Niagara Falls border crossing without Maple Leaf question

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zephyr17

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I am setting up my trip to New York via Canada for the fall. While we all hope that the Maple Leaf will have resumed international service by then, I am making my plans at this point on the assumption it won't be back.

I am planning on catching the Leaf (64), leaving at 12:17 pm from Niagara Falls, NY on a Saturday. GO Transit can get me to Niagara Falls using a train/bus connection at 9:18 am (involving a 6:45 am departure from Toronto Union), or 10:23 am. There is also a train all the way that gets me there at 10:57 am (although that may no longer be running by late fall, I know some of those weekend GO trains to Niagara are a summer deal).

I will need to taxi (no Uber or Lyft in Niagara Falls, ON) to the Rainbow Bridge (about 2 miles), walk across, clear US Customs and Immigration as a pedestrian, then take an Uber or Lyft to the Niagara Falls Amtrak (again, a couple miles). I am thinking that the train, which I would prefer just cuts it too close with only 1:20 to make the transfer. I am thinking about the bus that gets in at 10:23 am, which gives me 1:55. I know the safest option is to take that really early one, but I'd really rather not.

Any thoughts? Experiences with taxis on the Ontario side or rideshares on the NY side? Suggestions? Issues I may not have considered? Does anyone know if there are cabs available at Niagara Falls with NEXUS cardholding drivers? If there were, we could just shoot across the Whirlpool Bridge since I am a NEXUS member. (If the Whirlpool Bridge allowed pedestrians, I'd just walk it because the respective stations are pretty much on either side of the Gorge).

Based on prior experience with CBP at land border crossings, a person from Washington State crossing as a pedestrian at Niagara Falls is likely to raise some eyebrows. As documented by me and others, neither CBP nor CBSA seem to get the fact that some people prefer trains. I have a perfectly good explanation (took this trip every year before COVID, which they can see if they pull up my entry history, Leaf not running, making do), but I still think my chances of getting pulled into secondary are higher than I'd like with this one.

Right now, I am planning to buy an NFL-NYP Business Class ticket on the Leaf. If service resumes cross border service in the interim, I'll either call to modify it with Amtrak or buy a Toronto-Niagara Falls, NY ticket from VIA and get VIA Preference points.

Mods, please don't merge with the general Border Crossing resumption thread as this is a specific question under the assumption present conditions continue and shouldn't involve (much) speculation on cross border service resumption unless it goes OT.
 
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pennyk

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I walked across the Rainbow Bridge in 2019 and was asked a few questions. I think CBP liked my answer that I thought the Canadian side of the falls was prettier and wanted to see it.

I traveled to Niagara Falls NY via the Maple Leaf, took ride share to my hotel on the Niagara River, then walked to the US falls, across the bridge and enjoyed the view. I later walked back over the bridge and back to my hotel (probably not a good idea in the dark alone). The next morning I took a ride share to the station and met up with OTOL friends who were returning from Toronto on the Maple Leaf.

Photos: having a Canadian beer on the Canada side of the Falls; a view of the Falls from Canada; a view walking to the US from the Rainbow Bridge.
 

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zephyr17

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Question - is a taxi an option? Or it’s just really expensive to take it across the border?
That is an unknown and one I hope to get more info on here. There is taxi company in Niagara Falls, ON that advertises service to Buffalo airport, so they do cross the border. As I said in later edit to my post, if I could get a cab with a NEXUS cardholding driver, we could just shoot over the Whirlpool Bridge, as the stations are pretty much at either end of that bridge and it saves a long detour to the Rainbow Bridge. I'd pay a premium for that short trip. I tried to send a query to that cab company but their "send us an email" page throws an error and displays a debug page and they don't have a published email address.
 

Bob Dylan

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That is an unknown and one I hope to get more info on here. There is taxi company in Niagara Falls, ON that advertises service to Buffalo airport, so they do cross the border. As I said in later edit to my post, if I could get a cab with a NEXUS cardholding driver, we could just shoot over the Whirlpool Bridge, as the stations are pretty much at either end of that bridge and it saves a long detour to the Rainbow Bridge. I'd pay a premium for that short trip. I tried to send a query to that cab company but their "send us an email" page throws an error and displays a debug page and they don't have a published email address.
Does Uber or Lyft Operate on the Ontario side???
 

williamn

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I have walked across the other way round, into Canada, with zero probelms. That said, Canadian border people are a lot friendlier than the US ones.

I am planning to do this trip the other way round in July and am planning on taking the Greyhound from Buffalo to Toronto (train from NYC to Buffalo).
 

caravanman

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On a visit to America, we walked across the rainbow bridge into Canada, and back again, with no border control issues, about 10 years ago.
I travelled by Greyhound bus with my son from Toronto to Buffalo about 2015, and that was fairly smooth crossing the border too. Is there a Greyhound option that would work?
 

thully

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I was in Niagara Falls, ON in 2018 and they had Uber (took one to get back to the station to make my GO train to Toronto) - did they stop servicing that area? If not, that may be an option. Also, there is a tourist-oriented transit system called WeGo that stops near the Niagara Falls, ON station and would take you close to the Rainbow Bridge. I don’t have any idea what transportation is available on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge as I stayed in Canada on my trip there, but there should at least be Uber/Lyft/taxis to take you to Amtrak.
 

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Three of us crossed the Rainbow Bridge from Canada to the US 2 days after 9/11, on a somewhat ramshakle van that belonged to one of us, loaded with all sorts of camping gear. It was a long wait in a long line, but that was the only border crossing point we could find which did not have an even hopelessly longer line of trucks waiting to cross. Other than the long delay the crossing was uneventful. Surprisingly, there was no extra questioning or anything. The CBP guy just glanced at our Passports, asked us what we were doing in Canada (attending an international software standards conference in Toronto), and did a surface scan of the camping gear, and waves us through.

Incidentally, the Maple Leaf was operating then but it was sold out days in advance. Some of the people from the same meeting managed to use the Maple Leaf to get back to the US.
 
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thully

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I should add that there is also intercity bus service via Megabus, Greyhound, and FlixBus from Toronto to Buffalo (maybe some to Niagara Falls as well). Didn’t think of this at first - think Greyhound Canada shutting down made me discount the idea (Greyhound US operates this route so it was spared). That’s probably the easiest option.
 

zephyr17

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Thanks, all.

As to Uber and Lyft, Niagara Falls, ON is not on either's list of served cities, but Niagara Falls, NY is.

I have crossed at Rainbow Bridge before in the Fall of 2019 when the Maple Leaf was being bustituted due to work being done on the Whirlpool Bridge, so I am familiar with the set up there. I have generally found the CBP agents at Niagara Falls, at both Rainbow Bridge and the old and new Amtrak stations, to really tend to dig in on what I am doing there, since I live on the other side of the country and they seem to have a general skepticism of anyone not flying for long distance travel. I think east coast residents might not get grilled quite as hard, since to CBP's mind it makes more sense. I tend to think that may be exacerbated by just being a pedestrian but with luggage.

Thanks for the bus tip, @thully . That had not occurred to me, despite the fact I use the Amtrak/Cantrail bus on the Vancouver end. Neither Greyhound nor Flixbus have schedules that can connect with the Maple Leaf, but Megabus does, assuming they keep the same schedule beyond the end of the currently bookable dates in September. The only thing that concerns me on that is their pretty stringent luggage policy. I travel with a suitcase that meets their dimensions, but also a pretty fat daypack and a CPAP machine. The CPAP should be allowed under their medical device exception, but I worry about the backpack. As usually packed for long distance travel, I found it too fat for at least Cantrail buses' overhead bins or under seat storage.

Megabus would be easier than fiddling around with GO and cabs/rideshares at Niagara Falls and would allow me to sleep later. The thing that concerns me is whether they will have service in November, since it isn't starting until June and and isn't bookable past September, plus the luggage concern. I can rearrange things between daypack and suitcase to thin out the daypack and test it out on Cantrail at the start of the trip, though. I have to fool around with luggage distribution at either end of a Canadian ride anyway, as I use a collapsible duffel onboard the Canadian and check the suitcase. I'll just put the scanner and fat Canadian Trackside Guide in the suitcase along with the duffel at either end.

At this point, what I think I will do is book a business class seat NFL-NYP and see what develops. If the Maple Leaf extends to Toronto, I'll fill in the gap there, if it doesn't and Megabus service is available I can change my Amtrak ticket to BFX-NYP. If neither looks good, I can keep my original GO Transit/cab/walk plan.
 
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thully

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Uber's website shows the Niagara Region (which includes Niagara Falls, ON) as having service, so Uber is an option there. That may work for getting to the border crossing, though I wouldn't rely on it for crossing the border as it would be a crapshoot to find a driver that has what they need to cross.

Interesting you note that the border patrol likes to hassle people going through the pedestrian crossing and not traveling by the "usual" methods (car and/or air). I've been looking into a trip to Canada and was wondering about that, though in my case going to Niagara Falls would be way out of the way. Being in Michigan, I'll most likely be getting someone to drive me over the Detroit-Windsor border to catch VIA there (since there's really no non-car way across, and a taxi complicates things further coming from Ann Arbor). We really get the short end of the stick as far as border crossing here - we haven't had a train in recent history (International was Port Huron-Sarnia), Greyhound is no more thanks to Greyhound Canada shutdown, and the Tunnel Bus is suspended with no idea when it will come back.
 
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zephyr17

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Thanks, my search was too specific I guess.

Right now I am leaving it open with a preference towards Megabus and avoiding a self crossing at Niagara Falls entirely. Thanks for mentioning that Megabus could be an option.
 

zephyr17

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Uber's website shows the Niagara Region (which includes Niagara Falls, ON) as having service, so Uber is an option there. That may work for getting to the border crossing, though I wouldn't rely on it for crossing the border as it would be a crapshoot to find a driver that has what they need to cross.

Interesting you note that the border patrol likes to hassle people going through the pedestrian crossing and not traveling by the "usual" methods (car and/or air). I've been looking into a trip to Canada and was wondering about that, though in my case going to Niagara Falls would be way out of the way. Being in Michigan, I'll most likely be getting someone to drive me over the Detroit-Windsor border to catch VIA there (since there's really no non-car way across, and a taxi complicates things further coming from Ann Arbor). We really get the short end of the stick as far as border crossing here - we haven't had a train in recent history (International was Port Huron-Sarnia), Greyhound is no more thanks to Greyhound Canada shutdown, and the Tunnel Bus is suspended with no idea when it will come back.
My experience with both CBP and CBSA non-auto land crossings seems directly proportional to the distance I am away from home. Bus crossing at Pacific Highway to Vancouver or at Pacific Central Station on the Cascades seems fairly routine, somewhat more intensive than driving across, but pretty normal, airport level questioning. Although the last time heading into Canada by bus at Pacific Highway the CBSA agent seemed not to believe a train across Canada even existed. Kudos to VIA for shrinking into such insignificance.

Crossing by land in the East is a different deal. Immigration officers on both sides, CBP and CBSA, always are basically "What the (hell) are you doing here?" My mere presence at a land crossing on the other side of the continent seems to arouse suspicion. I have crossed by train several times on both the Leaf and Adirondack as well as by bus when the Leaf got bustituted. I am always asked "Why didn't you fly?" In the tone of "like any sane non smuggler". I explain I like trains, am a railfan, which frequently draws a blank look. Once I pulled put my Canadian Trackside Guide to show such people exist.and I am not a lone wacko. I have never gotten pulled into secondary, but my sense is sometimes it was a close thing.

I am a NEXUS cardholder and frequent border crosser. I know damn well my entry history is easily available to them on both sides if they care to look, and they can see that it is something I have regularly done.

By far the easiest way is to drive my own vehicle. My interactions with both CBSA and CBP are quick, easy and generally friendly, especially CBSA, when I drive across.

Best experiences have been at the Kingsgate/Eastport crossing on US/BC 95 in the middle of nowhere on the Idaho/BC border. I think they're just happy to see someone there.
 
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Uber's website shows the Niagara Region (which includes Niagara Falls, ON) as having service, so Uber is an option there. That may work for getting to the border crossing, though I wouldn't rely on it for crossing the border as it would be a crapshoot to find a driver that has what they need to cross.
Well said. I had been trying to craft wording to say just that. It's the same problem at Detroit - Windsor, as discussed in a thread here some time ago. The taxis/Uber/Lyft may be capable of crossing the border in either direction, but finding a driver who is willing is another matter. Some may lack the status to return to the country of origin. There are limo services which specialize in crossing at NF and Buffalo. These came to the forefront earlier in the pandemic when land crossings were less restrictive than flying. The cost, of course, is higher than other options.
 
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CBP can be funny sometimes. I was once crossing by foot from Mexico (Ciudad Acuna/Del Rio, TX) and the CBP guy didn't ask me what I was doing in Mexico, he asked what the hell a Yankee like me was doing in Texas! I was staying in Uvalde, and I had to drive through the Border Patrol Checkpoint outside of town, and the Border Patrol guy there asked me the same thing, and I was in a rental car with Texas plates. Who knows what he would have asked me if I had been driving through with my own car and Maryland plates. With all that, it was just a couple of extra questions, and I was waved through.

Every other time I drove through those checkpoints, they just asked me nationality and waved me through. Also, after they started requiring passports, they never asked me where in the US I came from, so they didn't ask questions like that.
 

thully

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Well said. I had been trying to craft wording to say just that. It's the same problem at Detroit - Windsor, as discussed in a thread here some time ago. The taxis/Uber/Lyft may be capable of crossing the border in either direction, but finding a driver who is willing is another matter. Some may lack the status to return to the country of origin. There are limo services which specialize in crossing at NF and Buffalo. These came to the forefront earlier in the pandemic when land crossings were less restrictive than flying. The cost, of course, is higher than other options.
What I don't get is why Uber/Lyft doesn't have drivers opt-in to border crossing (and certify that they have necessary documentation) and only dispatch rides that cross a border to those drivers. Seems like it would be easy to implement.
 

zephyr17

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I imagine that since you specify the destination when you request a ride, only drivers both able and willing to cross will accept the request. The issue is whether there would be any at a given time that would, since the current system is opaque to that.

I wonder if either Lyft or Uber's app even allows cross border requests.

In my case, it is even more specific. I'd only opt to take a cab/rideshare over the border and pay what is could be a substantial extra expense if both the driver and I were NEXUS so we could take the Whirlpool Bridge, which has the advantage of both being a much shorter ride, and the quicker NEXUS lane. If we were to use the Rainbow, I'd rather just get dropped off and not pay the extra.

I imagine drivers regularly crossing the border might go to the trouble of getting NEXUS, though. While it doesn't help speed anything up with non NEXUS passengers, since you can only use NEXUS lanes if all passengers have NEXUS, it would expedite the return trip.
 
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