As you are probably aware, RGRTA is exploring changes to the RTS fixed-route transit system in an effort to “better meet the evolving needs of the region.” The project, called Reimagine RTS, aims to improve transit service in Monroe County, including the City of Rochester. Over 11,000 individuals have participated in the process by sharing ideas with RTS via an online survey and many public meetings and the first draft was released last month.
After reviewing the draft and hearing input from many of you, Reconnect Rochester would like to formally share our assessment – including the parts we like, and a few things we’d like to see improved upon…
As a refresher, we previously laid out our top 5 priorities and suggestions to improve transit service which were:
- Make service more frequent and consistent.
- Make routes more direct.
- Right Size the Service
- Make transit accessible and easy to use.
- Stay competitive through innovation.
With that in mind, here’s what WE LIKE about the plan:
😀 Higher frequency!
Frequent service is the centerpiece of a truly useful public transit system. The higher the frequency, the less time you’ll spend waiting for a bus at the start of your trip and at transfers, effectively reducing your total time in transit. We believe RTS’s focus on 15- and 30-minute bus service will be a game-changer for transit users. If you are near a transit line you know that a bus will always be coming along soon.
Here’s a look at the new network map:
😀 Direct service
If you look at an RTS map today, you’ll see bus routes all over the county. Many of our current bus routes meander all around to pick up very few people. This gives the illusion that our region is well served by transit, when actuality those routes may only see a bus a few times a day, if at all on weekends. The new routes are much more direct and stick to major streets without meandering off of the main corridor.
What’s more, these routes stay consistent throughout the week and on weekends. This consistency together with higher frequency will free most transit riders from having to plan their lives around the bus schedule. That’s a big improvement.
😀 Focus on density
Dense development is essential to a successful mass transit system. When places are in closer proximity, people do not need to travel as far. Buses in turn can run shorter routes more frequently. Density also increases the customer base of the transit system, which in turn increases the amount of money collected at the fare box. This money can be reinvested into the transit network, improving service.
This plan puts 174,000 people and 109,000 jobs within half a mile of 15-minute service. Monroe County has nothing close to this today. And the plan manages to achieve this new level of service while maintaining service for more than 95% of current riders.
Above: Monroe County’s population density with overlay of the proposed bus network.
Above: Monroe County’s employment density with overlay of the proposed bus network.
🙂 Crosstown routes
Two new crosstown routes serve more people and offer many more connections/transfer points than the one crosstown route being replaced. The new Culver Road Crosstown, in particular closes a long time gap in the system from Swillburg to East Main Arts & Market District.
We were a bit surprised not to see a few more crosstown routes proposed. For example, Lexington to Clifford or Lyell to Upper Falls Blvd. would greatly improve east-west movement across the north side of the city. But the two new routes would amount to an improvement nonetheless.
🙂 Community Mobility Zones
Certain areas simply do not have the density or development patterns necessary to support frequent transit service. This plan recommends a suite of other services to take the place of traditional bus service in these areas including Lexington Avenue (west of Dewey), Brockport and parts of Irondequoit, Greece, Henrietta and Webster. Some people see this as a loss, but we see an opportunity for these communities to work with RGRTA (and others) to establish new systems that are more cost-effective and tailored to local needs.
These “Community Mobility Zones” could include ride-share services, destination shuttles, vanpools, bike share stations and other options which could actually serve these areas much better than they are served by RTS today. Imagine having a local shuttle that connects your village/town center with nearby neighborhoods and commercial districts… Imagine a bike share station at your local Wegmans or school… etc.
Obviously many details would need to be worked out, but RTS plans to begin a “Mobility Management Program Study” later this year to explore the possibilities. So, for the time being we’re putting this in the “We Like” column.
Things we have concerns about:
🤔 Community Mobility Zones
This isn’t a typo. Community Mobility Zones are both an idea that we like, and also have concerns about. For areas where traditional bus service is not cost effective, other mobility options may better serve local needs (as stated above). However the draft plan only gives guidelines as to what these zones should include.
We would like to see these zones set up and ready on day one in 2020 when the Reimagine plan is rolled out.
The Transit Center has been a great resource for riders whose trip origin and destination are outside downtown. However, when a rider begins or ends their trip near downtown, having to switch buses for the last half mile of the trip is an inefficient use of passenger time.
Many major employers are downtown, but more than a quarter mile from the transit center. Requiring these riders to take the time to transfer at the transit center when their bus could quickly complete the last mile of their trip makes the transit system seem slow and inefficient – the exact problem this study is trying to address.
We’d ask that an analysis of downtown origins and destinations be undertaken and some routes be adjusted to bypass the transit center accordingly.
🤔Airport & Train Station
These are two places where having a car is considered a liability and people will be looking for alternate transportation options. Therefore we would like to see the airport and the area around the train station considered as future mobility hubs.
🤔 RTS Access (paratransit)
The American with Disabilities Act requires all transit programs that receive Federal funding to provide a paratransit service for people who are not functionally able to use a fixed route bus. At a minimum, this service must be provided to people whose trip both starts and ends within ¾ of a mile of a fixed route bus. Nothing in the ADA prohibits a transit system from operating service above and beyond the minimum ADA requirements.
If RTS Access service remains limited to ¾ of a mile of the new fixed routes, the service area of RTS Access would be much more limited. We would like to see specific details from RTS about what the future service area for RTS Access would be, how many Access riders would be orphaned by the new design, and what plans would be put into place to transition riders to a new service.
Changes we’d like to see:
- At least one east-west and one north-south route should bypass the Transit Center through downtown. This would make getting around downtown quicker, and create opportunities for people with an origin or destination on the outskirts of downtown to travel more quickly.
- The Fairport & East Rochester route should continue to use 490 as it does today, instead of the more serpentine route in the draft plan. The time saved by going directly to each town via 490 should be used to make service on this route more frequent.
- The Airport should be included as one of the proposed “Community Mobility Zones.” The plan should have the Zone at the Airport be fully designed, so that design in turn can be used as a template for other Zones.
As additional funding becomes available, we would prioritize the following improvements:
- Expand Service Beyond 12am. The draft plan has service ending at 12am. We would like to see this extended to 1:30am in consideration of late night shift employment.
- Continue to Increase Frequency. We would like to see frequency of service increase going forward, with more routes being brought up to the 15 minute service level. We would also like frequency increased on all weekend routes, again with an ultimate goal of 15 minute frequency.
- Add additional routes to service the following areas:
- Seabreeze (in consideration of seasonal employment)
- Northwest Rochester, especially around Edison Career and Technology High School
- Area colleges such as RIT, St. John Fisher, Nazareth and Suny Brockport
- Eastview Mall
- The Town of Irondequoit – North of Titus Ave.
- The Town of Pittsford
- The Town of Brighton
- The Town of Greece
- The Town of Gates
- The Town of Webster
It’s not too late to give your input!
We all have a stake in the success of our public transportation system. Reconnect Rochester believes this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community to get mass transportation right. It is critical that RGRTA and its project team receive input from every corner of the community. Visit www.myRTS.com/reimagine to submit your comments before the listening period ends this Friday.