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Our Suggestions for a Reimagined RTS

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 24th 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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Understanding “Car Culture”

For Rochester Street Films this year we asked local filmmakers and ordinary citizens to share their perspective on what it’s like to get around Rochester without a car. No rules; No restrictions; No filter.

Alex Freeman has previously made several films about local cyclists. With this project Alex attempts to understand why the automobile has had such a grip on the hearts and minds of Rochester commuters – and if there’s any room for understanding…

We’d like to ask for your help getting these films in front of as many people as we can. If you would like to host a mini screening of Rochester Street Films in your neighborhood, please contact us.

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You Can’t See This in a Car

For Rochester Street Films this year we asked local filmmakers and ordinary citizens to share their perspective on what it’s like to get around Rochester without a car. No rules; No restrictions; No filter.

Nate Butler grew up around cars. Learning to work on them with his dad as a kid, he just figured that cars were the only way to get around. Now a student at R.I.T., Nate has taken up cross-country running and he’s learning something new about his community with every step…

We’d like to ask for your help getting these films in front of as many people as we can. If you would like to host a mini screening of Rochester Street Films in your neighborhood, please contact us.

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Getting Around with a Disability

For Rochester Street Films this year we asked local filmmakers and ordinary citizens to share their perspective on what it’s like to get around Rochester without a car. No rules; No restrictions; No filter.

Ericka Jones, a Systems Advocate at Center for Disability Rights, focuses on a segment of our population often overlooked. For people with disabilities, Ericka shows us how running a simple errand requires careful planning days in advance. Ironically, even the streets themselves can become barriers to living a productive life…

We’d like to ask for your help getting these films in front of as many people as we can. If you would like to host a mini screening of Rochester Street Films in your neighborhood, please contact us.

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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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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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RTS Will Propose Suburban Park & Ride Route Changes

Park & Changes are coming. [PHOTO: RGRTA]

Customers and community are invited to weigh-in about proposed improvements at Information Sessions and Public Hearing.

RTS is proposing changes to all Suburban Park & Ride routes and is inviting the public to ask questions and provide feedback at two Information Sessions and a Public Hearing…

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Rochester’s transit system – in the palm of your hand

The new RTS 'Where’s My Bus?' mobile app is now available!
A new RTS mobile app is now available for download in the Google Play Store external link and Apple iTunes App Store external link.

The app was first introduced to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) community in February and is now being rolled out to the full RTS ridership. In a statement sent to Reconnect Rochester, RGRTA said, “We received great feedback from students at RIT which allowed us to incorporate additional features to this version of the RTS Where’s My Bus? mobile app.” The resulting app is a reliable and convenient tool that will make the bus riding experience easier than ever. Here are some of its features…

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Get FREE ROC Transit Day Fare Cards for Your Organization

Get FREE ROC Transit Day Fare Cards for Your Organization
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 external link (and many intrepid individuals) pledged to ride public transit that day.

This year ROC Transit Day external link is Thursday, June 19, 2014. All kinds of free fun and great deals external link will be available for anyone who leaves their car at home and uses public transit for the day.

To request FREE all-day fare cards for your organization…

Simply use this form external link or contact info@ReconnectRochester.org or 585-354-3232.

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!

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ROC Transit Day is important! But you don’t have to take my word for it…

ROC Transit Day is important. But don't take my word for it. Watch the video and hear what these young professionals have to say about it.
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 external link 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 external link and hear it straight from the mouths of your fellow Rochesterians…

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‘How to Ride the Bus’ Workshop, April 29

RTS has scheduled a 'How to Ride the Bus' transit orientation for Tuesday, April 29. [PHOTO: RGRTA]
Getting on a bus for the first time can feel awkward for some. If the last bus you took was a yellow school bus, you might be due for a refresher course. RTS has scheduled a “How to Ride the Bus” transit orientation for 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, April 29, at Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) John G. Doyle Jr. Administration Building located at 1372 East Main Street external link. The orientation is the first of a series designed to help guide first-time riders of any age or those who might need a brush up. All are free and open to the public…

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Proposed Schedule & Route Changes for RTS

The new RTS Transit Center will be opening on November 28th, 2014. Coinciding with the transit center opening, RTS is also proposing changes to bus routes and schedules. [PHOTO: RGRTA]The new RTS Transit Center will be opening on November 28th, 2014. Coinciding with the transit center opening, RTS is also proposing changes to bus routes and schedules. This is to accommodate the additional time required to travel through the Transit Center…

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RTS Transit Center Update

An update on RTS Transit Center was given at Tuesday's town hall meeting.
RGRTA holds bi-monthly Town Hall meetings to answer customer questions and comments and to keep the public updated the latest Rochester Transit Service news. Reconnect Rochester tries to send at least one representative to every meeting to take notes and to bring questions from those who can’t make the meeting. Below are the notes from the previous meeting where we learned lots of details about the RTS transit center now under construction…

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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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ROC Transit Day 2013 Photos!

Photos from ROC Transit Day 2013 [PHOTO: RocPX.com]
The numbers are in, and out of 950 free fare cards we gave out, 172 were used. That may not seem like a big number, but to us it represents 172 new transit users, on top of tens of thousands of Rochesterians who already choose to go car-free every day. Of course, we think Rochester can do better. And now we’ve got a number to beat next year.a

If you were one of those people who participated, thank you! We can’t explain how much fun we had. You’ll just have to check out the photos below. Special thanks goes to Rick U. at RocPX.com, all our sponsors and volunteers external link and all the people who sent in pics from their ROC Transit Day adventures…

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ROC Transit Day is Tomorrow!

ROC Transit Day is tomorrow. Join in the fun. Ditch your car for a day.
The 2nd annual ROC Transit Day external link 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 external link to transit riders. 34 have pledged to ditch their cars and ride transit.

Prizes will be given away to random transit riders. Thanks to our sponsors!
We’ve prepared over 70 prizes from our generous sponsors external link 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 external link to find all the fun stuff on ROC Transit Day. ]

Let's remember the true meaning of ROC Transit Day. It's about our community.
It’s been an insane two months of planning and excitement is high. But let’s remember the true meaning of 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.

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1 Week and 300 Fare Cards Left To Give Away

ROC Transit Day is coming. Lose your car keys on June 20, 2013.
ROC Transit Day external link 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 external link.

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 external link). And our volunteers are wrapping up HUNDREDS of prizes to deliver to random transit riders.

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Rochester is getting on board ROC Transit Day

ROC Transit Day is coming. Lose your car keys on June 20, 2013.
A few short weeks ago I told you about ROC Transit Day 2013 external link. 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…

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