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.
The community response was tremendous, and we thank all those who took the time to submit nominations! We received a total of 159 nominations for 31 locations in Monroe County.
The Steering Committee had a tough task to choose from so many quality submissions and deserving locations! A set of established judging criteria helped guide us through the selection process. Here we are, hard at work examining each and every submission:
So What’s the Good Word?
In the end, we selected the following locations for this year’s project:
N. Clinton Ave. in the El Camino neighborhood – WINNER
S. Clinton, S. Goodman & Henrietta St. – FINALIST
Monroe Ave. & Sutherland St. (Village of Pittsford) – FINALIST
The North Clinton Ave. location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street re-design that would create real, transformative change for the community through our project. A Complete Streets Makeover will also be perfectly timed to dovetail with plans already underway for this corridor.
The Complete Streets Makeover will kick off with a community input session in June (facilitated by the Community Design Center) to hear from the residents of the El Camino neighborhood about their experiences and ideas. No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than those who walk, bike, roll and ride along them everyday.
Based on feedback from this session, the complete streets design team at Stantec will draft conceptual design improvements of an improved streetscape. The design will be brought to life through a temporary on-street installation in September. We will rely on people power from the neighborhood community, and equipment from the Healthi Kids traffic calming library to lay down the temporary design on the street. Stay tuned for project updates as we go along!
What About the Finalists?
Our finalists won’t walk away empty-handed! The design team at Stantec will provide each of them with a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. The neighborhoods can use these illustrations as a launch pad for community discussion, and a tool to help advocate for changes that would make these streets safer for everyone
In this final installment of our Complete Streets Blog Series, guest author David Riley will highlight a sampling of intersections and trouble spots that were nominated for theComplete Streets Makeover project, and share his ideas for how they might be made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Back in May, we launched our Complete Streets Makeover project by asking the general public to help identify theintersections and trouble-spots where you live, work and play that could be redesigned to make them safer for everyone. We received over 90 nominations, and after a careful process to examine each and every submission, we selected the following locations:
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.
Moments ago RGRTA announced plans to study sweeping changes to the RTS (Monroe County) transit system. The effort is being called Reimagine RTS and the goal is to develop a set of recommendations to address the community’s mobility needs, increase transit ridership, and position RTS for long-term financial sustainability.
Guest essay submitted by: Michael Tomb & Marcia Zach, Highland Park residents…
As many of you are aware, because of a crash near the intersection of Meigs & Linden, in 2009, we created the HPNA Traffic Calming team which eventually became “The Highland Placemaking Team”. We came up with a plan for traffic calming in the area of our playground and, although quite a few items were implemented, many of the safety related traffic calming features were not because of County resistance, City policy and other things.
Our intent was to avoid something as what JUST happened in my neighbor’s front yard. No children should have to witness such a scene in their front yard while waiting for the school bus. I am thankful we avoided (barely!) a major heart-wrenching tragedy, but it was NOT because of this driver’s fear of the consequences of being so careless. It was only a matter of timing that prevented something much worse from occurring. You and I both know we need to do better.
We are also both saddened and absolutely outraged the driver was NOT ticketed. Maybe I am bit ashamed of my city as well. My assessment after working on matters of traffic calming in Rochester has actually been to expect that kind of response from law enforcement. Indeed, I have been telling friends that if a person desires to damage property and and even kill innocent bystanders, in order to face the fewest number of consequences, the car IS your weapon of choice. It wasn’t always that way… the tolerance for irresponsible driving was a hard -earned privilege.Read more
We were proud to be part of today’s launch of the City of Rochester’s Pace Car program! We joined Mayor Lovely Warren and other community leaders to introduce the new citywide initiative that asks drivers to be part of the solution to make our community streets safer for all who use them. Pace Car drivers sign a pledge to drive within the speed limit, drive courteously, yield to pedestrians and be mindful of bicyclists and others on the street. Drivers display the yellow Pace Car sticker on their vehicles to show others that they are taking accountability for how they drive on our community streets.
When the Reconnect Rochester volunteers were out on Joseph Avenue last month placing the latest set of bus stop cubes, I noticed this crumbling bit of concrete (above) and thought… What the hell is it?
We kicked around some thoughts; Maybe a base for one of those traffic signal boxes? Part of an old bus shelter? An old stoop leading to a long-demolished storefront?
An email to my street design guy (yeah, I know a guy) quickly solved the mystery…
If you’ve been hunting for a place to sit down while waiting for your bus to arrive, rejoice. The CUBES are back! This year our volunteers have already placed 14 of those colorful little bus stop cube seats and the program is expanding with 5 additional cubes being placed on Joseph Avenue…
What could take the doldrums out of waiting for your bus? How about waiting from within a giant LEGO® bus shelter? Oh yeah. If you’re traveling from French Road on the #47 bus this spring, you’ll be able to do just that…
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…
The map above shows Rochester’s public transit network. Looks impressive with all of its lines stretching out across Monroe County. From Webster to Chili; Greece to Penfield; there’s a bus or two to get you there. On the other hand, if our transit network were really as good as it looks on this map, why are less than 2% of all trips in Rochester made using public transit?
Hmmm… Maybe because parking is cheaper than air here in Rochester?
Well, yes. But also, this map might be overstating the effective reach of RTS. Remember, a transit system is only good if it’s there when you need it…
Regular, everyday citizens rallying together can set in motion great change in our communities. After all, the people who are most in touch with what is needed in our neighborhoods are those who live, walk, ride, play, drive, shop and work in them every day.
Reconnect Rochester is happy to announce a new initiative that is a direct result of everyday citizen action: Streets for the People…
Just about every day on the local news we hear about a crime that took place somewhere in our community. And usually after that news you’ll often hear a traffic report… “An accident at the I-590 split has traffic backed up ALL the way to 104. You better give yourself some extra time for your commute this morning!”
What we don’t often hear about—or think about—are the lives that were impacted as a result of that car crash that has inconvenienced our drive.
Now here’s something that might help put your daily traffic report in perspective: between 2010-2014 there were 22,389 car crashes in Monroe County which resulted in at least one injury or fatality. The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester have been hard at work collecting that data. And a new “Crash Map” they’ve created is revealing an enormously high human toll on our local roadways…