Both tourists and local residents will have free access to more than a dozen attractions along the Lower Niagara River when a new two-year pilot project gets underway for the summer and early autumn months.
The Discover Niagara Shuttle will open on Thursday, May 26 and offer daily runs, from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., until October 19.
A fleet of four vehicles - two trolleys and two buses - will travel to 14 stops along a 14-mile course. The shuttle stops include: Old Main Street, the Niagara USA Official Visitor Center, Third and Old Falls Streets, Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Niagara Falls Train Station, Whirlpool State Park, Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, Niagara Power Project Power Vista, Central Business District of the Village of Lewiston, Lewiston Waterfront, Village of Youngstown and Old Fort Niagara.
"These connections will broaden the transportation network visitors will have to connect to the cultural, natural and historic attractions within the National Heritage Area," said Sara Capen, executive director of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
The shuttle provides complimentary wi-fi and bicycle racks and Capen added that the vehicles are handicap-accessible. The service is free to users, but Capen explained that tickets are required to board. Those tickets, she explained, will help organizers track how riders are utilizing the service so they may plan improvements. Those tickets can be acquired at area hotels and other tourism partners. More details are available at Discover Niagara's website.
A large last of government and tourism officials were present at the Power Vista Friday for the ceremonial introduction to Discover Niagara Shuttle. One by one, they hailed the service as a means to provide easier access to numerous local offerings.
Assemblyman John Ceretto stated that most tourists spend about two days at most in Niagara Falls, then leave. One of the desires of this shuttle project is to encourage longer stays by making it easier for visitors to see more sights.
"We have the hiking in the gorge. We've got beautiful restaurants, and Youngstown and Lewiston, the Jet Boat, and Fort Niagara, and the Power Vista which they're redoing and is going to be beautiful," said Ceretto. "We're going to make it easier for them to go visit and they're going to stay here longer."
Speakers also pointed out that the shuttle may give many local residents an opportunity to discover a waterfront they may not have previously appreciated.
"Growing up here in Niagara County, and Western New York, I remember when I was 16 years old and a teacher in school said something about Western New York being a waterfront community. And I remember thinking to myself, it is?" said State Senator Robert Ortt. "At that point, the idea that you would go down to the waterfront and just have access to it seemed foreign to me."
It once felt that way for many in attendance. So, too, did the notion that they would never see such development in their lifetimes. Both attitudes have changed and elected officials promised that more is on the way.
"The time has arrived. Our best days are immediately ahead of us," said Congressman Brian Higgins.