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Lake Avenue is Not Built For Everyone

Guest blog by Rachel Barnhart, who represents District 21 on the Monroe County Legislature and has been a longtime advocate for safer streets.

A driver struck and killed a woman walking on Lake Ave on September 17. She was at least the 90th pedestrian or cyclist injured or killed on Lake Ave in the mile-long stretch between Driving Park Ave and Lyell Ave over the last decade. That’s an average of nine people hurt every year in a distance we can walk in less than 20 minutes.

It’s time to make Lake Ave safe for everyone, particularly the people who live there.

About half of the people who live in the two census tracts on the west side of Lake Ave between Driving Park and Lyell live in poverty. More than one-third of the households do not own cars. They are using other means of transportation — walking, cycling and public transit. Yet Lake Ave is not built for the use of the people who call the surrounding blocks home. 

Lake Ave is built for speed. The road has 11-foot-wide lanes, 3-foot shoulders, recessed bus stops and turning lanes. These are all design elements conducive to high speeds. The speed limit on Lake Ave is 35 mph, a speed at which pedestrians have a 45 percent chance of being killed when struck. Speed data indicates that between Emerson St and Lexington Ave, half of drivers are going above 36 mph, and one in seven drivers is going above 42 mph. Driving on Lake Ave can be stressful, with tailgating, aggressive lane changes, and, yes, speeding.

A portion of Lake Ave, featuring six lanes.

When examining crash data over the last decade, it’s evident Lake Ave does not have enough traffic lights and they are not timed properly. There are not enough crosswalks, as you have to walk nearly a half-mile in one location between Driving Park and Lyell before encountering a designated place to cross. Lake Ave also takes pedestrians time to cross — it’s six lanes in some spots! In many locations, drivers can turn right on red and they can make left turns everywhere, further endangering pedestrians.

Imagine being a pedestrian or cyclist in this environment, especially on a cold, snowy or rainy day. You just want to cross the street to get to your bus stop, the grocery store, your job, or your friend’s house. But Lake Ave is not built for you. 

Despite the carnage, there is predictably no outcry to make Lake Ave safer for all who use the road. Lake Ave’s crash history sadly shows the correlation between poor street safety, race and poverty. Our culture is oriented toward the needs of drivers, no matter the collateral damage. We have an intense bias reflected in news stories that regularly use the passive voice to describe crashes. A pedestrian is “hit by a car,” not the person driving the car. We blame pedestrians for not following the rules of the road, even though drivers on Lake Ave routinely disregard traffic laws, such as the speed limit.

We can make Lake Ave work for everyone by redesigning the road. Unfortunately, drivers will fight for their ability to speed through neighborhoods, like when public opposition killed a road diet planned for a northern section of Lake Ave in 2014. There are still ideas on the table, such as Reconnect Rochester’s concept to make the Phelps Ave intersection safer.

A design rendering by Stantec for the intersection of Lake Ave & Phelps Ave, which came out of Reconnect’s 2018 Complete Streets Makeover program.

City leaders kicked off a Pace Car program on Lake Ave in 2016, which encouraged drivers to be more mindful of pedestrians and cyclists. That effort faded, but should be revived as part of a more comprehensive Vision Zero plan, which focuses on road design, enforcement and education to reduce crashes. 

Lake Ave is not built for everyone, but it could be one day, if we value the safety and quality of life of everyone who uses this corridor.

Transportation and Poverty

Transportation and Poverty

111,000 Monroe County residents live below the poverty line. 68,000 people in the city of Rochester (including over 50% of children) live in poverty. This page contains a collection of Reconnect Rochester’s work over the past several years, to explore the connection between poverty and transportation and possible solutions.

Commissioned Report

In April 2018, Reconnect Rochester released a commissioned report prepared by the Center for Governmental Research titled Transportation and Poverty in Monroe County: How Land Use, Job Locations and Commuting Options Affect Access to Jobs.

The report provides a first of its kind in-depth study of the major factors and dynamics at play in the relationship between transportation and our community’s persistent rate of poverty. Read more about the importance of the report, our partners, and our plans for follow-up advocacy work.

Documentary Films

Reconnect Rochester  — in partnership with Floating Home Films  — has produced two original local films exploring the intersection of transportation and poverty in our region.
This 2020 film explores transportation as a systemic equity issue, shares a front line view of the struggle, and highlights the innovative ways some local organizations are meeting transportation needs. The film was featured at a virtual Rochester Street Films event on Nov 12, 2020; click here to view a recording of the  event, including a panel discussion with local leaders.

This 2018 film focuses on the lives of three Rochesterians. Cee Cee, Nassir, and Eve give us a firsthand look at what life is like when you can barely afford to buy a bus pass, much less a car. After you watch the film, be sure to check out the video presentation and panel discussions below…

Blog Series

This collection of articles by Pete Nabozny and Brenda Massie, published in 2016, explores the connection between poverty and transportation and possible solutions.

Audio / Podcasts

Below are interviews and in-depth discussions with Reconnect Rochester and other community advocates on the subject of transportation and poverty.

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Transportation and Poverty (Part 6): What Should Be Done?

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

As we’ve seen previously in this series of posts on Transportation & Poverty, the costs associated with transportation for Rochesterians in poverty are considerable. Low-income workers are faced with a difficult choice – spend a high portion of their income on a car and associated expenses so that they can get to work in a reasonable amount of time or lose many hours each week commuting by public transportation, effectively reducing their hourly pay and crowding out other productive activities. The ongoing de-concentration of jobs and housing in our region only exacerbates this dilemma. Read more

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Transportation and Poverty (Part 5): The Problem with Sprawl

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.
Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

So far, we’ve examined how long commute times limit the ability of low-income workers who live in high poverty areas in the City to reach jobs through public transportation. We have also explored how the cost of car ownership is often prohibitively expensive for these same individuals. This post will assess how the continuing sprawl of our region has a particularly negative impact on low-income residents. Read more

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Transportation and Poverty Series (Part 4): The Cost of Car Ownership

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

Last time, we explored the problem of the long commute in Rochester and its impact on the effective wage of low income workers. Obviously, we are not the first to point this problem out. You might logically conclude, like many well-meaning organizations have, that we must provide a program or mechanism through which low-income folks can receive or buy a reasonably priced car. After all, that is the mode of transit for an overwhelming majority of our region’s residents and studies have suggested that access to a vehicle is correlated with more hours worked and more wages earned. A chicken in every pot and a car in every backyard, right President Hoover? The cherry on top is that our region famously has some of the shortest driving commutes in the nation. Read more

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Transportation and Poverty (Part 3): The Long Bus Commute and the Value of Time

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

Here in Rochester, most middle class households own a car or two and think nothing of driving to their place of employment. For these individuals, public transportation needs to be a competitive alternative to driving for them to ditch their cars.  If a bus stops near a person’s home frequently and reliably, and drops that person off near their place of work within 10 minutes or so of what it would take them to drive, they may opt to commute by bus. Read more

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Transportation and Poverty (Part 2): What is Poverty?

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

Over the next two weeks, Reconnect Rochester is going to publish a series of pieces that explore the issue of poverty in our region. These articles will focus primarily on the intersection of poverty with public transportation, sprawl, and community planning. But before we start, it is important to have a firm understanding of what the problem is and why it is so pernicious in our region. Read more

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Introduction to Transportation and Poverty in the Rochester Region

 

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.Posted by: Pete Nabozny, Associate Principal at CGR and co-owner of Tru Yoga

The statistics are overwhelming – 111,000 Monroe County residents live in poverty, accounting for slightly more than 15% of the region’s total population. Within the City of Rochester, a full 34% of the City’s population (or over 68,000 people) live below the poverty line, including over 50% of children in the City. The percentage of City residents in poverty has risen by 30% since 1990, when less than 24% of City residents were impoverished. Read more