Niagara Falls People Mover: Environmental Assessment and Economic Analysis


Since 1985 the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) has operated a rubber tire based people mover during the main tourist season, from about the end of April to mid-October. This system, commonly referred to as the Niagara Parks Commission People Mover, operates along the Niagara Parkway / River Road between the Rapidsview Station and Queenston Heights Park.

The Niagara Parks Commission People Mover has some inherent problems that make this technology an undesirable candidate for an upgraded People Mover System. The most significant shortcomings of these vehicles are:

the inability of these vehicles to meet the estimated demands even with the addition of new vehicles;

lack of accessibility for those with physical challenges; and

their inability to climb some grades fully loaded.

The existing people mover vehicles are best suited to service areas where grades do not pose a problem and speed and time variations are not critical to service. These vehicles are not suited to provide service for the Primary Tourist Area in Niagara Falls, which is defined as the area from north of Highway 420, to the Rapidsview parking area to the south, the Niagara River to the east and Stanley Avenue to the west.

The City of Niagara Falls, in conjunction with the Niagara Parks Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Human Resources Development Canada, and the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, wish to determine the requirements for an upgraded People Mover System in the Falls area of the City to more efficiently transport visitors, not commuters, to the various tourist/visitor related venues in the City and the Niagara Parks Commission lands. Given the location of the Primary Tourist Area in the City of Niagara Falls, relative to residences and employment opportunities, it is anticipated that this system will be primarily used by visitors to the community. The visitor transportation requirements within and to/from the City of Niagara Falls are significant and require unique, innovative demand responsive services to provide a system with significant capacity and quality to meet the needs of the visitors.

The 1996 Niagara Falls People Mover Feasibility Study identified that there are number of significant economic and environmental benefits which will accrue to the community at large resulting from the development of an upgraded People Mover System. The Feasibility Study was undertaken recognizing that the development of an ultimate People Mover System must be predicated on a need to enhance economic growth through the provision of high quality service which can be operated on a year-round basis and which is affordable for both the visitor and the service provider.

In addition to the Feasibility Study, there are a number of other reports that identify the need for a people mover system in Niagara Falls or encourage an upgraded or expansion of the visitor transit system.

An EA Study is now being proposed to further refine the work completed in the Feasibility Study and obtain EA Act approval for the upgrade People Mover. This Terms of Reference is intended to establish how the environmental assessment requirements for determining the preferred location and technology for the Niagara Falls People Mover System will be met. Once the environmental assessment requirements have been established, the study can proceed following these requirements with the assurance that no issue is overlooked. This Terms of Reference has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) as amended by the Environmental Assessment and Consultation Improvement Act, 1996.

The Environmental Assessment will be prepared in accordance with the requirements as set out in Section 6.1(2) of the EA Act as defined through the Minister's approval of this Terms of Reference. Once approved by the Minister (under Subsection 6(4)) this Terms of Reference will provide the framework for preparing the EA and serve as a benchmark for reviewing the EA.

Since the Feasibility Study addressed many issues normally addressed in an Environmental Assessment, it is proposed that the EA Study for the People Mover will build on this earlier work and not repeat many areas of assessment or analysis relating to technology or route selection. This methodology significantly narrows the scope of the EA Study, which is discussed later in this Terms of Reference.

The Feasibility Study researched many different types of people mover systems, including monorails, rubber tired based (Bus) systems, vintage trolleys, cable car systems, and moving sidewalks. Extensive research and analysis resulted in the recommendation of a preferred technology, specifically, an Automated People Mover (APM), employing a fixed guideway system, as the primary people mover technological choice. It is now appropriate to identify the "family" of people movers and one basic operating criteria for the system.

The Feasibility Study included an evaluation of alternative routes for the People Mover and identified several feasible routes within a specific area that could provide efficient service in the City and Queen Victoria Park with minimal impact on the environment and Park operations.

There are two principles that will guide the EA Study. The first is Environmental Stewardship. Throughout the Study, care will be taken to identify potential environmental impacts and address them, either through avoidance (preferred) or mitigation. The second is Stakeholder Involvement. Stakeholders were closely involved during the Niagara Falls People Mover Feasibility Study. This close working relationship will be continued throughout the EA Study.

Project Location

The Niagara Falls People Mover System is to be located in the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Niagara Falls is located along the Niagara Escarpment between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and lies on the west side of the Niagara River. The City has a resident population of approximately 76,000 (1995); however, the City is a world class tourist destination and hosts over 14 million visitors annually (1996).

The proposed People Mover route extends from the existing Rapidsview parking area to the south of the City along the CN/CP rail line at the top of the treed moraine to the north end of the Falls area, near the Rainbow Bridge, returning to the parking area through Queen Victoria Park.

Purpose of the Undertaking

The undertaking is an upgraded people mover consisting of a demand responsive transit system primarily for visitors to Niagara Falls and involving Automated People Mover (APM) technology employing a fixed guideway/dedicated right-of-way. The upgraded people mover will operate in a loop configuration that follows a route extending from the existing Rapidsview parking area to the south of the City along or beside the existing CN/CP rail line at the top of the treed moraine to the north end of the Falls area, in the vicinity of the Rainbow Bridge, returning to the parking area through Queen Victoria Park. This alignment will be refined through the EA Study. The undertaking also includes stations, the locations of which will be determined through the EA Study. It also includes a maintenance facility, storage area and operating centre to be constructed in the area of the existing Rapidsview park-and-ride site on land currently owned by the Niagara Parks Commission, and any necessary modifications to the existing road system to facilitate the implementation of the people mover.

Definition of a People Mover

Many types of transit technologies can legitimately be defined as people movers including the buses that operate in the Park today, Disney World's monorail, Detroit's Downtown People Mover, the Metro Toronto Zoo's monorail, moving sidewalks, gondolas, and a host of other systems.

For the purpose of this Study, the term "people mover" will apply to a "family" of technologies that are characterized by systems that operate within a relatively small and well-defined area such as a downtown, resort, airport, or amusement park. People movers usually operate in their own right-of-way, often in, or suspended from, a guideway. The vehicles can operate on rails with steel wheels or rubber tires, in concrete guideways with rubber tires, or suspended with a cable system. People movers can be powered by electricity, pulled with cables, or self-propelled vehicles. These types of systems can have a capacity of up to 25,000 passengers per hour (peak direction).

During the course of the Feasibility Study, the problems of the transportation service available to visitors today was addressed; it can be readily understood that Niagara Falls faces two major problems. First, visitors during the summer season have difficulty in getting to Niagara Falls. Second, once visitors arrive they face difficulties in finding places to park and, once parked, difficulty in moving around Niagara Falls to the various attractions. The focus of the Feasibility Study was on the later set of problems.

The Feasibility Study discussed many opportunities for improving access to the City and, in particular, facilitating travel around the City. The Study concluded that an upgraded People Mover System was required, employing an enhanced people mover technology, to transport visitors in and around the Falls area. Such a system will result in the accrual of significant social, environmental, economic and industrial benefits for the community. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

A reduction in the number of automobile trips currently on the roadways within Niagara Falls, and particularly in the Queen Victoria Park area;

Provide direct and efficient linkages between the existing tourism attractions in Niagara Falls which will result in increased visitation to these areas;

A People Mover System which covers a greater area results in many hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc. having greater exposure to more visitors;

Increasing visitation to individual attractions will result in increased local investment by the attraction's owner in the site's expansion and redevelopment;

Increased visitation during all periods of the year will result in additional employment opportunities in the community, both full time and part time;

Expanded transportation amenities will enhance the overall visitor experience and will result in greater levels of repeat visitation to Niagara Falls;

A decrease in vehicle congestion and an expansion of transportation amenities will increase a visitor's length of stay in Niagara Falls;

A reduction in auto traffic will reduce the level of expenditures required for other roadway and parking infrastructure in the community;

An upgraded People Mover System will provide expanded development/redevelopment potential for lands outside the park area within approximately 300 m to 400 m of the people mover route;

The movement of visitors to the interim and permanent casino;

A reduction in energy consumption and air and noise pollution;

Improved quality of visit due to less congestion and more pedestrian friendly facilities;

Increased visitation to Niagara Falls can contribute to decreasing Ontario's travel deficit which, is currently approximately $3.9 billion; and

Increased visitation to Niagara Falls may result in increased visitation to the Niagara Region and other parts of Ontario.

There are many disadvantages if the people mover system is not upgraded; the following represents a few concerns identified by local residents, businesses and other stakeholders:

Increased congestion within the Park area and throughout the City of Niagara Falls;

Increase emissions from vehicles circulating and other environmental impacts;

The need for more parking at each attraction;

Reduced economic growth potential;

The Niagara Parks Commission's 100 Year Plan, will not be able to meet its goals;

Reduced potential for growth in shoulder and off-peak periods; and

Poor visitor experience resulting in fewer return visits.


In order for the community to realize the economic, social and environmental benefits described above, the People Mover System must be recognized as part of the local tourism infrastructure and a key to overall tourism service delivery. The People Mover System will not only become a visitor transportation system but will also become an attraction unto itself. By further positioning Niagara Falls as an attractive visitor destination, the tourism industry will attract other investment to the community for a wide range of activities.

An upgraded People Mover System is necessary and requires immediate attention. The benefits of the system cannot be ignored and the disadvantages of not upgrading the People Mover System will only increase in severity over time. It was identified in the Feasibility Study that the upgraded People Mover System will benefit all businesses in the Niagara Falls area, but the system will especially benefit the overall attractiveness of the Falls area with a direct connection to the Falls and other attractions.


Last modified: August 16, 1998