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A New Future for Transit in Rochester: Our Mayoral Policy Statement

[PHOTO: Robert Torzynski]

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.

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RTS Transit Center Design Checklist… TAKE ONE!

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, RGRTA will be hosting its Second Public Design Review Workshop inviting members of the community to review and react to design options for the RTS Transit Center external link. This public review will take place at the Radisson Inn Riverside external link and the doors will be open to everyone from 6:00-7:30 pm.

Ideas and comments on the initial designs were taken by RGRTA at the RTS Transit Center Public Design Review Workshop external link (September 15, 2010) and the Rochester City Council Public Forums (April 27, and May 5th, 2010).

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester have compiled this handy checklist for YOU (the public) to use as a guide to assess how well public comments were received and integrated into the newly proposed designs. Print it, share it, and use as a starting point to form your own opinions and ask the important questions…

This is a compilation of some of the public input collected by RGRTA on the design of the Mortimer Street RTS Transit Center. Use this handy checklist to form your analysis of the final Transit Center designs.

Follow Reconnect Rochester on Facebook external link for updates on the RTS Transit Center and other local transportation projects and public meetings.

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Rochester’s (inspiring) Old Railroad Stations

*Cross Posted by RochesterSubway.com

The interior of Rochester's missing rail station. The main waiting room with high arching windows and ornate ceiling would rival New York's Grand Central Station if it were around today.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 clearexternal link 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…

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Redesigning the R.T.S. Terminal from the Inside Out

Reconnect Rochester members put pencil to paper this month and turned the Mortimer Bus Terminal layout inside-out. Literally.
Last month RGRTA hosted a pubic workshop to invite ideas and comments from the public on our new RTS Transit Center external link. Reconnect Rochester was there and we offered our best critique. After all, the success or failure of this project will impact us all for decades to come.

The following is the result of a collaborative effort by Reconnect Rochester members to contribute to, or try to improve upon RGRTA’s preliminary proposal (PDF, 5.7mb). The ideas and visuals outlined below are by no means a finished product; but just enough to convey our ideas. As always, we welcome your feedback in the comments.

Essentially, we are looking for a scheme that is:

  1. As compact as possible
  2. As safe as possible
  3. Has least impact on adjacent assets
  4. Provides for pedestrian scale on Mortimer
  5. Can be recylced for other uses if/when bus operations are altered

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces $293 Million for New Transit Solutions, Economic Development Nationwide

Project Selections Will Expand Obama Administration’s Livability Initiative Agenda, Fuel Economic Recovery for Local Communities

The Federal Transit Administration announced Thursday that Charlotte was one of six U.S. cities to get streetcar grants. One-half mile of track is already in place on Elizabeth Avenue near uptown. [PHOTO: TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com]

A $293 million investment announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood means that residents in dozens of communities nationwide will soon enjoy major transit improvements, including new streetcars, buses, and transit facilities.

The nearly $300 million investment is part of the Obama Administration’s livability initiative to better coordinate transportation, housing and commercial development investments to serve the people living in those communities. It is being made through two competitive grant programs, the Urban Circulator Grant Program and the Bus and Bus Livability Grant Program.

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Beyond the Motor City… In Case You Missed it at the Dryden

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Tonight’s screening of Beyond the Motor City at the Dryden Theater was, in my opinion, a phenomenal event for Rochester. After the film, seven panelists discussed local transportation issues and took questions on the subject from the nearly full audience. Of course, in the allotted timeframe we were only able to scratch the surface, but this is a conversation that we will carry on in the months, and years ahead. If you’re not already, now would be a good time to make sure you’re following Reconnect Rochester on Facebook external link. And, in case you missed tonight’s event, here is Beyond the Motor City in its entirety. Enjoy…

Beyond the Motor City from Film Sprout on Vimeo.

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Beyond the Motor City — at the Dryden Theater, June 28. Bring Your Pals—It’s On Us!







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BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY is screening in a handful of cities this May and June. It will screen here in Rochester on June 28, 2010.On Monday June 28 at 7:00pm you are invited to a FREE screening of PBS’s eye-opening film, BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY at the Dryden Theater. The documentary is touring cities across America to raise questions—and seek answers—about the future of transportation in America. Can we build the “infrastructure of tomorrow” today? Can the cash-strapped and car-dependent cities of the so-called Rust Belt become new models for fast, clean, public transit? The links and similarities between Rochester NY and Detroit MI are glaringly obvious—and I think you owe it to yourself to see this film.

This FREE public event will come to you 100% FREE of charge thanks to RRCDC external link, Reconnect Rochester external link, Rochester Rail Transit Committee external link, Rochester Trolley & Rail external link, Empire State Future external link, New York Museum of Transportation external link and PBS external link. Immediately following the film a panel consisting of City planners, urban growth experts, bike & transit advocates, and concerned citizens will discuss topics including:

  • New hopes for accessible, clean, and modern mass transit in America
  • The role of cities, and consumers, in shaping the next generation of transportation systems
  • A roadmap for revitalizing the way we move through our cities and neighborhoods

This will surely be a thought-provoking FREE event and a great opportunity for you to take part in a very important FREE conversation for our community. So mark your calendar and bring some friends. Did I mention this is FREE?!

More About the Film:

The latest installment in the BLUEPRINT AMERICA initiative takes viewers on a cinematic journey in search of America’s transportation future. Pictured: A view of downtown Detroit from the top of the run-down Michigan Central Train Station. (Photo Credit: Lloyd Handwerker/WNET.ORG)BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY external link examines how Detroit, a grim symbol of America’s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. Narrated by Miles O’Brien, the film explores Detroit’s historic investments in infrastructure—from early 19th- century canals to the urban freeways that gave The Motor City its name and made America’s transportation system the envy of the world.

Correspondent Miles O’Brien says he’s saddened every time he returns to the Motor City and sees “the ruins of a once great city.” Pictured: Michigan Theatre, now a parking garage. (Photo Credit: SNWEB.ORG Photography/Sean Doerr)But over the last 30 years, much of the world has left Detroit—and America—behind, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation. In a journey that takes us into the neighborhoods of Detroit and then beyond to Spain, California, and our nation’s capital, BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY urges us to ask how we might finally push America’s transportation system into the 21st century.

Using CGI animation combined with current footage of Detroit, the film brings the vision of the city’s possible transportation future to life. A network of trains within the city center would run along main thoroughfares. (Photo Credit: Lloyd Handwerker and HUSH Studios, Inc.)BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY is part of Blueprint America, a national, multi-platform initiative examining the state of America’s transportation infrastructure. Blueprint America was created and produced by Thirteen for WNET.ORG and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Surdna Foundation.

Event Info:

Time: Monday June 28, 2010 at 7:00pm

Location: Dryden Theater (Map it external link)

Cost: FREE – Zero – Zilch – Nada – FREE FREE FREE

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John Robert Smith in Rochester

*Cross Posted by the Moderate Urban Champion

John Robert SmithMembers of Reconnect Rochester had a unique opportunity Monday afternoon.  We were invited to sit in and participate in a roundtable discussion featuring representation of the Genesee Transportation Council, the Empire State Passengers Association, the Rochester Rail Transit Committee, and the keynote speaker of that evening’s lecture, John Robert Smith.

Not all of the biggest statements came from Smith himself, but his insight into federal agencies and funding acquisition from said agencies was very valuable to our coalition. Also heartening was the recognition by all parties of potential energy realities. This acceptance set the imperative tone regarding the necessity for improved transit in the region.

Smith’s greatest criticism, one that was repeated during the public lecture, was a lack of obvious attraction marketing, and the associated transportation options, to downtown hotel guests and travelers who arrive by train. The implication is that we aren’t successfully steering travelers with money to spend to restaurants and other cultural amenities. A set of newer signage as part of an enhanced wayfinder system was installed recently, but it is proving to be geared toward motorized tourist travel.

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Reconnecting America: What Rochester Can Learn from John Robert Smith

John Robert Smith, founder of Reconnecting America, will speak at the Memorial Art Gallery on May 10, 2010.Rochester’s dazzling urbanites, development gurus, transit afficionados, preservation honchos, political luminaries, and architectural stewards are all very pleased that the Rochester Regional Community Design Center’s final lecture of the 2009-2010 season brings John Robert Smith to the Memorial Art Gallery on May 10th at 7PM.  This enthuasism will surely spread like wildfire once the community at large understands what a tremendous impact this man has had in the realms of community revitalization and improving housing and mobility choices for citizens in communities with situations similar to Rochester.

The future of this or any community hinges on the following concepts, all of which are likely to be discussed at the speech and reception:
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Rochester Shows Up

This is the focus area for the Center City Circulator Study.If you were at the Circulator Study Public Meeting tonight, THANK YOU! Turn out was good. It could’ve been even better… but there were plenty of people there asking questions and giving input and the room had a constant buzz. Even the media external link thought enough to make an appearance. There will be another public meeting in June/July to share the preliminary findings of the study so stay tuned and continue to share this story with friends and neighbors. We’ll need even more of you at the next meeting.

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Monday 3/22 4-6pm… Let’s Show Up Rochester!

The City will take questions and input about the Center City Circulator Study this Monday, 3/22 from 4-6pm at the Rochester Public Library. Parking is easy at the attached Court Street Garage.The City has partnered with C&S Companies to analyze and make recommendations to enhance commuting, circulation, and parking in Downtown Rochester. Among the potential enhancements under consideration is a circulator transit service—a.k.a shuttle buses or streetcars. Listen carefully Rochester…

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Roll Up Your Sleeves. Let’s Reconnect Rochester.

Posted by: Mike Governale, co-founder of Reconnect Rochester.
Don't confuse her with Rosie the Riveter. The model for this WWII poster is actually Geraldine Doyle. We're borrowing this powerful illustration from Howard J. Miller to help us Reconnect Rochester.Hopefully by now you’ve read Rochester’s Case for a Streetcar Line. If you haven’t, go read it. Go on, I’ll wait.

…Okay great, now here’s an update. Since that article, traffic to RochesterSubway.com has doubled, our Facebook fan club external link 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…

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Rochester’s Case for a Streetcar Line

The following article was published at RochesterSubway.com on 2010/02/16. Two weeks later 6 citizens got together and Reconnect Rocheseter was born.

Photo simulation of a new Rochester streetcar on Main Street.

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.

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