Sunday 31 August 2014

Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls is one of the best-known, and most visited, sights in North America.

The falls are situated on the Niagara River, which marks the border between Canada and the United States of America through this area.  There are two towns called Niagara Falls, facing each other across the river.  I visited the one on the Canadian side of the river in July 2014.

Niagara Falls, in Ontario province, has developed into a tourist destination with numerous attractions for visitors.  The town has two bus networks.

The WeGo network, launched in 2012, is designed to cater for visitors.  The core network comprises four routes - Red, Green, Blue and Purple.

Red, Green and Blue are operated using articulated buses.

Although operating as a unified brand, two operators are involved in the WeGo network.  The Green route is operated by the Niagara Parks Commission.

Blue, Red and Purple lines are operated by Niagara Falls Transit.

Notice that, unlike the buses on the Green route, the destination is displayed in the appropriate route colour.

Thsi display alternates between showing the route name (e.g. Blue Line) and the destination.

Unlike the Red, Green and Blue routes, the Purple route is operated with standard single-deck buses.

The Purple line operates into downtown Niagara Falls, which is away from the main tourist attractions.


All four routes serve a hub at Table Rock, very close to the falls themselves. 

There is also an Orange route, which provides an connection from the northern terminus of the Green route onward to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, on the shore of Lake Ontario.  The Orange route does not venture into the tourist heart of Niagara Falls.

The Red route operates from early morning until around midnight.  Other routes start operating from around 10:00.  Operating hours and frequencies are increased during the peak holiday months of July and August.

There are no single fare tickets on the WeGo network.  In 2014, the cheapest available ticket was $7, permitting unlimited travel on WeGo services for 24 hours.  There is also a 48-hour ticket for $11.50.  Since the network is geared very much towards visitors and leisure, weekly and longer period tickets are not available.

As well as operating three of the WeGo routes, Niagara Falls Transit also operates the town's second bus network.

On Mondays to Saturdays, fourteen routes numbered 101 to 114 serve the needs of Niagara Falls' residents.

Most routes run hourly, although three (including the 104 illustrated here) are half-hourly.

I only saw standard single-deckers in use on the Niagara Falls Transit local network.

During the evenings and on Sundays, a different route pattern is operated with eight routes numbered between 203 and 214.

Unlike the WeGo network, single fares are available on the Niagara Falls Transit network.  A $2.50 single journey ticket is valid for a 60 minutes, allowing unlimited transfers within that time.  Passengers holding single journey tickets can also transfer onto the WeGo Red route.  Local residents can also buy $2.50 tickets on the Red route, with proof of address.

WeGo tickets are also valid on the Niagara Falls Transit network, while the Niagara Falls Transit monthly pass is also valid on the Red, Blue and Purple routes of WeGo (but not the Green or Orange routes).

A small number of bus routes links Niagara Falls with the surrounding region.

Niagara Region Transit operates services to the neighbouring towns of St. Catherines and Welland.  The St. Catherines service operates from Target Plaza, an out-of-town shopping centre.  Connections from downtown Niagara Falls can be made using Niagara Falls Transit services.  The Welland service currently starts from Niagara Falls bus terminal, in downtown Niagara Falls.  This route will also transfer to the Target Plaza from September 2014, no longer serving the downtown area.  Images of the Niagara Region Transit vehicles can be found on the Bus Drawings website.

A longer distance service links Niagara Falls with Burlington station, operated by GO Transit.  At Burlington, the bus connects with GO Transit train services to and from Toronto.

The bus service is limited stop, with an end-to-end journey time of around an hour and a half.  Single-door, three-axle double deckers are used on some journeys.

In Niagara Falls, buses terminate at the downtown bus terminal.  From there, the main tourist sights are around 30-40 minutes' walk, or a ride on a WeGo bus.

The GO Transit bus also stops at the junction of Stanley Avenue and Highway 420, which is around 15 minutes' walk from the tourist sights.


Double-deckers don't operate all journeys on GO Transit's Burlington to Niagara Falls service.  Coaches are used on some journeys.

GO Transit's fares are based on a zonal system.  All day tickets are available, at twice the cost of a single fare.  In 2014, an adult all-day ticket from Toronto to Niagara Falls costs a little over $35.

Niagara Falls is also home to some better-known double deckers.  Vintage red Routemaster double-deckers retired from service in London operate a daily tour of Niagara Falls.  In many other towns and cities, sightseeing buses run regularly through the day on a hop-on, hop-off basis.  The Niagara Falls tour is different, operating once per day from April to October, departing at 11:00 from Table Rock.

As well as buses, Niagara Falls is also home to a short funicular railway.  The Falls Incline Railway links Table Rock with the Fallsview area above.

Separate fares apply on the Falls Incline Railway.

Boats operate on the Niagara River, from piers on each side of the river.

The image on the right shows the pier on the United States side of the river, while the Canadian pier is in the image below.  However, the boats do not provide a cross-river ferry service.

The boats take their passengers for a close-up view of the falls.

Boats from the Canadian side of the river are operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises, while from the United States side the operator is Maid of the Mist.

Passengers on the boats are provided with waterproof ponchos to protect against spray from the falls.  On the Canadian boats, the ponchos were red while on the boats from the USA, the ponchos were blue, making it immediately obvious which country the boat was operating from.

The boats operate during the tourist season.

The Rainbow Bridge (image below) links Niaraga Falls (Canada) with Niagara Falls (USA).  As this is an immigration and customs point between the two countries, there is no local public transport service across the bridge although pedestrians can walk across (for a small toll).

For the record, the local bus network on the United States side of the river is provided by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.  On this occasion, however, I didn't cross into the United States.

Sunday 17 August 2014

What is a "wide continental boulevard"?

Updated 28th February 2015

Are articulated buses are suitable for use in my home city, London?  Or anywhere else in the United Kingdom, for that matter?  This is a topic which has been hotly debated in some circles.

I started this blog in 2012, partly to create an online resource to which I could refer when debating on e-mail and internet forums.

Articulated buses were introduced to London from Summer 2002.  By 2006, they were operating twelve of London's busiest routes, running at high frequencies.  Following a change of Mayor, however, the articulated buses were progressively withdrawn from service.  The last one ran in December 2011.  They were generally replaced with double-deckers, but double-deckers carry fewer passengers.  Frequencies were increased in most cases, requiring more buses and raising costs although, in many cases, overall capacity was still lost.  Pay more, get less.  An unusual policy.

One oft-voiced criticism of articulated buses was that, while they were OK in mainland Europe where they operated on "wide continental boulevards", they were unsuited to London (or other UK cities) where city streets are narrower and more twisting.  Or so it was alleged.

I'm going to put this to the test.  What does a "wide continental boulevard" look like?

This one, in the centre of Munich, is a good example, no?

OK, maybe that one is a bit extreme.  And I will concede that it is definitely "continental", so it does achieve one of the three.

Here are plenty more examples of articulated buses operating on what are probably best described as "city streets", rather than "wide continental boulevards".  OK, I guess these are continental city streets.  Where do I start?

From Aachen...


... to Zagreb.

From Scandinavia in the north, where articulated buses operate in cities such as Trondheim (right) or Malmö (below),...

 the Iberian peninsula in the south, such as in the Spanish city of San Sebastián,...

...and the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.  These images from Split (left) and Rimini (below)...

... and the Canary Islands, such as here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:

From Brussels, the seat of the European Union...

 cities such as Lausanne (left) and Basel (below) in non-EU Switzerland.

Around corners, such as in Hamburg (right), or Vienna and Basel (below)...

... and around roundabouts, such as this one in Köln.

Diesel-powered articulated buses, such as in Liège (left) or Rostock (below), are common...


...but some cities are also home to articulated trolleybuses, such as Budapest (left) and Geneva (below).

If articulated buses really are more suited to "wide continental boulevards", how do they cope with temporary road restrictions?

Quite well, it would appear, if these examples in Budapest (left) and Bordeaux (below) are anything to go by.

Do articulated buses have to stick to busier roads, even?  Take a look at these examples and decide for yourself.

These examples are from Strasbourg,...





...and Hamburg.

Hamburg doesn't stop at articulated buses.  It is one of several European cities where I have found bi-articulated vehicles.

Do these vehicles, nearly 25 metres in length, confine themselves to "wide, continental boulevards"?  The image to the left suggests not.

But surely I didn't find them in the same narrow street, about to take the same tight corner, as the articulated bus in the above image?


Yes I did!
Another charge levelled against articulated buses is the danger they (allegedly) pose to cyclists.  One reason for removing them from London's streets was it was claimed they had caused may cyclists to be killed.  In fact, it later emerged that the number of cyclists killed in London in collisions with articulated buses was... none.

Here in Hamburg, articulated buses and cyclists appear to be co-existing happily.

In the Netherlands, a country where the number of journeys made by bicycle is high, articulated buses can also be found.  

Utrecht is one of a number of Dutch cities where articulated buses operate.

Utrecht also has bi-articulated buses.  As well as cyclists.

And is that street really a "wide, continental boulevard"?

You will find articulated buses in part-pedestrianised shopping areas, such as in Wuppertal,...

...Geneva (left), or Liège (below).

Articulated buses are quite at home on narrow streets in older cities, too, such as Salzburg...


...or Ljubljana.

Articulated buses can also be found on the streets of smaller towns.  These examples are in Dachau,...


...Vaals, on the Dutch-German border (although the bus is from Belgium),...

...and Baarle-Nassau on the Dutch-Belgian border (these images are quite literally on the border!)....

Articulated buses operate in more rural settings too.

This one is leaving Buchs, in Switzerland's St. Gallen canton, heading into Liechtenstein.

These are just examples, from some of the places I have visited over recent years.  But maybe I should look beyond continental Europe.  Are things any different over on the other side of the Atlantic?

New York is in some ways a newer city than many of its European counterparts.  Manhattan's road network is a grid, with wide Avenues running on a north-south axis crosses by streets running east-west.

The streets do appear less wide, however once you reach Lower Manhattan.  This doesn't appear to pose a problem for articulated buses.

Vancouver, in western Canada, is another relatively new city having been founded in the late 19th Century.  Like New York, the street pattern is based on a grid.   Yet are all the streets "wide boulevards"?


I will finish on the streets of London - London, Ontario, that is.  When I visited, there was not a double-decker to be seen anywhere on London's streets.  But there were articulated buses.

Does this look like a "wide boulevard" to you?