‘Connect Niagara’ hits the road early next year

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Sept. 26—The reorganization of Niagara County’s bus service is expected to be finalized early next year according to County Department of Public Works Commissioner Garret Meal.

“We hope to establish the system at the very beginning of 2023,” Meal said. “We don’t have a firm date yet, though.”

Plans for county bus service include a rebranding from “Niagara County Rural Transportation” to “Connect Niagara”, to emphasize its coverage outside of rural areas. It is also looking to increase ridership and have wider and more effective coverage of the county.

“Connect Niagara” would also have a smartphone app, along with monthly rate plans and rate reciprocity.

The county held two public hearings in August to get feedback on what the public might expect from the new roads. Meal said Lockport’s audience contribution was minimal and Niagara Falls’ audience contribution was more about bus traffic in and around the city, which is primarily handled by the NFTA. Despite this, Meal said that so far there has been no negative feedback on the new route proposals.

It will be the first time in more than a decade that the county bus service has changed its routes. A notable change to the routes is that Barker and Somerset will have bus coverage, which they currently do not have.

Meal said the routes have not yet been finalized, but the most up-to-date route map can be viewed by the public at tinyurl.com/2p8kw7vx.

“We are moving the plan forward with these routes, but refining them slightly,” Meal said. “We will also offer timetables, as bus timetables interact between both our system and the NFTA system.”

Meal said most of the route changes that have been made to the ministry’s plan since the hearings were announced have been minimal. The changes mainly concerned the placement of stops along certain routes.

“There were very minor changes,” Meal said. “The routes themselves are the same as we’ve shown throughout. We just put in a few stops near a senior center or municipal facility here and there.”

Meal praised the NFTA in particular for its cooperation with the DPW in helping determine which routes will not cause frequent overlaps.

“The NFTA has been a huge help to us in developing the whole system,” Meal said. “We’re really trying to take full advantage of their help so people can use our two systems together and greatly expand the availability of public transportation in the county.”

The remaining issues that Meal hopes to address are ensuring that information about the bus service can be properly seen and understood by the public.

“Once we finalize the schedule, we will want to get this information out to the public so they are aware of the new system and how it relates to the NFTA, and how the public can best use it,” Meals said.

Connect Niagara’s new logo is also yet to be defined.

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