Greetings. I’m Mike Governale, founder of Reconnect Rochester. I’m a graphic designer, originally from the NYC area and I now live in Rochester, NY. I have a deep fascination and love of cities – how they are formed over time and the way they continue to evolve.
Dense urban places have proven themselves, over tens of thousands of years, to be arguably the most sustainable form of human habitation. But over the past 70 years many cities—especially those in the U.S.—have lost this edge.
I write a blog, RochesterSubway.com , that explores Rochester, “America’s first boom-town,” and how it suburbanized itself to near extinction. The site looks at the amazing physical and social history of this place. And what it needs to do before it can become urban, sustainable, and relevant, once again.
Last November I gave a talk at TEDxRochester. The talk focuses on how our transportation choices impact land use, and ultimately the health and sustainability of our community. I think the presentation serves as a good introduction to who I am and why Reconnect Rochester is so important to me…
Rochester, NY has about 1,035,000 population in its metro area; Buffalo is slightly larger with 1,124,000; and Syracuse has about 646,000. The combined metro population for the three major cities along the old New York Central Water Level Route is 2,804,000.
In terms of rank, Buffalo is 50th, Rochester is 51st, and Syracuse is 81st. As a combined area, we would become 19th largest, edging out Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, FL and just behind St. Louis. Nice, eh?
Imagine a Rochester without an noose-like expressway dividing downtown-adjacent neighborhoods on the north and east sides. An obstacle to true connectivity for over 50 years, imagine the loop and its ramps filled in to grade instantaneously at the snap of your fingers. Naturally the next question arrives in our minds immediately, ‘How will we utilize this reclaimed real estate?’
If the goals are to reconnect severed neighborhood conduits, promote commerce, reduce car dependence, ensure ease of navigation, and foster a dynamic and vibrant streetscape, the answer lies not in a grandiose vision of the future, but more likely in our historic roots.
By now you’ve probably have heard of this thing called transit-oriented development (T.O.D.) . If you haven’t you might be living in a cave. Or you might live in Rochester. Sorry—cheap shot.
No worries, let’s get you up to speed with this quick video from the Streetfilms crew. It shows how investment in public transit, along with some zoning changes, has made the New Jersey Hudson River waterfront a new boomtown. The area has attracted some $5 billion in residential development since light rail came in.
According to Robert Cotter, director of city planning for Jersey City, “That’s a testament to transit-rich development… The communities that have access to fixed rail are going to be the richest in the coming century.”
Reconnect Rochester is a group of transportation advocates calling for the creation of a fully integrated multi-modal transportation network for our region. We believe the next Mayor has the opportunity to champion a dramatic shift in our transportation infrastructure. The transit system this city and region needs will require dedication of time, staff and resources.
We urge all candidates to pledge their commitment to this vision as part of their platform for candidacy.
Read what each candidate had to say about this document and the future of Rochester’s transit system below.
What follows is our reasoning and recommendations for the future Mayor to incorporate into his or her platform.
Lots of news has been brewing lately over the future of Rochester’s beat-up, 32-year-old Amtrak station on Central Avenue.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter recently announced that a $1.5 million federal stimulus grant has been awarded to New York state to plan for a new multi-modal station on the site. A $2.5 million appropriation to pay for the station design is expected to pass Congress next month. And Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has just made it abundantly clear that New York will take whatever federal money is left on the table by newly elected GOP governors in Ohio and Wisconsin.
So for now, let’s just assume that something very interesting is in the works for our pitiful excuse for a train station. This is the perfect time to take a step back in time—to be inspired by Rochester’s grand old stations…
…Okay great, now here’s an update. Since that article, traffic to RochesterSubway.com has doubled, our Facebook fan club has grown from 100 to over 400 (and counting), and my inbox hasn’t had a moments rest. This is all very encouraging and a sure sign that the people of Rochester really want to see their city thrive. The big question is; do the people of Rochester care enough to make an effort? All signs point to yes. So far we’ve got 12 people (including myself) who have risen to the challenge. Together we will lead a city wide movement to Reconnect Rochester.
Last Saturday morning, one day after a northeast blizzard moved thru our area, 5 passionate Rochesterians dug there way out of their homes and met me for lunch at Legend’s Bar & Grill. Against the backdrop of a bus-lined Main Street we introduced ourselves and got right down to swapping ideas about how we could help put Rochester back on track—pun intended…
The following article was published at RochesterSubway.com on 2010/02/16. Two weeks later 6 citizens got together and Reconnect Rocheseter was born.
America seems to have taken a renewed interest in mobility. Maybe due to President Obama’s recent commitment to high speed rail—or perhaps the positive results seen in towns like Portland and Denver have caught our collective attention. Whatever the reason, from the top down, people are rethinking our automobile-oriented culture—and getting excited about the possibilities.
There’s also good reason to focus on transportation as a way of jump-starting economic development. Industry requires access to people. And people need to have easy access to centers of employment. Continually improving access makes further development possible. Interrupting access will have the opposite effect. Likewise, doing nothing or simply maintaining existing infrastructure for an extended period of time will also hinder development.
For 30+ years Rochester has relied on the infrastructure choices it made in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. At that time we made development choices that encouraged our population to emigrate from the downtown core. We scrapped our extensive streetcar system, choked off downtown with the construction of the inner-loop, and paved super highways to take us from the city to the NY State Thruway and beyond. Since then that’s exactly where our money, our workforce, and our future have gone—down I-490 and out of state.
Reconnect Rochester is an all volunteer, non-profit organization working to build a more sustainable transportation network for our community.
Our world is changing. Transportation costs in our area are skyrocketing at the same time families are looking to save money anywhere they can. Young people are migrating to urban places that can offer them a walkable and car-free lifestyle. And a growing segment of retirees are looking for ways to remain active in their communities well into their senior years – for many this will mean a move to a more walkable neighborhood with convenient access to public transit.
Rochester needs to get ahead of the curve. Our streets must be made safer and more attractive for people to walk and ride their bikes – and public transportation needs to become a more competitive alternative to driving. In short, we must rebalance our transportation network. But we can’t rely on our elected officials and policy makers to do this work alone. This is why we do what we do.
If this sort of thing interests you, please contact us and find out how you can volunteer. Or consider making a donation so we can continue to make a difference.
Thanks for your continued support!
- Mike Governale & the volunteers at Reconnect Rochester
Mike Governale – President
DeWain Feller – Vice President
Erin Green – Vice President, Community Outreach
Bob Williams – Vice President, Advocacy
Brenda Kremens – Secretary
Carlos Mercado – Treasurer
Douglas A. Fisher, Esq.
Phillip G Borrelli, Esq.
Roger E. Brown, AIA, CNU
Howard Decker, FAIA
wishes to thank the following
individuals and organizations
for their generous support:
Conductors ($1,000 - $4,999)
Bus Drivers ($500 - $999)
Cyclists ($250 - $499)
Pedestrians ($100 - $249)
The Law Office of
Dr. Tina M. Reeves, OD
(Downtown's Vision Care)
The Little Theatre
Supporters ($1 - $99)
19th Ward Community Assoc.
Emerson & Oliver
Daniel J. Pearl
Rochester Regional Community Design Center
and a special thanks to these guys for supporting ROC Transit Day 2013...
Reconnect Rochester supports the expansion of Rochester New York's transit services and facilities, including rail, into a truly multimodal transportation network.
Through education and outreach, we will help create a broad base of support for our existing public transit system, shape regional policies to improve it, and reconnect our community in ways that improve personal mobility, urban vitality, environmental sustainability, and economic development. Go Transit!