As we look back on 2019, we’re amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish together this year. The highlights below are just a snapshot of all the good work we’ve been able to do, thanks to the financial support of Reconnect members, the passionate volunteers that make our programs and initiatives run, and so many others that engaged in our work in countless ways. Thanks to each and every one of you.
Sponsored a Cornell University Design Connect project to help the Brighton community create a vision for Monroe Ave., with an improved street design and streetscape that is more vibrant and safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Gave transit riders a respectable place to sit at our 30+ seasonal bus stop cubes placed around the city. We also worked with a local fiberglass manufacturer to create a permanent cube design as a year-round solution, and have plans to get the first 15 cubes on the ground in spring 2020!
…And this doesn’t count the untold number of advocacy actions we take day in and day out to advocate for the things we all care about, like a robust public transportation system, streets that are safe for everyone, and a community that’s built to be multi-modal.
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…Read more
If you recall, last fall RTS asked for the community’s help to reimagine our public transit system. Reconnect Rochester shared many of our recommendations and over 11,000 of you participated by sharing your own ideas with RTS via online survey or at one of countless public meetings. Well, today we’re dizzy with excitement as the first “Draft” proposal has finally been revealed…
As part of its new Comprehensive Plan, Rochester 2034, the City of Rochester is studying which major streets have the best potential for “transit supportive development” in Rochester. Transit supportive development encourages a mix of complementary activities and destinations (e.g., housing, work, shopping, services, and entertainment) along major streets and centers. This kind of development helps create compact, vibrant communities where it’s easier for people to walk, bike, and use public transit to get around. Read more
Last week RGRTA announced a plan to “Reimagine RTS.” Reconnect Rochester believes this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community to get mass transportation right. We all have a stake in the success of our public transportation system and it is critical that RGRTA and its project team have access to thoughts and ideas from every demographic and every corner of our community. To help, we have compiled our ideas and recommendations, and we are asking you all to do the same.
But first, we need to understand how we got here.
Rochester’s public transportation network was originally designed to carry people between downtown and densely populated surrounding neighborhoods. As our residential population, commerce, and jobs spread outward with the adoption of the automobile, RGRTA attempted to follow this migration by extending service outward. With lower population densities in the suburbs, the stretched transit company found itself facing an impossible choice: expand service to reach fewer customers, or maintain its existing service area for a dwindling urban population.
After decades of attempting to do both, the quality of service in Monroe County has suffered. Those who rely on transit are underserved, and those who might choose to ride rather than drive do not. We hear complaints from riders about infrequent service, long trip times, perceived safety issues, and the need to walk great distances to reach their bus stop or final destination. Clearly, we need systemic changes to improve service and increase the viability of our public transit network.
RGRTA recognizes these issues and is now taking a bold step to design “a new transit system from the ground up.”
Our Top 5 Recommendations to Make Rochester Transit Great (again)
Reconnect Rochester has surveyed its members on how to improve Rochester’s public transit system to serve the greatest number of people. Our recommendations are prioritized below.
1. Make service more frequent and consistent.
Current routes and schedules are too complex and inconsistent. To build confidence and make people believe they will have a ride available when they need it:
Vehicles should run every 30 minutes or less throughout the entire system.
Vehicles should run every 15 minutes or less on key routes during peak hours.
Routes, schedules and frequencies should be consistent throughout the weekday and on weekends.
Vehicles should depart from the terminal on time.
Even spacing should be maintained between buses.
The number and placement of new bus stops should follow the recommendations outlined previously in the RTS Bus Stop Optimization Study (2014) to strike a balance between pedestrian accessibility and system performance.
Outlying routes or segments that cannot support 30 minute frequency (either with ridership or private sector funding) may need to be eliminated, or serious consideration should be given to servicing these areas by other means.
2. Make routes more direct.
Many routes currently have unnecessary turns and deviations, meaning most trips take much longer than they should. The current hub and spoke layout also makes it difficult to transfer between routes without going downtown. To improve efficiency and provide the fastest possible trip time:
Routes should be designed to take the most direct path between major destinations. Twists, turns and “zig-zags” should be eliminated.
Buses should not run into and through office complexes and strip mall parking lots. Instead, municipalities need to work to make sure transit access is provided by direct and convenient pedestrian access through a site to the edge of the public right of way.
It should be possible to switch (or transfer) between routes from any point in the network.
Adjacent routes should be placed within walking distance from each other and service staggered to make it easier for riders to switch from one bus to another on a nearby route.
Provisions should be made for other modes of travel at major bus stops or satellite hubs (i.e., ridesharing and bike share stations, safe and accessible pedestrian infrastructure, information/signage, etc.).
It should be possible to travel between the county’s four quadrants without transferring downtown.
Crosstown or orbital routes should be added near the perimeter of the city where radial routes diverge.
Work with other transit providers to make existing crosstown routes (e.g., U of R’s Orange Line) available for riders.
Work with the City and DOT to design streets that prioritize transit (as well as pedestrians and cyclists) over private motor vehicles.
Install curb extensions at transit stops (as opposed to curb cutouts) to eliminate time spent weaving in and out of traffic.
Optimize traffic signals to improve reliability by allowing buses to maintain a constant speed, and reducing time spent at red lights.
Utilize dedicated lanes to move buses more quickly through crowded streets.
3. Right-size the service.
Many routes receive high ridership near the core of the network, resulting in overcrowded, slow moving buses there and nearly empty buses for the remainder of the routes. To relieve overcrowding and improve service in high demand areas:
Some routes may require express and local access service.
Consider eliminating outlying routes or segments where demand is low.
Vehicles should be selected according to demand.
Heavily used routes within the core of Monroe County should be serviced by 40’ or larger vehicles, while lesser used routes could be serviced by vans or other systems altogether (i.e., ride-sharing).
Where necessary, transit vehicles should be outfitted to accommodate more bicycles.
4. Make transit accessible and easy to use.
In recent years RGRTA has added several systems and technologies that have made it easier and more enjoyable to use transit. These include the fully enclosed RTS Transit Center, fare kiosks, Tap & Go fare cards, digital signage, and a mobile trip planning app. The following recommendations would make RTS even easier to use and more welcoming to new customers:
Improve integration with other modes and transit systems.
Institute an integrated payment solution so that one “currency” can be used across a variety of transportation systems (i.e., one stored-value pass to pay for bus fare, rideshare, taxi, or bike share that could be replenished online or at a kiosk).
Include data from other transportation companies within the RTS mobile app.
Share data and synchronize service between other transit providers such as college bus systems, Amtrak, and intercity buses.
Work with municipal staff and land use boards in development review and site design. Employment locations, services, retail, and higher density residential development should occur within a half mile of transit corridors. The details of site design such as building placement and internal pedestrian circulation networks are critical in supporting transit.
A dynamic transit frequency map should be published for municipalities to evaluate whether transit is a realistic mobility option for a given development or not. There’s a huge difference in a site served by buses every 2 hours versus one served by buses every 20 minutes. Frequency information is not captured on a typical system route map (see for example these maps by Reconnect Rochester and this article by Jarrett Walker).
School routes (currently designated with an X) should not add complexity to the published schedules.
Provide basic amenities for transit riders at all bus stops.
Safe and accessible sidewalk connection from curb pick-up
Route map and information
Provide enhanced amenities for transit riders at heavily used stops and hubs.
Work with municipalities to enact a maintenance plan for all bus stops.
Provide riders with real-time information
Countdown clocks with real-time information should be installed at all major transit stops and hubs (i.e., URMC, colleges, Airport, Rochester Intermodal Station, Irondequoit Plaza, etc.).
Work with municipalities and property owners to display real-time information screens at highly visible locations such as schools, shopping centers, arenas, office and apartment buildings (i.e., TransitScreen).
Provide additional off-board and cash-free fare payment methods (i.e., kiosks at major transit stops where passengers can buy Tap & Go cards, mobile ticketing via the RTS app or a 3rd party app such as Token Transit, etc.).
Explore ways to allow boarding at both front and rear doors.
5. Stay competitive through innovation.
A business succeeds by staying ahead of the competition. Beyond the recommendations outlined in sections 1-4, it will be imperative for RTS to:
Continually monitor customer needs and local market conditions in order to identify areas for improvement, industry trends and opportunities to attract new customers.
Offer classes or seminars on “how to ride the bus.” Many people are reluctant to try the bus, in part, because they are unfamiliar with it.
Have a bike rack mock-up device so people can practice loading a bike into the rack without the pressure of a bus full of people watching.
Expand offerings by studying the feasibility of new systems and upgrades such as:
Fixed guideway and/or bus rapid transit on core routes
Smaller self-driving vehicles for local or on-demand service
Work with the City and County to manage land use in a way that complements service patterns. Future service can then be planned based on land use decisions.
Work with municipalities, key neighborhood groups, and large employers to establish Transportation Demand Management entities and co-promote public transit as a solution to congestion and costly parking.
Step up marketing efforts and always maintain a fresh image reflecting the unique selling points of RTS.
Develop example language/assistance for municipalities, event planners, retailers, employers etc. that highlight the ability to use transit to access the event. Too often events or meeting notices provide parking information without information about public transit. Rochester International Jazz Festival does a good job of this.
Share Your Suggestions
We hope our suggestions will give you a framework from which to craft your own thoughts for RTS. Please feel free to steal our list straight away. Or if you have ideas not mentioned above, we’d love to hear them in the comments section below.
We also urge you to attend the first public meeting for this project on October 25th from 6:00-7:30PM at the Brockport Metro Center. And don’t forget to visit www.myRTS.com/reimagine to submit your comments and stay updated on this important project over the next 12 months.
Several local attractions are offering discounted admission this Friday, June 16, to celebrate ROC Transit Day.
In years past Reconnect Rochester has organized the event, aimed at encouraging Rochesterians to leave their cars and instead use public transit for their daily travels. While we have no big festivities planned for this year, you can still participate in the “car-free holiday”. Simply leave your car at home this Friday, ride the bus, walk, bike, enjoy the fresh air – and wish your friends a “Happy ROC Transit Day!”
You can also take advantage of several great deals being offered at local attractions when you show your RTS bus pass (plan your trip using Google Transit or the RTS mobile app)…
Show your RTS fare card at these participating locations, Friday (6/16):
$2 off admission
Route 48 University – bus stop at Blossom and University
George Eastman Museum
$5 off general admission, $3 off for seniors, $1 off for students, $2 off for Dryden admission
Route 57 East Ave.
We are all very busy. Our days are filled with places we need to go, people we need to see, things we need to do. Almost like a movie, we bounce between different scenes of our daily lives. But unlike a movie, we can’t simply edit out all of the time in between those scenes. We don’t think much about our time in transit. But the way we use that time may say a lot about who we are.
Are you the type of person who takes time to enjoy the journey? Or is the journey something you’d rather fast forward through?
What if you could bring a film crew with you on your commute to work? What if a camera man followed you on a trip to the grocery store, or to pick up your kids at school? What might we learn by watching that movie? Would it be something you’d want to share with your friends on Facebook? Or would it make better material for an upsetting Michael Moore documentary?
That was the idea behind the latest installment of Rochester Street Films. We asked local filmmakers and ordinary citizens to share their perspective on what it’s like to get around Rochester without a car. No rules; No restrictions; No filter.
Last night 200+ people gathered at The Little Theatre for the kickoff of Rochester Street Films 2017 season. Over the next few weeks we’ll share those films with you here.
And we’d like to ask for your help getting these films in front of as many people as we can. If you would like to host a mini screening of Rochester Street Films in your neighborhood, please contact us.
Bikes vs Cars premiers in Rochester this Wednesday kicking off a full line-up of events for Rochester Bike Week 2016. Starting as a Kickstarter project in September 2013, this much anticipated film tells of the modern bike revolution in cities across the world.
Posted by: Daniel Speciale, volunteer with Reconnect Rochester.
The Genesee Transportation Council (GTC) is asking for public input on their Long Range Transportation Plan for the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region 2040 (LRTP 2040). The LRTP identifies the direction for the region’s transportation system and serves as the framework for future investment in highways, bridges, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian projects over the next 25 years. The LRTP 2040 Public Review Document provides an introduction to the LRTP 2040 planning processes, a summary of customer engagement feedback, a financial analysis with revenues and costs, and draft recommendations based on regional needs and customer feedback. Here’s a summary of the document…
On Wednesday, February 24, Reconnect Rochester will bring Samuel Schwartz to Rochester. Sam is the former traffic commissioner for New York City and the man who literally invented the word “Gridlock.”
Gridlock Sam is one of the leading transportation experts in the United States today. He is currently a columnist at the New York Daily News. And his firm, Sam Schwartz Engineering, has recently produced a plan for the redesign of East Main Street here in Rochester…
Volunteers from Reconnect Rochester and Flower City AmeriCorps are teaming up to clear snow from bus stops and crosswalks in various Rochester neighborhoods this winter. We’re calling it The Great Rochester Snow Down and we could use your help on Saturday 1/23…
Record cold temperatures and mountains of snow last year made many of our sidewalks and bus stops inaccessible for weeks at a time. This year, before winter tightens its icy grip, Reconnect Rochester would like to invite you to help us defend our streets by taking part in The Great Rochester Snow Down .
Every other Saturday from January 9 – March 6, volunteers from Reconnect Rochester and Flower City AmeriCorps will gather together along one major avenue in our area to clear snow from bus stops and crosswalks…
If you weren’t in the audience this past Thursday evening at the first-ever Rochester Street Films, well, you missed one heck of a good time. Maybe you got stuck in traffic and had to turn back. We get it, life happens. While we can’t recreate the energetic live panel discussions, we can at least share a portion of the event with you here…
Join us at The Little Theatre on November 19, 2015 for the first ever Rochester Street Films event.
Through short film clips and community discussion moderated by Rachel Barnhart (WROC-TV) we will explore “the future of transportation” in and around Rochester—in particular, walking, biking, & public transit.
We’ll see how cities around the world are implementing smart transportation design and policies to create better places to live, work and play. And we’ll also hear from local experts and everyday Rochesterians about the current and future state of transportation in Monroe County…
RTS customers will soon see improvements and added service to the Henrietta-Jefferson Road corridor in the Town of Henrietta. Existing bus routes being modified are 24/24A Marketplace Mall/East Henrietta and 101 Avon. New routes will be designated 23 Jefferson Rd., 83 Calkins Rd. and 124 Marketplace Limited. The changes are expected to streamline service and provide greater access to key retail, business and residential destinations. Changes will go into effect on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. RTS has scheduled six information sessions for customers and community residents to learn about the route changes…
ROC Transit Day is next week – Thursday, June 18. Rochester will be going car-free in support of a healthier community and we’ve lined up a fun day to celebrate… bus rides for you and the family, a street dance competition , city-wide treasure hunt , music all afternoon outside Rochester Central Library. Oh, and did someone say flash mob ?
So if you haven’t already, pull together a team of friends or co-workers and hop a bus on June 18. And if you need fare cards, contact us now . See the full event schedule…
Reconnect Rochester is proud to partner with Rochester Contemporary Art Center to bring you an exhibit focusing on bicycle history and culture in Rochester! Ride It: Art and Bicycles in Rochester will open on Friday, April 3…
A new Transit Center began operating, demolition began on the old Inner Loop, and a 1000-bike sharing system may soon launch, along with hundreds of other projects in the region. What should we make of them or of others not planned?
In the early days of Reconnect, we shared more ideas, news, and opinion around a table, but nowadays a tight agenda occupies our meetings. Though smaller workgroups have formed, they’re tasked onto specific projects. In so, we miss larger opportunities to connect from wider ideas and to form new ones, and thus #innovate. Salons let us rejuvenate some of this early energy.
Conversations in a salon need not focus on our projects, or projects around the region, nor even transform into action. They may wander onto tangential topics. This keeps the conversation fresh, and also opens the floor to others who might not otherwise participate in monthly salons about transportation or land-use reform.
Salons practice an art of conversation, of listening and sharing ideas. Convened in a space comfortable for ten to twenty, and hosted historically by educated patronesses of a royal court, they’ve taken form this century convened by inspired hosts. Help us revive the form.
This Wednesday, 5:30 – 7:00pm at the Penthouse (1 East Avenue – 11th Floor) you are invited to attend a Downtown Parking Summit hosted by the City of Rochester. But this is not a meeting to discuss how we create more parking. We’ve tried that before, and it nearly killed our city.
Reconnect Rochester recognizes the importance of having an adequate supply of downtown parking. However, we believe parking should be one component to a much larger, diverse plan to improve access to downtown…
On Tuesday, January 27 at 6:30pm, Reconnect Rochester will get together with the Rochester Improvement Society for food, drinks and thoughtful conversation at Scotland Yard Pub. We’d love to see YOU there!
For $5 you’ll get pasta/pizza, a free beer, and entry into an awesome raffle drawing. Raffle prizes include a Hart’s Grocers gift card, a Rochester T-shirt package, framed poster/prints from RochesterSubway.com, and tickets to Landmark Society’s 2015 Inside Downtown Tour. See the prizes here.