From the Morning Memo:

The state Senate Democrats will hold a hearing in Buffalo today regarding New York’s transit network – the fourth of five such hearings being held statewide.

Meanwhile the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is already thanking the chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, and the governor for an increased focus on the authority this year.

Both the executive budget and the Senate one house budget resolution call for an increase in operating assistance. The Senate’s measure also calls for an 18.7 percent increase for NFTA, $6 million for preliminary work on the Buffalo Metro Rail’s expansion into Amherst, and $100 million for improvements to light rail systems outside of the downstate MTA service areas.

“We appreciate Senator Kennedy for recognizing the critical role that Metro bus and rail service has in our community and how important it is in the re-development of the city of Buffalo and Western New York,” NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel said. “Adequate funding for public transit is an absolute necessity for our entire community and for the thousands of riders who count on us each day.”

As the state looks to invest to fix New York City’ crumbling subway system, upstate lawmakers have vowed to make sure their communities get their fair share of funding, too. Kennedy said he has fought for capital funding for Buffalo’s Metro Rail – currently the only light rail system outside of the MTA – for years.

“The Senate’s proposed budget makes a strong statement as we enter negotiations with the Executive Branch and the Assembly on our final budget,” Kennedy said. “It makes it clear that the Senate Majority is making Upstate and Western New York a top priority. As negotiations move forward, I’ll fight to maintain the highest levels of funding possible for our local transportation needs.”

Minkel plans to speak at today’s hearing. Leaders will take other testimony on transit in Western New York as well.