Grimsby DIA/NRT to launch “free ride” promo

A deal to create a pilot program to allow Niagara West residents to have access to free, two-way rides to Grimsby’s downtown core has been struck between Grimsby’s Downtown Improvement Area Board and NRT (Niagara Regional Transit).

“We’re excited,” said Matt Robinson, director of the Niagara Region’s GO Implementation Office, which oversees NRT.

“This is exactly what we wanted, a great example of the partnerships that can exist. We’re glad to work with the Grimsby DIA.”

DIA president Mike Williscraft brought the idea to the board, which approved the project in principle to allow for more research to be done.

“Grimsby recreation director Sarah Sweeney helped immensely with a lot of legwork in working through detail with NRT. It took about a month to nail things down and we are still tweaking a bit even now,” said Williscraft.

Here is how the pilot program will work:

• Residents in Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln will be able to access two-way, door-to-door rides viat NRT from Thursday, Nov. 26-Wednesday, Dec. 2;
• Rides will be available from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except on Thursday, Nov. 26 when the program is extended to 10 p.m. to accomodate the DIA’s annual Ladies Night shopping promotion;
• Riders can “unlock” their free ride by using the promo code
• Points of origin must be within one of the three municipalities with the destination being in the DIA footprint, which is bordered by Robinson Street in the east, Main Street to the south, Kerman to the west and the South Service Road.

“The idea started around creating something new and different to tie in with Black Friday, Nov. 27 this year. Having heard from many residents about concerns regarding even moderate crowds or tight spaces, it seemed a good idea to spread the timing out and I know from past experience businesses generally plan Black Friday week promotions,” said Williscraft.

“Then at out board meeting last week, those on hand thought it a good idea to add the Ladies Night under this umbrella as well, so we added in the 26th as well.”

The essence of the program goes back to the 90s and beyond when Grimsby had a Shoppers’ Bus program, Williscraft added.

“When I was on the DIA board back in the 90s, we were one of the sponsors of the Shoppers Bus. That program was well used, but had limited ridership. The mini-bus ran up and down Main Street with riders flagging it down to stop,” Williscraft recalled.

“The NRT provides door-to-door service, so that can help seniors and those who need the handicap accessibility it provides.

Robinson echoed those sentiments.

“We can pick up every single resident of Niagara,” said Robinson.

“We have levelled the playing field with handicap accessibility. As well, with conventional transit, you have a fixed route. If people aren’t on that street and cannot walk to it, they can’t use it. NRT goes right to them.”

Williscraft noted his board of directors has been working to develop any possible edge to give Grimsby businesses an opportunity to succeed in these difficult economic times.

“The barrier program we did in the summer with Town of Grimsby was extremely well received and is planned for a return in 2021,” he said.

“The Ride’s On Us campaign, hopefully, will serve to jump start the Christmas season, kicked off by the Ladies Night event and followed up with Black Friday offerings. Being a first-time program, we really have no expectation but we hope our friends from Lincoln and West Lincoln will come visit and that Grimsby residents will take advantage of the promotion as well.”

Despite never having run a campaign such as this, Robinson said his organization jumped at the chance for several reasons.

“We have had a few places show interest, but this partnership with Grimsby DIA is the first we have formalized. We are looking forward to analyzing the results to see how incentivizing residents to go to and from a downtown area works out,” said Robinson.

“We are glad to work on this. It would be great to see transit being able to help grow the economy, support local businesses and help people move within our community.
Normally, an inter-municipal NRT fare is $6 each way. The intra-municipal fare is $3 each way.”

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