Niagara Gazette — Local residents often ask why Niagara Falls is building a new train station (a complex to exceed $40 million) when so few people ride trains anymore.
While they may not be taking the train to the Cataract City, there is solid evidence that Amtrak passenger volumes continue to rise in New York state, especially in upstate communities. If indeed the numbers for Niagara Falls are as low as some argue, then perhaps the city and its official tourism agency need to expand their marketing and promotion strategies.
Bruce B. Becker, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, is optimistic that construction on the new Falls station could begin later this year now that the prolonged dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians has been resolved. That settlement released some $85 million to Niagara Falls, the city’s long-delayed share of casino slot machine money.
It’s true that few visitors arrive or depart daily at the Amtrak Station off Hyde Park Boulevard. Those figures are in sharp contrast to the passenger volumes reported in Buffalo (Depew) and Rochester, where the contract for a new station could be awarded this fall with construction completed in 36 months. That project is destined to take longer because of extensive track removal and related work. Becker is confident the improvements will make the trains even more appealing to those traveling in and out of Rochester where the passenger count is up 90 percent in the past five years. Overall, in the same time frame, ridership is up nearly 50 percent across the state.
At this point, no one is predicting a sharp resurgence in train travel only because of a new station in the North End, but it shouldn’t hurt to have better accommodations for the passengers that they now have at a converted Leigh Valley freight house a few miles from downtown Niagara Falls.