By RAY SPITERI Niagara Falls Review
A decades-old dream for some politicians and tourism officials became a reality after city council unanimously approved a 10-year agreement with the Niagara Parks Commission for a new people-mover system.
The decision was made during a special council meeting held at city hall Thursday.
Parks commissioners have already ratified a draft agreement.
“This is something the stakeholders want, the routes they want,” said Coun. Wayne Thomson, who was mayor when the idea for some form of people-mover system was first discussed in 1980.
It has gone from a monorail system to the current rubber-tired project approved Thursday.
“This is not something a consultant has submitted,” said Thomson. “This is something our (business improvement associations) have wanted, which will support the lifeblood of this community, tourism.”
The $50-million project, officially called a Visitor Transportation System, but has come to be known as a new people-mover system, is expected to shuttle tourists around parks commission and city properties in a “seamless” and “integrated” fashion.
The system should be operational next summer.
The cost is being split between Ottawa and Queen’s Park.
It will include three routes, as well as several drop-off and pickup points.
The parks route, known as the green line, will run between Table Rock and the Victoria Ave. and River Rd., intersection.
The city will have two routes.
The red line will cover the Fallsview area, as well as Lundy’s Lane, down to Garner Rd.
The blue line will take passengers from Victoria Ave., through the downtown core and will include treks past the Scotiabank Convention Centre and Marineland.
Janice Thomson, interim chairwoman of the parks commission, said improving and upgrading its existing people-mover system has been a priority for the parks commission for many years.
“The service we have provided to the tourism community over the past 26 years has been a tremendous success. However, over time our fleet has started to show its age, it is not accessible and does not fully connect with properties outside of our park,” she said.
“This new agreement and service will alleviate these concerns.”
About $19 million will be spent on 27 buses — 16 buses for city routes and 11 for the parks commission route. The city will own all of the buses and lease some to the parks commission for $1 per vehicle. A bus shelter and maintenance building will also be constructed. It is proposed to be built on Stanley Ave., near Thorold Stone Rd.
The city will manage, operate and maintain the red and blue lines. The parks commission will manage, operate and maintain the green line.
The parks commission will pay the city $1 million annually, which will go towards the operating costs associated with the red and blue lines.
There will be four ticket kiosks on parks commission properties and six owned by the city.
There will be one kiosk at Union Station in Toronto and one at the Go/Via station in Niagara Falls.
Retail tickets will be sold for $10 per person and will be good for two consecutive days. Transfer between lines will be at no additional cost.
Tickets will also be made available to BIA members at a price of $2.50 per ticket, provided the tickets are offered only to guests, visitors and tourists, and are packaged with a hotel room or another service with a value no less than $40.
“No agreement is perfect,” said Coun. Vince Kerrio. “It has been a tough battle getting to this point. But I think we’re going to have a great system.”
Supporters of the project say, like other world-class tourist destinations, Niagara Falls has long needed such a transit system.
They say the system could eventually be expanded, possibly with different technology, serving new areas and attractions.
“From this point forward, we will be proud to invite visitors onto a seamless, efficient transportation system that will enhance their experience of Niagara Falls, while at the same time helping to eliminate congestion and pollution,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.
“The (people-mover system) will extend the boundaries of the tourist area to service many attractions, restaurants, accommodations and shopping districts for our guests. I call it a giant win for our destination.”