It doesn’t happen often enough where residents can take a look at a project and any support for it and conclude that the powers-that-be in Niagara County and in Albany acted together to make it happen in support of the community’s best interest.
The Discover Niagara Shuttle is one such exception.
While an idea for a people mover that would allow residents and visitors to move between Niagara Falls and outlying communities and attractions was long debated, the arrival of the shuttle in 2016 finally turned the simple idea into a reality.
There is almost always a question, of course, about how to pay for such things.
In this case, local and state leaders managed to find a way by using a combination of funds from the New York Power Authority, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and, more recently, an authorized increase in local bed tax rates.
The latest effort to keep the shuttle moving involved passage of a pair of bills in Albany that will result in local bed tax being increased to help ensure the continued operation of the free transportation service.
Because the shuttle, which takes locals and tourists on a trail of 17 stops between Niagara Falls and Youngstown, is primarily used by visitors during the summer months, it makes sense to underwrite the service using bed tax revenue.
Bed tax is collected, primarily, from out-of-towners who are staying in local hotels.
There’s a lot of credit to go around here. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area continues to effectively oversee shuttle operations. Local governments have consistently supported its continued operation.
State lawmakers, including Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and assembly members Angelo Morinello, R-Niagara Falls, and Mike Norris, R-Lockport, advanced the pair of bills needed to raise the bed tax and keep the shuttle rolling.
There is even better news as plans are now in the works to expand the shuttle to the Lockport area, which will offer more of an opportunity for visitors and locals alike to venture outside Niagara Falls and see what else our region has going for it.
“It’s really important for Niagara Falls and the Niagara County region to have a sustainable source of revenue for this project,” said Sarah Capen, executive director for the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
Thankfully, leaders in this community, from the state level on down, appear to agree.
And why not?
“By bringing Niagara Falls tourists to Fort Niagara, the shops in Lewiston, the gorge, and now, the Lockport Locks, this bill will infuse tourist dollars into businesses across the county and give tourists a complete Niagara County experience they’ll be sure to tell their friends about,” Ortt said.
The Discover Niagara shuttle is a benefit to the community, especially during the tourism season, and it’s good to see local and state officials on both sides of the political aisle working together to not only keep it running, but to expand its reach.