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
[ 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.
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.
- Trash receptacle
- Bike rack
- Work with municipalities to enact a maintenance plan for all bus stops.
- Trash pickup
- Snow removal
- 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.
The Trump Administration has released its full fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget proposal and it includes significant cuts to public transportation including…
- Eliminating Federal funding for all 15 long-distance passenger rail routes, including the Lake Shore Limited that stops here in Rochester each day
- Eliminating the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts) that helps cities of all sizes build new transit lines
- Eliminating the competitive TIGER grant program which has helped fund previously unattainable local projects such as Rochester’s new Amtrak station
Transportation professionals and advocates around the country are sounding the alarm…
This week RTS introduced a new Tap & Go! RTS Fast Pass. The new fare card lets customers simply tap it on the fare box (on the bulls-eye) when boarding. When the fare is accepted the fare box will beep or you will hear “fare deducted” to know you have successfully paid your fare.
If customers make use of the new Tap & Go! cards they should make boarding a lot faster which would be a good thing for everyone. Currently, riders insert their fare card into a slot and then must wait a moment for the card to pop back out – or worse, fumble for change. And when you serve thousands of riders every day, those seconds add up.
In addition to quicker boarding times, RTS CEO Bill Carpenter says the new technology at the fare box also lays the groundwork for improved payment options in the future. “The information and experience we gain from the Tap & Go! passes represents the first step toward technological improvements that may include refillable bus passes, fare boxes that accept credit card payments, mobile payment options on smart phones, and a Tap & Go! smart phone app.”
For many of us transit fans, those features can’t come fast enough. But for now, here is what customers need to know about Tap & Go!:
- Tap & Go! passes are available for purchase online at myRTS.com, or one of the ticket vending machines at the RTS Transit Center or the RTS Administration Building.
- They are available as a 5-Day Unlimited, 31-Day Unlimited, and stored value pass.
- The pass is activated with the first tap on the bus.
- Customers can check their card balance at any RTS ticket vending machine.
- Tap & Go! RTS Fast Passes are not currently refillable.
- The old magnetic fare cards in other denominations are still available.
Also… New Text Message and Email Alerts
And in case you missed it, last month RTS introduced another way for customers to receive service and schedule announcements: via email or text message. Transit riders with smartphones and the RTS Where’s My Bus App already receive timely alerts and information through the app. Text and Email alerts now give customers another option.
To sign up, you can either fill out the subscription form online or in person at the Transit Center.
Or simply text the words “OPT IN RTS ALL” to (585) 433-0855. If you only want alerts for a specific route, replace the word “ALL” with your specific route number. For example, to sign up for text message alerts for the Route 1 Lake, text “OPT IN RTS 1.”
You can also opt-in for information outside Monroe County. Simply follow the same instructions above, but use your county code listed below:
- RTS Genesee: “OPT IN GEN ALL” or “OPT IN GEN 1”
- RTS Livingston: “OPT IN LIV ALL” or “OPT IN LIV 1”
- RTS Ontario: “OPT IN ONT ALL” or “OPT IN ONT 1”
- RTS Orleans: “OPT IN ORL ALL”
- RTS Seneca: “OPT IN SEN ALL” or “OPT IN SEN 3”
- RTS Wayne: “OPT IN WAY ALL”
- RTS Wyoming: “OPT IN WYO ALL” or “OPT IN WYO 1”
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…
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…
Last month we unveiled an idea to put seating at area bus stops. Our little CUBE seats have since garnered local and national attention, and we’ve also been approached by The Harley School, Rochester Community Design Center, and The Strong National Museum of Play about partnering to make this idea a reality! Today, Rochester Transit Service (RTS) official threw their support behind the cubes as well…
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…
For ROC Transit Day 2013 we gave away nearly 1,000 transit fare cards and asked Rochesterians to ditch their cars for one day in support of a healthier community. 30 different forward-thinking organizations (and many intrepid individuals) pledged to ride public transit that day.
To request FREE all-day fare cards for your organization…
But hurry, we only have a limited supply and these babies go quickly. First come first serve.
And remember, public transit, walking and biking are healthy options for our bodies and the Rochester community. So get onboard!
The days are getting longer, and (slowly) the air is getting warmer. Soon enough the sweet scent of Lilac will be in the air. This can only mean one thing… ROC Transit Day will soon be here!
If you drive in your car to work alone each day, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why would I want to ride public transit when I can just drive my Nissan Leaf (or whatever)?”
Well, I could list all the reasons why public transportation is healthier for our earth, healthier for our bodies, and healthier for our community. But that would be boring. Instead, watch this video and hear it straight from the mouths of your fellow Rochesterians…
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…
The 2nd annual ROC Transit Day is tomorrow. This little grassroots event has exploded. We’ve handed out 950 transit fare cards. 93 businesses & organizations have chosen to participate. 56 of them are offering fun deals to transit riders. 34 have pledged to ditch their cars and ride transit.
We’ve prepared over 70 prizes from our generous sponsors to give away to random bus riders. REX the Rhino has planned his morning bus ride. 8 music buskers are getting ready to play on Main Street (4:30-6:30pm). And happy hour is on at Murphy’s Law (5:30pm).
[ Use this map to find all the fun stuff on ROC Transit Day. ]
Tomorrow we’ll choose to put our feet on the street instead of the gas pedal. We’ll put our money into the local economy instead of our tanks. And we’ll experience our community up close, instead of from behind our windshields.
Rochester, let’s go – together.
ROC Transit Day is just a week away. About 85 local businesses and organizations have signed up to participate on June 20 – either encouraging their employees & members to leave their cars home, or by offering exclusive deals to transit riders .
Rex the Rhino is planning his bus ride as we speak. Music buskers are tuning up for their performances during the evening rush hour on Main Street. Murphy’s Law on East Avenue is priming the kegs for our happy hour celebration (RSVP here ). And our volunteers are wrapping up HUNDREDS of prizes to deliver to random transit riders.
A few short weeks ago I told you about ROC Transit Day 2013 . The idea is simple… pedestrians make for a vibrant city. The more people Rochester has walking the streets instead of driving, the stronger our community will be; and the stronger our local economy will be. ROC Transit Day is a holiday from our cars. It’s a day to celebrate local businesses. And it’s a day to cast a symbolic vote for a stronger transit system…
A year and half ago I managed to convince RGRTA to try something new. I said, “let me give away free bus rides for one day.” I imagined most people would say “no thanks, the bus isn’t for me.” But I also knew my mom was right when she said, “try it, you might like it.” That year I think maybe 200 people participated and left their cars at home for the day.
What began as a fun little experiment, has turned into ROC Transit Day – a full blown Rochester holiday from our cars. This year ROC Transit Day will be on Thursday, June 20.
In this, its second year, the volunteers at Reconnect Rochester are giving away 1,000 special edition RTS fare cards – designed by yours truly. And we’re asking Rochester’s business community to get involved too…
Posted by: Mike Governale
Greetings. I’m Mike Governale, founder of Reconnect Rochester. I’m a graphic designer, originally from the NYC area and I now live in Rochester, NY. I have a deep fascination and love of cities – how they are formed over time and the way they continue to evolve.
Dense urban places have proven themselves, over tens of thousands of years, to be arguably the most sustainable form of human habitation. But over the past 70 years many cities—especially those in the U.S.—have lost this edge.
I write a blog, RochesterSubway.com , that explores Rochester, “America’s first boom-town,” and how it suburbanized itself to near extinction. The site looks at the amazing physical and social history of this place. And what it needs to do before it can become urban, sustainable, and relevant, once again.
Last November I gave a talk at TEDxRochester. The talk focuses on how our transportation choices impact land use, and ultimately the health and sustainability of our community. I think the presentation serves as a good introduction to who I am and why Reconnect Rochester is so important to me…