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.

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