Guest essay submitted by: Evan Lowenstein, Reconnect Rochester Member and Assistant Market Supervisor for Communications and Special Events/Projects, City of Rochester Public Market…
The City of Rochester Public Market is an endearing, fascinating example of the many things planners value and work for: successful public places and spaces; sense of place; mixed use; real and working diversity; pedestrian-focused; linkage of city, suburbs, and rural areas; supportive of the local economy.
While the Market has made strides in multi-modal transportation access by creating a pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-friendly Market, there is a lot of work to do. The Market can and should be a true leader in moving the community forward in its transportation mindsets and methods.
At the root of the current challenges is the prevailing transportation mindset and preference of Rochester: the Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) and the expectation that free parking will always be available for SOVs right next to the destination. The problems of this preference are magnified at the Market, where surface parking is limited and pretty much maxed out in a high-density, mostly residential neighborhood. Interestingly, most folks who actually create the oft-lamented traffic and parking problems in the Market District see themselves as only victims of the problems, not the creators of them. (You’re not “stuck” in traffic, you ARE the traffic!)
We are almost daily asked to expand surface parking and build parking garages, even though there IS a garage less than a mile from the Market with free shuttle service.
But this piece isn’t about shaming the SOV drivers. We understand there are legitimate factors that can make it tough to walk, bike, or take the bus to Market, like the unfriendliness of some roads and sidewalks to pedestrians and cyclists, and the inconvenience of infrequent and long/indirect bus routes.
Given these factors, we know it is incumbent on the City and Market to incentivize and achieve more efficient Market patron transport. So we’re working on quality, easy alternatives to driving to Market – and working hard on communicating those alternatives and the reasons behind them.
The City has already made some important physical and program changes outside the Market that help us towards these goals. Thanks to the East Main Arts and Market District Plan and the resulting changes along the Main Street corridor that have made that stretch more humane and pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians, access to the Market on foot and bike has become safer and more pleasant.
The same can be said for the remarkable Inner Loop “Big Fill” project, through which Union Street has been made once again into an urbane boulevard, replete with a two-lane separated bike track. The caveat here is that the bike connection between the end of that bike track and the Market along North Union Street is still pretty unfriendly for cyclists – but improvements to this link are in the works.
The City and the Market have also connected the Scio Street Market entrance to the Market grounds via a pedestrian-bike path and rail-to-trail conversion of a retired rail spur over N. Union Street. And this year, the City’s exciting Bike Boulevards Program—designed to provide safer, pleasant, and efficient bike routes through the City—will bring its Market District sections on line.
We’ve deployed some “starter” programs to incentivize and reward non-auto modes to the Market. We run a free Saturday Marketmobile Saturday Shuttle to and from the East End Garage during the busy season.
We also have a Best Parking at the Market bicycle incentive/reward program. Registered cyclists that use their bikes for Market transport can enter weekly drawings year-round for coveted Market Gift Tokens. We currently have 325 registrants, and we’ve given out about $4,000 in Market Gift Tokens! Cycling to Market has grown so fast that bicycle parking added just in 2017 quickly proved not to be enough. One key element of this program: a deep discount on cargo gear at Full Moon Vista Bike Shop for our registered cyclists—as toting hefty, heavy Market purchases is one of the main deterrents to biking to Market!
Adding to our efforts this year was the hugely successful citywide Zagster bike share program – including two bike share stations at the Market which were in high demand right from the start.
In 2018 we will establish similar incentive/reward programs for folks that carpool to the Market, walk to the Market, and take the bus to the Market.
We also intend this year to work on making the Union and Scio Street sections between Main and the Market more bicycle-friendly; improving bus service to the Market and the comfort of the stops that serve the Market; and adding more bicycle parking and more/better incentives to grow the Best Parking at the Market program. If YOU have more ideas for improvements we can make, we’d love to hear them at email@example.com.
In our quest to meet the needs and desires of our patrons, there is a dilemma that faces us at the Market. While more parking may seem desirable to some, we know that what we really need are transportation choices that benefit everyone. Our Public Market should be the vanguard of that kind of transportation mindset and culture change in Rochester.