Yesterday at 10 am, a mere 24 hours after the politicians and local media welcomed the first Amtrak train to the new Niagara Falls International Train Station, Intermodal Transportation Center and Customhouse Interpretive Center (“NFITSITCCIC”), we dropped in to snap some photos. The morning after, so to speak.
First impression is that the building is huge, with very high, cathedral-like ceilings. It’s going to cost a fortune to heat. The new train station is reminiscent of the Wintergarden, that used to span Old Falls Street next to the defunct Rainbow Center Mall. One of the reasons given for razing the Wintergarden was that it cost too much to heat the place.
As we previously examined in the pages of the Reporter, Amtrak classifies stations as follows: large (>400,000 riders a year), medium (100,000 to 400,00 a year), caretaker (20,000 to 100,000) and shelter (<20,000).
By definition, an Amtrak “shelter” typically consists of a platform, a bench or two with a canopy overhead, lacking any amenities whatsoever, in the middle of a rural village or cornfield.
According to Amtrak published figures, Niagara Falls had a 2015 ridership of 31,354, down from 32,598 in 2014. That would put it at the lower end of the “caretaker” category. If 10,000 or so fewer passengers were to board or disembark the train here, the Niagara Falls train station could be rated a “shelter”.
In fact, an optimistic Tom DeSantis, the City Planner, once hopefully stated that ridership may one day top out at 50,000, which is still 50,000 short of the next station grade up.
A Caretaker station such as the new Niagara Falls Intermodal Center is not required by Amtrak to have any of the following features: parking, taxi access, transit or bus access, restrooms or a drinking fountain, any kind of ticketing (agents or automated), passenger information staff or display, security including local police camera surveillance, vending or retail, all of which are, or are planned to be, elements of the new facility. Not to mention, it doesn’t have to be a $43 million behemoth of a structure.
$43 million is about half of the city of Niagara Falls’ annual budget.
Think of the taxes that could’ve been lowered, the police and firefighters hired, the streets paved and the water bills reduced.