Buffalo gets the double-decker treatment - The Buffalo News

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Buffalo gets the double-decker treatment

Buffalo now has a touch of London's Piccadilly Circus.

On Tuesday, pedestrians and bicyclists gawked at the sight of a red double-decker bus making its inaugural trip from the Outer Harbor.

"Buffalo Double Decker Bus Tours" was written on the sides in black and white striping, with "Sightseeing Tours, Murder Mysteries and Tavern Tours" in smaller letters.

"The bus in and of itself is an attraction. It's just cool," said Joel Dombrowski, the tour guide who wrote a popular guide book on Niagara Falls.

He imported the 1980 Leyland Olympian bus, which seats 74, from England and removed the windows from the upper level to offer a better view.

Dombrowski, a former standup comedian, treats his tours like performances.

"I've been trained along the way from people with Disney training, and their motto is, 'Everything must be a show,'" Dombrowski said.

"All who enter must have a sense of humor" is painted above the bus' entrance.

On Tuesday he played the role of Officer O'Connor, an 1860s-era Buffalo policeman dressed in a navy blue tunic, badge and helmet, baton in hand.

He spoke in an Irish brogue, offering non-stop jokes – which included involving the audience and people in the street – that had many on the bus in stitches. At the same time, little-known historical details were sprinkled throughout the talk.

"We carry about 70 people safely and about 100 people unsafely," Dombrowski began. "I should probably let you know, if you have any questions keep 'em to your damn selves. I just don't want to hear it. It's a little early in the morning. Don't be googling me either. Just take my word for stuff. Just believe me and don't be quizzing my wife."

 

Joel Dombrowski, part owner and the tour guide, plays the role of Officer O'Connor, an 1860s-era Buffalo policeman dressed in a navy blue tunic, badge and helmet, baton in hand. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Dombrowski, who lives in Clarence Center, was born in Riverside and grew up in Cheektowaga. "Like all Polish, you move to Cheektowaga. It's the law," he deadpanned.

As the bus turned off Fuhrmann Boulevard, it headed toward a tunnel. "Hopefully we'll fit under it," Dombrowski said, feigning concern. "This is the first time we're doing this."

The bus left from Wilkeson Pointe, motored over to Canalside and then into downtown, including Niagara Square, before returning over the Skyway to the Outer Harbor.

The nearly 50 riders on the maiden trip came courtesy of Buffalo Underground, a meetup group organized by Melanie Chimento of Orchard Park.

"Everything about the tour was awesome," Kelly Germain of Holland said. "No one's ever seen the views off the Skyway this way because we were up so high."

She wasn't alone in raving about the view of the waterfront and the lake from the 13 1/2-foot-tall double-decker, which towered over a metro bus that pulled up alongside on Court Street.

"I have ridden my motorcycle over the Skyway many, many times, but I did not get the same view as I did off this bus," said Joe Germain, Kelly's husband.

"I was in the front and got the best view!" gushed Margaret Rogers of Town of Tonawanda. "Going over the Skyway was absolutely fabulous."

Alesandra Cartier of West Seneca said she rode a double-decker bus in England and found it "very amusing" to now do so in Buffalo.

The bus tours – in a city that already offers several history-themed tours – will be offered daily through July and August beginning Friday, with five different tours in all.

The 90-minute tour "Canalside Waterfront Tour" and the two-hour "Old and New Buffalo," which includes admission to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, will be held daily.

"Historic Tavern Tour" will be offered Thursdays, "Drunk Buffalo Tour" on Fridays and "Murder Mystery – A Double Decker Death" aboard the bus on Saturdays.

The tours are $20 for the 90-minute tour, $25 for the two-hour tours and $30 for the murder mystery, which involves four costumed actors.

For more information, go to buffalodoubledeckerbus.com.

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