York Central, when asked about the Canandaigua-Niagara branch, replied that it was “only a peanut of a line” and the name stuck. Service was discontinued in 1939.
A 2018 survey issued by the Amherst Planning Board determined that 80% of respondents place recreational greenspaces as a top priority.
Improvement of the Amherst section will complete the Peanut Line path connecting Akron and Clarence to the east with the Tonawandas to the west. Trails east of the Peanut Line connect with the Canalway Trail heading across the state, and west to points northward to Niagara Falls and southward to Buffalo. Just this summer, the Niagara Falls City Council unanimously approved measures to fund and construct a Greenway trail connecting with the Tonawandas and Buffalo.
1. Property Value: A 2006 study showed that in Massachusetts, homes near rail-trails sold closer to the listing price and more quickly than those that were not nearby. In Apex, North Carolina, 40 homes adjacent to the regional greenway sold for $5,000 more than others, and were the first to sell. In a 2003 report, Indianapolis homes near a greenway trail sold for 11% more on average than others. In Boulder, 32% higher.
2. Economic Boost: Walking and biking residents, nearby town neighbors and tourists will patronize restaurants and other business located near a trailway.
3. Health and Wellness: Increased opportunities to walk, jog or bike regularly will improve the overall health of the Amherst community.
4. Safe and Environmentally Friendly Commuting: Commuting by foot or bicycle along an improved and protected trailway provides zero-emission transportation to schools, including Williamsville North and the UB Amherst Campus, places of worship, and athletic fields.
5. A Legacy for Future Generations: Real estate data shows that people want to live near trailways, and are drawn to modern municipalities that embrace them. Improving this trail now will add to Amherst’s sustainable growth and prosperity.
COMMON MYTHS DEBUNKED
1. “Crime and Vandalism” becomes “Safety in Numbers”: Crime rates per capita are no different along pathways than they are in other areas of a town. Police presence and the use of smartphones and bicycle cameras have increased safety in these areas. A report prepared by Los Angeles County(4) shows that the city of Vancouver found that crime rates are not affected by bike routes, as bicyclists, like automobile drivers, are headed to a specific destination and not likely to linger in any one spot.
2. “Loss of Privacy” becomes “Connected Communities”: The Peanut Line is a publicly owned and maintained path currently used for walking, jogging, cross country skiing, and even biking along the grassy terrain. Improving the trailway will facilitate the quick passage of users along the trail. Fences or shrubs are always an option and have already been installed by neighbors who wish to increase privacy.
3. “Drainage Concerns” becomes “Already on the Radar”: Several properties along the trail tie into sewer and drainage infrastructure that traverse the old rail bed. Compared to years past, the surrounding neighborhoods are now substantially developed, solutions are understood, and fall under the domain of Town engineers.
4. “Cost” becomes “Value”: The trail is already maintained by taxpayer supported Town workers. Long-term maintenance costs of an improved trail would be minimally impacted.
The times have changed. Past generations advocated for the Peanut Line trail in an era before NYSDOT and Erie County mounted initiatives to create safer thoroughfares and crossings along major routes. Not only are these “Complete Streets” principles gaining adoption, evidence of user demand is surging with routine public events including Slow Roll bicycle rides and others.
Any legacy pressure from area merchants opposed to mixed-use paths in their vicinity have also inverted, with establishments along the Peanut Line route already voicing support in advance of additional business from would-be patrons.
Even traffic concerns from earlier generations are seeing gradual, often unprecedented change. Through GPS routing apps, connected cars and eventual autonomous vehicles, former concerns of overwhelming traffic along major crossings can be more directly understood and mitigated.
This historic rail corridor is a publicly-owned community asset that must be made available for the enjoyment, health, wellness and economic prosperity of all Amherst residents and businesses. This can be our legacy for the future generations of residents that will demand access to healthy public amenities and thrive here when we are gone.
(1)New York Parks & Conservation Association, “Greenways and Trails: Bringing Economic Benefits to New York” Retrieved July, 2018. https://www.ptny.org/application/files/5914/3585/3053/economic_benefits.pdf
(2)Parks & Trails New York, “The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail” July, 2014. https://www.ptny.org/application/files/2714/4604/5359/Economic_Impact_of_the_Erie_Canalway_Trail_Full_Document.pdf
(3)Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, “Resource Library—Benefits of Trails” Retrieved July, 2018. https://www.railstotrails.org/resource-library/results/?collection=Benefits+of+Trails
(4) Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “Bicycle Paths: Safety Concerns and Property Values” August, 2007. http://www.brucefreemanrailtrail.org/pdf/LA-Metro-Bike-paths-safety-property-values.pdf