As Gridlock Sam Schwartz told us this past Wednesday, Rochester is a city ‘on the cusp’ and improving its transportation network is critical in keeping the momentum. The Community Design Center’s upcoming ReShaping Rochester lecture titled Mobility: Transportation as a Leveler will likely build on that message. It is exciting to us at Reconnect that these progressive transportation leaders are making their rounds through Rochester to share experiences and (hopefully) spark some action!
Given Rochester’s appalling poverty rate, ensuring access to goods, services, jobs and education through public transportation is especially important. Around 28,000 low-income households in our area have no vehicles. Transportation can be a huge barrier to accessing jobs, education, healthcare and other essential services…
When I was a welfare examiner for Monroe County, customers consistently asked for bus passes. Over all other requests, those for bus passes were by far the most common. When I could provide one, the customer’s relief was palpable.
In a way, the relief I saw was a testament to the freedom and independence a bus pass can provide. It provides access to a system that can be surprisingly convenient and inexpensive to use. BUT it requires planning.
It requires you have a ‘normal’ 9-to-5 schedule. It requires you can walk comfortably for at least a half mile. And it requires you to dedicate more time in-transit for almost all rides. This happens to work okay for me—a childless woman who loves walking and has access to an old truck that (sort of) works. However, for many who have no other transportation options, the system is precarious.
And worse, the system is failing if you look at the job access numbers. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, only 10% of jobs in the area are accessible within 45 minutes on transit and only 32% of jobs are accessible within 90 minutes. Wait time between buses are well above national averages.
In a community that prides itself on being able to drive anywhere in 20 minutes, I find these numbers grossly unfair and unsatisfactory. Suburban sprawl has caused a spatial mismatch between work and workers. If we are serious about issues of poverty and equity, we need to reconnect to our public transit system AND get serious about regional land-use planning.
Come to the next Reshaping Rochester lecture on March 10 to hear Arizona State Senator Steve Farley and Jacky Grimshaw from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) talk about how better transit and land use can address both poverty and dollars wasted transporting ourselves across our sprawled region.