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JULY 14 - JULY 22, 2015

No Contracts With Amtrak, Tour Companies To Occupy, Use New Train Station Here

By Mike Hudson

JULY 14, 2015

Will a train station really become a tourist attraction?

Buffalo–Niagara Falls Congressman Brian Higgins joined Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster Monday morning for a fairly massive photo op and press event meant to call attention to the new passenger train station the mayor is building on Whirlpool Street.

Rumors of a contract with Amtrak to use the station, tour buses and Greyhound bringing hordes of visitors with suitcases full of cash, an Underground Railroad museum and other nonsense clogged the airwaves.

“The existing station is an old freight station in a freight yard miles from the downtown area," Dyster told a television interviewer. "Now you're going to have a tourist attraction in the station itself."

Actually, the new station is closer to the falls by only a few hundred feet. Both are located about two miles from the state park and the downtown tourism corridor. And despite the mayor’s optimism, it is unlikely that many tourists will come to Niagara Falls to see his new train station.

"There will be buses, tour buses, trolley passengers and bicycles and skateboards riding at the new train station," said Dyster.

Currently, there is no contract between Amtrak and the city to use the new facility, which is costing the taxpayers $43 million. Any contract would have to be approved by the city Council, and nothing has been presented to them yet.

There is little likelihood Amtrak will be renting the entire 22,000 square foot building in any event. The heavily subsidized passenger rail line’s policy is to rent just enough square footage needed to service the passengers using the station, currently fewer than 100 a day.

The new station is about 10 times larger than what Amtrak would require based on those ridership figures.

But what of the tour buses, what about Greyhound? Some might ask.

Currently, tour buses coming to Niagara Falls employ already existing lots downtown, primarily those of the Seneca-Niagara Casino, Smokin’ Joes downtown attractions and the One Niagara building located at the state park entrance. Why they would choose to dump their paying passengers off two miles away and hand them the added inconvenience and expense of taking another bus to get to where they actually want to go – to see the Falls - is a question no one has addressed, much less answered.

And as with Amtrak itself, the city has no contract with any bus company to use the obscenely expensive new station.

Little was said of the Underground Railroad museum, which was once heralded as the centerpiece of the project. More than $1.7 million has already been handed over to the city’s Underground Railroad Heritage Commission, though what has been done with it is anybody’s guess.

No artifacts have been known to have been acquired, no exhibits have been commissioned and an expensive study failed to turn up a single historical site anywhere in the city that could be indisputably linked with the activities of the Underground Railroad.

Higgins said that the $44 million investment is expected to spur public and private sector growth.

“The combination of the two hopefully will result in record investment in Niagara Falls," Higgins says. "In addition to all the other projects going on, this is arguably the greatest waterfront in all the world. The problem is people in this community have been denied access for so long."





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