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Do not forget key element in tourism transportation

The recent News article about plans for developing recreational attractions along the Niagara River misses an important element of successful Niagara River Greenway development: public transportation.

Attractions without public transit mean more vehicular traffic and more parking lots, and these detract from the very park-like and natural setting we are trying to achieve. And, more important, it further hurts the environment.

But a larger point about The News article needs to be made. A vision of a Niagara River Greenway that encourages tourists to spend more time here needs to be bigger than just between the north Grand Island bridges and Devils Hole; it needs to encompass our entire regional waterfront that extends from Fort Niagara to Buffalo; with Lewiston, Artpark, and the real Erie Canal at the Tonawandas in between. This waterfront, when connected with clean, convenient transit, will be the greatest waterfront in the world, one that will take days to explore and experience, and one that will build memories for a lifetime.

The first step to achieving this vision can be as simple, and low cost, as bus rapid transit or priority bus between Niagara Falls and Fort Niagara and the rerouting and promoting of existing NFTA bus service between Niagara Falls and Buffalo. A couple of lanes of the Robert Moses Parkway can be retained to support bus rapid transit as far as Lewiston. Future enhancements can be electrically powered trolleys or light rail with connections to commuter rail between the new Niagara Falls International Amtrak Station, now under development, and a new rail station in Buffalo. Visitors from Toronto can also take advantage of these connections. When Niagara Falls had an electric trolley along the gorge in the early 1900s, the trolley itself was one of the most popular tourist attractions.

We call on planners of expanded attractions in Niagara Falls to include public transit in the plans. And we ask them to consider the larger goal of a regional waterfront attraction connected by green transit as the ultimate goal, a vision that will benefit the whole region.

Douglas Funke

President, Citizens for Regional Transit

Amherst