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Our Suggestions for a Reimagined RTS

[ Make your voice heard. Take the Reimagine RTS survey. ]

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.

Reimagine RTS

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:

  1. Vehicles should run every 30 minutes or less throughout the entire system.
  2. Vehicles should run every 15 minutes or less on key routes during peak hours.
  3. Routes, schedules and frequencies should be consistent throughout the weekday and on weekends.
  4. Vehicles should depart from the terminal on time.
  5. Even spacing should be maintained between buses.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Bus Rapid Transit

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Comfortable Bus

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:

  1. Some routes may require express and local access service.
  2. Consider eliminating outlying routes or segments where demand is low.
  3. 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).
  4. Where necessary, transit vehicles should be outfitted to accommodate more bicycles.

4. Make transit accessible and easy to use.

Bus Stop with real-time information

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. School routes (currently designated with an X) should not add complexity to the published schedules.
  4. Provide basic amenities for transit riders at all bus stops.
    • Safe and accessible sidewalk connection from curb pick-up
    • Route map and information
    • Seating
  5. Provide enhanced amenities for transit riders at heavily used stops and hubs.
    • Shelter
    • Trash receptacle
    • Bike rack
    • Heat
    • WiFi
  6. Work with municipalities to enact a maintenance plan for all bus stops.
    • Trash pickup
    • Snow removal
    • Accountability
  7. 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).
  8. 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.).
  9. Explore ways to allow boarding at both front and rear doors.

5. Stay competitive through innovation.

RTS Streetcar

A business succeeds by staying ahead of the competition. Beyond the recommendations outlined in sections 1-4, it will be imperative for RTS to:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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“Reimagine RTS” – A fresh start for Rochester’s Transit System?

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.

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City of Rochester’s Pace Car Program Asks Drivers to Be Part of the Solution

Rochester's Mayor Lovely Warren held a press conference today to announce the expansion of the Pace Car program citywide.
Posted by: Renee Stetzer, Vice President & Pedestrian Safety Committee Chair at Reconnect Rochester

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.

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Do-It-Yourself Bus Stop Bench

What is this concrete thingy jutting out into the sidewalk on Joseph Ave?Posted by: Daniel Speciale, volunteer at Reconnect Rochester

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…

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Bus Stop Cube Program Expands to Joseph Avenue

Bus Stop Cubes
Posted by: Daniel Speciale, volunteer at Reconnect Rochester

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…

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Construction Begins on Rochester’s First LEGO Bus Stop

A new LEGO bus shelter is being constructed at the corner of Monroe Avenue and French Road in Pittsford. [IMAGE: Reconnect Rochester]
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…

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Long Range Transportation Plan 2040

Genesee Transportation Council is asking for feedback on their Long Range Transportation Plan for the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region 2040 (LRTP 2040).
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 external link 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…

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Bus Cube Update

This summer, Reconnect Rochester placed these bus stop cubes at several locations around the city. With your help, we hope to add more next spring.
Posted by: Daniel Speciale, volunteer at Reconnect Rochester

You may recall reading some time ago that Reconnect Rochester had come up with a temporary solution to the lack of seating at Rochester’s bus stops. Here’s an update…

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What’s the frequency, RTS?

How would the RTS coverage map look if we considered the actual frequency of bus service. [IMAGE: Regional Transit Service]
Posted by: Mike Governale, president and co-founder of Reconnect Rochester

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…

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Introducing “Streets for the People”

Streets for the People
Posted by: board member Renee Stetzer, pedestrian safety advocate and blogger at RocVille.com

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

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Monroe County Crash Map

Monroe County Crash Map
Posted by: Mike Governale, president and co-founder of Reconnect Rochester

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” external link they’ve created is revealing an enormously high human toll on our local roadways…

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ROC Transit Day 2015

ROC Transit Day is next week!

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 external link, city-wide treasure hunt external link, music all afternoon outside Rochester Central Library. Oh, and did someone say flash mob external link?

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 external link. See the full event schedule…

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Bus Stop Cubes: a place to rest while you wait

Reconnect Rochester is aiming to come up with a solution for the lack of seating at bus stops in our region.
Posted by: Mike Governale, president and co-founder of Reconnect Rochester

Anyone who has ever used public transportation in Rochester is painfully aware of two things: At some point will have to wait for your bus, and when you do, you will probably be standing. But now, Reconnect Rochester is aiming to come up with a solution…

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Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism

Benjamin Ross event flyer.
On Monday, September 29, Reconnect Rochester will host a discussion with author and transit advocate Benjamin Ross. Mr. Ross will be at the Public Library on Monroe Ave. at 6:30 p.m. to talk about his new book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism external link. Afterwards, follow us across the street to Aladdin’s for more conversation with Ross, and enjoy some free munchies courtesy of Reconnect Rochester. Please join this free event on Facebook external link and bring a friend or two. We hope to see you there!

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What Could You Do With This Bus Shelter?

Rochester's cool retro-style bus shelters will be history by this time next year unless someone steps forward to claim them. [PHOTO: RocPX.com]
By this time next year, Rochester’s cool retro-style bus shelters could be history. When the RTS Transit Center opens in November, RTS buses that currently wait for passengers along Main Street will instead turn into the new facility on Mortimer Street. And after 25 years of service, six shelters from the Genesee River to Chestnut Street will be removed.

There is one thing that could save these iconic structures from the scrap yard: Your creativity.

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A Better Bus Schedule for Rochester

RGRTA has asked for help redesigning one of their most important transit tools. Meet the new RTS bus schedules.

If you’ve been following along, you know RTS has been trying to apply a little design for the betterment of our transit system. RGRTA is currently studying the idea of new bus stop signs. And they’ve already introduced a better bus pass.

But wait, there’s more! RGRTA recently asked for our help redesigning one of the most important transit tools of all; those big, bad, bus schedules…

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A New Intermodal Station for Rochester, New York.

A New Intermodal Station for Rochester, NY. Conceptualized by the volunteers at Reconnect Rochester. Now you can order your own reprint of this design panel.

If you haven’t heard, the City of Rochester is requesting proposals for a new combined Amtrak/Greyhound/Trailways station. We don’t know about you, but we’re giddy with excitement. Rochester has had more than its share of great transit stations – sadly, many have been lost to history. Now, finally we have an opportunity to build a respectable gateway to Rochester that will serve our region well and become a landmark for many many generations.

Reconnect Rochester is not standing idly by. You know what they say about idle hands. Well these hands have been busy drawing up our own vision for the most perfect intermodal transit station Rochester is certainly deserving of.

We hope you feel this design is cool enough to share. Share it on Facebook. Email it to a friend or your local officials and representatives. Help us make this concept a reality.

More details about our concept after the jump…

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A New Future for Transit in Rochester: Our Mayoral Policy Statement

[PHOTO: Robert Torzynski]

Reconnect Rochester is a group of transportation advocates calling for the creation of a fully integrated multi-modal transportation network for our region. We believe the next Mayor has the opportunity to champion a dramatic shift in our transportation infrastructure. The transit system this city and region needs will require dedication of time, staff and resources.

We urge all candidates to pledge their commitment to this vision as part of their platform for candidacy.

Read what each candidate had to say about this document and the future of Rochester’s transit system below.

What follows is our reasoning and recommendations for the future Mayor to incorporate into his or her platform.

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RTS Transit Center Design Checklist… TAKE ONE!

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, RGRTA will be hosting its Second Public Design Review Workshop inviting members of the community to review and react to design options for the RTS Transit Center external link. This public review will take place at the Radisson Inn Riverside external link and the doors will be open to everyone from 6:00-7:30 pm.

Ideas and comments on the initial designs were taken by RGRTA at the RTS Transit Center Public Design Review Workshop external link (September 15, 2010) and the Rochester City Council Public Forums (April 27, and May 5th, 2010).

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester have compiled this handy checklist for YOU (the public) to use as a guide to assess how well public comments were received and integrated into the newly proposed designs. Print it, share it, and use as a starting point to form your own opinions and ask the important questions…

This is a compilation of some of the public input collected by RGRTA on the design of the Mortimer Street RTS Transit Center. Use this handy checklist to form your analysis of the final Transit Center designs.

Follow Reconnect Rochester on Facebook external link for updates on the RTS Transit Center and other local transportation projects and public meetings.

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Beyond the Motor City — at the Dryden Theater, June 28. Bring Your Pals—It’s On Us!







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BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY is screening in a handful of cities this May and June. It will screen here in Rochester on June 28, 2010.On Monday June 28 at 7:00pm you are invited to a FREE screening of PBS’s eye-opening film, BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY at the Dryden Theater. The documentary is touring cities across America to raise questions—and seek answers—about the future of transportation in America. Can we build the “infrastructure of tomorrow” today? Can the cash-strapped and car-dependent cities of the so-called Rust Belt become new models for fast, clean, public transit? The links and similarities between Rochester NY and Detroit MI are glaringly obvious—and I think you owe it to yourself to see this film.

This FREE public event will come to you 100% FREE of charge thanks to RRCDC external link, Reconnect Rochester external link, Rochester Rail Transit Committee external link, Rochester Trolley & Rail external link, Empire State Future external link, New York Museum of Transportation external link and PBS external link. Immediately following the film a panel consisting of City planners, urban growth experts, bike & transit advocates, and concerned citizens will discuss topics including:

  • New hopes for accessible, clean, and modern mass transit in America
  • The role of cities, and consumers, in shaping the next generation of transportation systems
  • A roadmap for revitalizing the way we move through our cities and neighborhoods

This will surely be a thought-provoking FREE event and a great opportunity for you to take part in a very important FREE conversation for our community. So mark your calendar and bring some friends. Did I mention this is FREE?!

More About the Film:

The latest installment in the BLUEPRINT AMERICA initiative takes viewers on a cinematic journey in search of America’s transportation future. Pictured: A view of downtown Detroit from the top of the run-down Michigan Central Train Station. (Photo Credit: Lloyd Handwerker/WNET.ORG)BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY external link examines how Detroit, a grim symbol of America’s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. Narrated by Miles O’Brien, the film explores Detroit’s historic investments in infrastructure—from early 19th- century canals to the urban freeways that gave The Motor City its name and made America’s transportation system the envy of the world.

Correspondent Miles O’Brien says he’s saddened every time he returns to the Motor City and sees “the ruins of a once great city.” Pictured: Michigan Theatre, now a parking garage. (Photo Credit: SNWEB.ORG Photography/Sean Doerr)But over the last 30 years, much of the world has left Detroit—and America—behind, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation. In a journey that takes us into the neighborhoods of Detroit and then beyond to Spain, California, and our nation’s capital, BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY urges us to ask how we might finally push America’s transportation system into the 21st century.

Using CGI animation combined with current footage of Detroit, the film brings the vision of the city’s possible transportation future to life. A network of trains within the city center would run along main thoroughfares. (Photo Credit: Lloyd Handwerker and HUSH Studios, Inc.)BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY is part of Blueprint America, a national, multi-platform initiative examining the state of America’s transportation infrastructure. Blueprint America was created and produced by Thirteen for WNET.ORG and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Surdna Foundation.

Event Info:

Time: Monday June 28, 2010 at 7:00pm

Location: Dryden Theater (Map it external link)

Cost: FREE – Zero – Zilch – Nada – FREE FREE FREE