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Niagara Falls Police Turn to Tech to Reduce Traffic Jams

In response to the influx of tourists, traffic officers have suggested digital signs to redirect motorists away from congestion.

by Nancy Fischer, The Buffalo News, N.Y. / September 13, 2016

(TNS) -- This summer there were tourists — lots of them, causing long waits along the Robert Moses Parkway and traffic tie-ups downtown.

“We have to recognize that it’s a good problem to have so many people coming here,” Officer James VanEgmond of the Niagara Falls Police Department’s Traffic Division told the city’s Tourism Advisory Board on Monday.

VanEgmond said in previous years police dealt with traffic issues on summer weekends and holidays in Niagara Falls, but it’s no longer seasonal and it’s not just weekends.

He said new digital signs redirecting motorists away from congestion would help.

“I’m sure digital signs are expensive,” said VanEgmond, “But we can’t live like we did 20 years ago. We are not staying up with the technology.”

“It creates a bad experience for them,” said Tourism Advisory Board Chairman Lisa Vitello of the traffic and parking issues.

VanEgmond said a big problem is that Google maps sends everyone in the same direction.

Two traffic officers are on call on Saturdays and Sundays, but often they don’t get called in soon enough, said VanEgmond.

“We’ve come up with a really good plan of moving people once they are stuck there,” said VanEgmond. “There’s a lot of congestion, but they really are just looking for parking.”

He said visitors also are unaware of the city’s large public parking ramp, and are driving around once the State Reservation parking lot fills up.

“The key for us is to keep both sides of the ramp opened up,” said VanEgmond. “When everything else is full the ramp can really soak it all up. Only twice has that ramp ever been full to capacity.”

VanEgmond suggested that the Police Department’s Ranger Program should have people stationed at the ramp and at busy intersections to direct visitors.

Buses that sit and idle for lengthy periods are also an issue, he said.

The board agreed it would like to work with the city and the Department of Public Works to put a solution in place before next summer.

©2016 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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