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The Bus Cubes Have Landed!

Next time you walk, ride or roll along Parsells, Lyell or Monroe Avenues, you’ll notice a bright new addition to the streetscape. This month, cubes made from fiberglass were installed at 5 bus stops along each of these corridors, offering RTS riders a respectable place to sit while they wait.

The City of Rochester and RTS have been tremendous partners on this project. Thanks especially to DES Commissioner Norm Jones and City Councilmember Mitch Gruber for championing the effort, along with City staff across many departments who worked hand-in-hand with us to see this to fruition. We also couldn’t have done it without our neighborhood partners in Beechwood, Lyell-Otis and Upper Monroe, or the funders that stepped up to contribute.

Cubes for Your Community

This is just the beginning! We hope the pilot project will lead to bus stop cubes in more Rochester neighborhoods and beyond. Reconnect Rochester will continue to work with RTS, local municipalities and community organizations throughout Monroe County to identify bus stops in the system that are well utilized but lack seating. 

Would you like to see cubes at bus stops in YOUR neighborhood or community? Contact us and we’ll do our best to work with you to secure funding and make it happen. 

Are you from outside the Monroe County area and interested in purchasing bus stop cubes for your town or city? Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with the manufacturer. Reconnect Rochester receives a sales commission that helps fuel our effort to put more bus stop cubes on the ground locally.

Why Are We Doing This Anyway?

Anyone who has ever used public transportation in Rochester is painfully aware of two things:  At some point you will have to wait for your bus, and when you do, you will probably be standing. 

For senior citizens, people with disabilities, and parents with young children, being made to stand for any length of time can be less than ideal. Even for those passengers who are physically capable of standing, having no place to sit while waiting on the side of a busy roadway can cause anxiety and discomfort.

Our bus system is the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service. Not an ideal situation if we're trying to encourage folks to use public transit.

Why is our bus system the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service? The single biggest issue is the sheer scale of the system. There are thousands of bus stops in the RTS network, and the resources of the transit authority are already spread thin. 

If this issue could be remedied, not only would we make the lives of current riders a little easier, but we might also encourage more people to use public transportation. This is why Reconnect Rochester has decided to make bus stop seating a priority for our community.

How Did This Project Come About?

In 2017, after 3 years piloting seasonal bus stop cubes made from high-pressured wood, Reconnect Rochester set out to find a permanent, year-round amenity for bus riders. In our research, we came upon a local manufacturer of fiberglass — a nearly indestructible, weather resistant material that was perfect for the job! It took about three years of stops-and-starts to design and manufacture the fiberglass model that you see today.

To go further back in history and learn more about how the bus cube concept came to be, check out the Bus Cube Birth Story on our website.

RTS rider enjoys our temporary, seasonal solution to the dearth of seating at local bus stops.
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Rochester wants to get more residents on bikes

by Jesse Peers, cycling coordinator at Reconnect Rochester

“The bicycle is in many ways the easiest solution to a multitude of problems.” – Anna Brones in Hello, Bicycle

As a bicycle instructor, I love teaching bike classes and presentations in our area. (If you want to book a lunch n’ learn presentation for your workplace, library or community group, let me know at cycling@reconnectrochester.org). Before going in depth on any subject, I spend a few slides at the beginning highlighting the benefits of biking. It’s not enough just to tell people how to bike safely. You have to inspire them to bike in the first place. There are powerful financial, health and environmental benefits that accrue from biking. And although it only takes one of these reasons to get on a bike, you and society will benefit in a variety of ways for doing so.

My hope with this blog is not only to “preach the cycling gospel,” but to familiarize readers with Rochester’s goals and policies, particularly its groundbreaking Rochester 2034 Plan. As I’ve gravitated towards bike advocacy in recent years, I was pleased to discover that my hometown also sees the benefits of getting more citizens on bikes. The City of Rochester has many plans in motion to better our city and many of those plans incorporate getting more people on bikes.

Choice, equity & “complete streets”

In line with New York State, Rochester adopted its own Complete Streets Policy in 2011, in which it “recognizes that our streets should accommodate a wide range of transportation modes…Our streets are a reflection of our community…” According to the most recent US Census Bureau American Community Survey five-year estimates (2017), 25.3% of all households in the City of Rochester do not have access to a private vehicle. In some neighborhoods like JOSANA, over 46% of households do not own automobiles (Source: JOSANA Study). 

The City defines a complete street as one that “accommodates all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and persons with disabilities.” Moreover the recent 2034 Plan expresses clear concern for “an overly car-dependent culture” and acknowledges that residents want choice when it comes to transportation.  “The City’s statement of support for these values helps set the bike community up to advocate for specific projects and improvements.

‘Justicia Urbana’ by Fabian Todorovic

Household & Society Finances

Each fall, the American Automobile Association (AAA) puts out an updated estimate of the average annual cost of car ownership. As anyone who’s ever owned a car knows, this cost goes beyond just paying for the vehicle itself: interest, insurance, gas, maintenance, registration and depreciation add up considerably. Though we can expect Rochesterians to spend less than the average ($9,282 a year for a new car), in a city where the per capita income is well below the national average, $6,000 or more a year to spend on a car is too big a piece of the household financial pie. By biking for some trips, Rochesterians can save serious money.

In addition to the financial burden cars impose on households, we also need to recognize that society loses money from prioritizing and incentivizing car travel. As our friend Arian Horbovetz points out so well, every form of transportation is subsidized. No form of transportation pays for itself. It stands to reason then that municipalities, especially those with limited funds in hard times, ought to prioritize infrastructure funding for modes of travel that are available to everyone, not just those who can afford to own a personal vehicle.

“It is pure poetry that a 19th-century invention is capable of solving complicated 21st-century issues.” – Mikael Colville-Andersen in Copenhagenize

As Lynn Richards, the President & CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, told us last year in her Reshaping Rochester talk for the Community Design Center, downtowns with abundant, cheap parking have city halls that struggle to pay the bills. A frequent line from those administrations is “Yeah, [your idea] is great but we don’t have the money.” Vibrant downtowns use valuable urban real estate to make money, put a price on parking and incentivize other modes of travel. Next time you hear someone say good bike infrastructure is too expensive, remind them that “One mile of a protected bike lane is 100x cheaper than one mile of roadway” and that by prioritizing cars, they are prioritizing the mode too many residents can’t afford.

City documents and plans that support these values:

  • The 2034 plan asserts that “increasing the ability of residents to bike will provide residents who don’t own cars with an alternative to get to work or the store.” 
  • Rochester Bicycle Master Plan: “Improving bicycling conditions is a cost effective way of optimizing existing public infrastructure.”
  • Bike Rochester webpage: Increased disposable income can result in increased spending in the local marketplace, which would boost the local economy.
  • 2034: Vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods with strong economies “limit auto-oriented uses and design.”

Health

As Peter Walker points out in How Cycling Can Save The World, “the health incentives for cycling massively outweigh the perils…Every year about 700 Americans die on bikes, a figure that could and should be significantly lower. But over the same period at least 200,000 of their compatriots die from conditions linked to a lack of physical activity.” And don’t forget that “more Americans have died in car crashes since 2000 than in both World Wars.” 

Moderate biking “has been found to have an almost miraculous effect” on health, “in part because it is so easy to incorporate into everyday life…Cyclists don’t just get extra life years, they’re more likely to remain mobile and independent into older age.” A recent UK study found that bike commuters had a 46% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer.

City documents and plans that support these values:

  • Evaluation of Trail Entry Conditions and Recommendations for Improvements: The City of Rochester proudly promotes healthy communities and lifestyles. 
  • 2034:  Residents bicycling instead of driving incorporate exercise into their daily routine, which increases overall health.
  • 2034: The City wants to improve public health by making Rochester more walkable and bikeable
  • 2034: On-street bike networks allow residents to access to recreation, world-class trails and parks improves public health

Climate Crisis

UC Davis found that if only 14% of urban trips worldwide were taken on bikes, we’d reduce emissions enough to meet the Paris Climate Goals. This is so doable! If people used their cars for when the weather was bad, when the distances are too long and when there’s more than one occupant in the car, we’d live in a different world. If you only hopped on a bike for short solo trips in good weather, it’d make a massive difference.

By the way, any idea where the most polluted air is concentrated? Where the unhealthiest air is to breathe? It’s around our schools every morning and every afternoon. “Pick-up and drop-off times create clouds of invisible yet toxic diesel fumes” as buses idle.

City documents and plans that support these values:

  • In its Climate Action Plan, the City acknowledges the urgent need to “reduce vehicle miles traveled” along with “single occupant vehicle trips.” 
    • Transportation currently accounts for about a quarter of GHG emissions in Rochester. Policies and actions that make it easier to make trips by foot, bicycle, and transit, can help the community reduce transportation-related GHG emissions.
  • 2034: Installation of various bicycle infrastructure elements (bike lanes, protected lanes, bike boulevards, bike share system, bike parking/storage, bike maintenance stations) to encourage this cleaner, healthier mode of transportation.
  • 2034: Single-occupancy vehicles are detrimental to the environment…Motor vehicles are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, alternate modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, riding the bus, or carpooling can greatly cut down on the environmental impact of traveling.
  • 2034: The more trips made by bicycle means fewer motor vehicles on the road, which decreases congestion on our streets, lowers the demand for parking, and decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. 
  • 2034: Bike infrastructure encourages cleaner modes of transportation
  • 2034: The more trips made by bicycle means fewer vehicles on the road, which decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. 
  • 2034: The City Department of Environmental Services is a bringing more green infrastructure to the city and is pursuing an aggressive plan to reduce Rochester’s carbon footprint.

Anytime we advocate for safer, more equitable streets and better bike infrastructure, we need to point to Rochester’s goals and plans and how the whole community will benefit from encouraging bicycling. And when City Hall delivers, let them know your appreciation!


Join Us!

Join us for a virtual screening of the inspirational Dutch film Why We Cycle on Thursday, September 10, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on Zoom. Following the film, there will be a live panel discussion with community leaders and advocates. We’ll use the film as a springboard to reflect on how we can get more Rochesterians on bikes. See event details and register at www.ReconnectRochester.org/streetfilms.

“The Dutch and their bikes are inseparable. It’s not a form of transportation, it’s a way of living.”Holland.com guide for visiting the Netherlands

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Sidewalk Snow Removal: How Are We Doing in Monroe County?

Story by: David Riley
A Rochester resident and a former journalist, David is completing a master’s degree in urban planning at the University at Buffalo…

Winter sidewalk. Rochester NY.

For tens of thousands of Monroe County residents, a sidewalk isn’t just a convenience. It’s a vital connection to the world.

Nearly 12,000 people here walk to their jobs, U.S. Census data shows. Another 13,000 walk to and from bus stops in order to take public transportation to work, including as many as 1 in 3 workers in some city neighborhoods. Many people also rely on sidewalks to get to and from school, medical appointments or grocery stores, much less to go for a jog or walk the dog.

So for many people, it isn’t simply an annoyance if part of a sidewalk turns into a snowdrift during the winter. It’s a disruption that forces people going about daily routines to wade through snow or take a dangerous chance and walk in the street. For people with disabilities, a snowy sidewalk can make a usually simple outing impossible.

Yet keeping sidewalks clear is not always a priority for municipalities in the Northeast and Midwest. The City of Rochester does more than many other Snow Belt cities. While property owners here are responsible for clearing adjacent sidewalks of snow and ice, the city also provides supplemental sidewalk plowing anytime it snows at least 4 inches. The program has drawn some interest in recent years from Buffalo and Syracuse, neither of which generally plow sidewalks beyond public buildings. A handful of local suburbs also provide some municipal sidewalk plowing, including Greece and Irondequoit. Read more

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The City of Rochester Public Market: An Important Example and Experiment in Our Community

Guest essay submitted by: Evan Lowenstein, Reconnect Rochester Member and Assistant Market Supervisor for Communications and Special Events/Projects, City of Rochester Public Market… 

Rochester Public MarketThe 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.

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What Should Transit-Supportive Development Look Like in Rochester?

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

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In Case You Missed It: Rochester Street Films

Rochester Street Films at The Little Theatre. Thursday, November 19, 2015.
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…

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Parking Summit This Wednesday

The City of Rochester will hold a public Parking Summit this Wednesday.
Posted by: Mike Governale, president and co-founder of Reconnect Rochester

This Wednesday, 5:30 – 7:00pm at the Penthouse (1 East Avenue – 11th Floor) you are invited to attend a Downtown Parking Summit external link 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…

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Help Move Us Into 2015

Reconnect Rochester needs your support to keep rolling in 2015. [PHOTO: John Derycke]
Posted by: Mike Governale, President, Reconnect Rochester

Have you been following Reconnect Rochester over the past few years? Do you like the idea of increased transit options and walkable, more vibrant neighborhoods? If so, please consider making a year-end contribution and keep us rolling into 2015…

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Cuomo Approves Red Light Cameras Through 2019

Last week Governor Andrew Cuomo granted permission for several cities and counties in New York, including Rochester, to begin or continue red light camera programs until 2019. [PHOTO: Renee Stetzer]
Posted by: Renee Stetzer, pedestrian safety advocate and blogger at RocVille.com

Last week Governor Andrew Cuomo granted permission for several cities and counties in New York, including Rochester, to begin or continue red light camera programs until 2019. Red light camera programs remain a controversial topic, but cities all over the country are choosing to continue their programs as they strive to make their streets safer for all who traverse them. New York City Mayor de Blasio is leading the charge in our state with his Vision Zero external link plan, a multi-faceted approach to reducing traffic fatalities – and red light cameras are one of those facets…

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Do Red Light Cameras Make Rochester Streets Safer?

Do Red Light Cameras Make Rochester Streets Safer? [PHOTO: FringeHog, Flickr]
Posted by: Renee Stetzer, pedestrian safety advocate and blogger at RocVille.com

The City of Rochester began installing red light cameras in 2010. There are currently over 30 intersections equipped with red light cameras (see the full list and a map here external link) The cameras are active 24/7 and get still photos and video anytime a vehicle runs a red light. Registered owners of vehicles that are “captured” running red lights in those intersections are sent a Notice of Liability in the mail.

Many drivers, of course, do not like the presence of the cameras. They feel like big brother is watching…

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Mount Read Boulevard Corridor Study: Public Meeting This Thursday

A public meeting will be held this Thursday to review an improvement plan for Mount Read Boulevard.
The City of Rochester, in partnership with the NY State Department of Transportation, Monroe County, Town of Greece, and Genesee Transportation Council, is leading an effort to develop a vision for improving Mount Read Boulevard external link from Buffalo Road (NYS Route 33) traffic circle to Stone Road.

If you use this section of Mt Read Blvd, either on foot, bike, car, truck, or public transit, you are invited to attend a public meeting this Thursday…

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Parking vs. Local Independent Business: Zoning Board Meeting Tomorrow

John Ebel, Marc Lebeau, and Brandon Rizzo want to open small coffee shop in Rochester. But parking rules may prevent that from happening.
Three local entrepreneurs want to open small coffee shop in Rochester. But parking rules may prevent that from happening. John Ebel, Marc Lebeau (co-owners of Smokestack Cowork) and Brandon Rizzo plan to open Pour Coffee Parlor external link at 23 Somerton Street external link in the Park Ave / East Ave area, but the City of Rochester contends that there is not enough parking at the location for the City to grant proper zoning to open. The location has 4 parking spots, and the partners have leased 6 more spots from a neighboring business to reach the quota, but that may not be enough…

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Rochester Bicycle Boulevards Public Meeting

Bike Boulevard in Berkeley, CA [PHOTO: Artbandito]
Rochester is planning a network of bicycle boulevards external link to connect destinations throughout the city and give residents a safer bike commute. The plan is being developed by the City of Rochester, in partnership with the New York State Department of Transportation, Monroe County, Rochester Cycling Alliance, and Genesee Transportation Council.

If you’d like to hear more about this project and provide input, please attend the first public meeting tomorrow:

Tuesday, Feb. 11 @ 6pm
Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County NY
Kate Gleason Auditorium
115 South Avenue external link

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Join the Call for Safer Streets in Rochester

Lake Avenue at St. Bernard's Park Apartments where senior citizens regularly cross to pick up their bus on the opposite side of the street.
Last week the City of Rochester decided it would not move ahead with a planned road diet along Lake Avenue that many had hoped would improve safety for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and those who depend on bus service in the area. The Lake Avenue Improvement Project external link would have replaced two automobile lanes with a center turning lane and bike lanes. Due to pressure from the Charlotte neighborhood and merchants associations, city engineers will be sent back to the drawing board, ordered to keep all four auto lanes…

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Latest Inner Loop Plan: a winner in our book

Posted by: Bob Williams, VP of Advocacy

Inner Loop East Reconstruction Project
After tasting some success during the last round of the USDOT’s TIGER grant program ($15 Million was awarded for Rochester’s intermodal station), the city has jumped back into the aptly named moat with another application that we at Reconnect Rochester are extremely excited about. There is a very conscious effort afoot on the part of city staff to rid us once and for all of a sizable portion of the Inner Loop, that underutilized sunken ring road and choker of downtown connectivity.

While the Intermodal Station took precedence in the 2012 fight for funds, this most recent expressway removal proposal is the best we’ve seen yet. A financial winner just on its face, in terms of reducing future maintenance burden, the latest from city hall is very serious about reconnection and reintegration. Take a look at the latest design draft…

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Reconnect Rochester Speaks with MCC Faculty

Members of Reconnect Rochester speaking to MCC faculty on the Court Street bridge about Rochester's transit future.
This past weekend the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences at Monroe Community College (MCC) held its annual Professional Development Field trip for faculty members. This year’s theme was “Seeking a Greener Rochester” and Reconnect Rochester was invited to give a brief history lesson on Rochester’s transit history and a perspective on the future.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous this Saturday as we all gathered outside on the Court Street bridge. This was a fitting location as the very spot where the Genesee River, Erie Canal, the old subway, two extinct railroads and Interstate 490 all meet. And the story we told went something like this…

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Rochester Shows Up

This is the focus area for the Center City Circulator Study.If you were at the Circulator Study Public Meeting tonight, THANK YOU! Turn out was good. It could’ve been even better… but there were plenty of people there asking questions and giving input and the room had a constant buzz. Even the media external link thought enough to make an appearance. There will be another public meeting in June/July to share the preliminary findings of the study so stay tuned and continue to share this story with friends and neighbors. We’ll need even more of you at the next meeting.

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Monday 3/22 4-6pm… Let’s Show Up Rochester!

The City will take questions and input about the Center City Circulator Study this Monday, 3/22 from 4-6pm at the Rochester Public Library. Parking is easy at the attached Court Street Garage.The City has partnered with C&S Companies to analyze and make recommendations to enhance commuting, circulation, and parking in Downtown Rochester. Among the potential enhancements under consideration is a circulator transit service—a.k.a shuttle buses or streetcars. Listen carefully Rochester…

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