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RGRTA Pushes Ahead with Bus Terminal

Proposed transit center looking northeast along Saint Paul Street.
According to an article external link in today’s Democrat & Chronicle, RGRTA has decided it does not need to produce an environmental study for it’s proposed bus garage on Mortimer Street. And the project that was despised by the public and the City when it was part of Renaissance Square looks like it will be embraced warmly at next week’s City Council meeting.

Let’s be honest, this is more than just a project…

The development of this bus station is a critical test of our city’s commitment to transit. Every project that might follow this, including bike plans, rail plans, even the bus system itself, could be damaged if we mess this up. Unfortunately we may have already failed this test. Why? Because we’ve sat on our hands for decades, believing that transit planning was RGRTA’s job alone. And now we’re all in reaction mode over this one bus terminal.

If Rochester really wants to dust off the rust it will follow the model set by forward-thinking cities like Portland and start taking a more active approach to transportation planning. The reason Rochester consistently finds itself having to choose between lesser evils is evidence that our laissez-faire approach has run its course.

WAKE UP ROCHESTER! WE NEED A LONG TERM TRANSIT PLAN!

Bus routes and streetcar lines converge on Portland's transit mall. Bikes, autos, buses, and streetcar share these streets and the area is referred to as Portland's living room because of the constant activity.
Were I a city planner I’d design a public square where buses could meet and people could transfer between lines. It would have dedicated bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrian thoroughfares going into it and out of it. Vendors would be invited to sell goods there in an open air market. Coffee shops and bars would be encouraged. Food trucks would be permitted to park there. One corner might be dedicated to a skate park or playground. A small police substation would sit at another corner. I’d try to create an area where there were ALWAYS people around — different things to do, pleasant places to sit, lots of places within walking distance, etc. AND I’d invest heavily in that area as a permanent transportation hub. I’d be thinking and planning the placement of future streetcar or light rail routes in and out of this area. I’m thinking of Portland’s transit mall in particular but there are plenty of other examples across the country.

Rochester hasn’t planned or really THOUGHT about any of this. And so all we’re all in a frenzy over a “bus barn” from RGRTA. Who’s fault is this? It’s mine. It’s yours. It’s the fault of every member of City Council, the Mayor, our city engineers and planners. We all deserve a share of the blame and we deserve what we get if we continue to do nothing. At what point will Rochester finally commit to doing something 100%? Not a half-assed temporary solution, but a permanent commitment that we can continue to build on and use to grow our city.

The City of Rochester… NO… Monroe County AND the City should assemble a task force and assign them the job of drawing up a comprehensive transit-oriented development plan. This way future transportation projects like this will drive us toward a common vision, and will hopefully not be so controversial.

FREE ADVICE
FOR THE PEOPLE OF ROCHESTER

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Gee what can I do?” Here’s something… Why not ask your City Council external link representatives to ride the bus for one day, or even one week, each year. Challenge them to do so and ask questions of them at public meetings and election time. This is important. I mean how can we expect City Council to cast an educated vote on this bus terminal if none of them use the bus system? It’s outrageous really. If Council experienced first hand what their constituents use everyday and talked to fellow riders about their frustrations and their ideas, I guarantee Rochester would have a comprehensive transit plan real quick.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 at 9:57 pm and is filed under Opinion, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Responses to “RGRTA Pushes Ahead with Bus Terminal”

  1. Good words, Mike. I posted on this subject as well, yesterday evening.

    Since only about 45,000 in our region of over a million use the bus every day, it’s unlikely that the Council has any idea what all of this means.

    I recommend that we send Council on a field trip, to cities where transit, in all its splendid modes, actually works to make a better city.

  2. Harry Davis says:

    Good post, Mike.

    Everybody who gets it on this issue, should be at city council chambers both on next Monday, June 14 at 6:30PM for the planning committee presentation, AND be at city council on Tuesday, June 15, 7PM for the city council vote on this issue and make a lot of noise! Tell these clueless government officials what you think of this permanent nightmare!

    Also, call or email council members who MAY be on the fence and tell them to call John Robert Smith at 601-527-5040 (cell) 202-429-6990. Mr. Smith & I have been working on a plan that will save the $52 million and build an inter-modal station at the Amtrak location. We are talking with John Robert & trying to get city council to call him. They are in budget talks this week so they are very hard to find.

    “Carolee Conklin” ,
    428-6711
    “dana.miller” ,
    428-6048
    ,
    428-6058
    “Adam McFadden” ,
    428-6683

    And call or email Mayor Duffy:
    “Robert Duffy” ,
    428-7045

    Harry Davis

    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/228

  3. admin says:

    Thanks Howard. I read your post and I think you should make sure everyone on Council reads it too.

    I’ll be sending an edited version of mine to them as well as some people from the media shortly. I suggest everyone do the same.

    Harry, thanks for posting the June 14 info. I was looking for the time and place but couldn’t find it.

  4. Harry Davis says:

    Mike, you site is not accepting my city council email addys. I sent correct email to your email addy.
    Harry

  5. Mike, I sent my post to all members of the Council. Only Carolee Conklin has responded so far, saying she is in a minority of one. Sad.

  6. admin says:

    Howard that’s unbelievable. We’re going to have to make some phone calls 🙂

    Harry, try leaving a space before and after the ‘@’ symbol. My site doesn’t allow email addresses to be posted here because that would expose those addresses to spam. It’s a security feature.

  7. Harry Davis says:

    Good post, Mike.

    Everybody who gets it on this issue, should be at city council chambers both on next Monday, June 14 at 6:30PM for the planning committee presentation, AND be at city council on Tuesday, June 15, 7PM for the city council vote on this issue and make a lot of noise! Tell these clueless government officials what you think of this permanent nightmare!

    Also, call or email council members who MAY be on the fence and tell them to call John Robert Smith at 601-527-5040 (cell) 202-429-6990. Mr. Smith & I have been working on a plan that will save the $52 million and build an inter-modal station at the Amtrak location. We are talking with John Robert & trying to get city council to call him. They are in budget talks this week so they are very hard to find.

    Adam recently told me he is undecided but that Mayor Duffy is putting “a lot of pressure on them.”

    Carolee Conklin
    Carolee.Conklin @ cityofrochester.gov
    428-6711

    Dana.Miller
    Dana.Miller @ cityofrochester.gov
    428-6048

    Adam McFadden
    mcfadda @ cityofrochester.gov
    428-6683

    Matt Haag
    Matt.Haag @ cityofrochester.gov
    428-6058
    …………….
    Jacklyn.Ortiz @ cityofrochester.gov
    Carla.Palumbo @ cityofrochester.gov
    Elaine.Spaull @ cityofrochester.gov
    Lovely.Warren @ cityofrochester.gov
    Loretta.Scott @ cityofrochester.gov
    Call “311” to get the above members telephone numbers.
    ………………
    And call or email Mayor Duffy:
    Duffyr @ cityofrochester.gov
    428-7045

    Harry Davis
    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/228

  8. Jay Partyka says:

    In defense of the bus terminal.

    I’ve been using the bus system here in Rochester since 1999. I first used it to travel from RIT to my internship at the United Way. Except for one year when I worked at a group home out in Scottsville, I’ve used it to travel to every job I’ve had since then.

    Five years ago the car I had at the time broke down, and instead of repairing it I got rid of it. Since that time I’ve relied on the bus for virtually all of my local transportation needs.
    In the past eleven I’ve gotten the full bus system treatment.

    When I worked in Henrietta, I would spend an hour on the bus just getting from downtown to where I worked by Staples on Jefferson Rd. (It was a straight shot too, no transfers).

    When I worked in Pittsford, I would get on a bus at 10:30 at night, get dropped off at Nazareth College, and walk the last half a mile into the village to get to work five minutes late. (Again a straight shot, no transfers).

    The long bus rides themselves weren’t the worse part though. The worst part was waiting for a bus downtown while being exposed to the elements. I’ve been rained on, I’ve been snowed on, and I’ve even been shit on (damn pigeons). I’ve waited outside in sweltering heat and freezing cold.

    I didn’t wait alone either. When I used to catch the 10:30 pm bus, I’d ride with elderly women who worked as nursing aids at the nursing homes on East Ave. I’d see women who had gotten off of work at their retail jobs at the mall, pushing strollers with toddlers in them.

    This is at 10:30 at night, in the rain, in the snow, in the shit, in our freezing cold winters. Toddlers, all bundled up, being pushed around in zero degree weather in the middle of the night.

    There are a large number of people who belong to vulnerable populations and they rely on the bus not to thrive, but just to survive. They’re not on the dole, they’re honest people who work hard. They’ve earned the right to be protected from the elements while they’re using transit to go back and forth to work.

    Our community has had money in the bank to provide them with that shelter for ten years. But rather than use that money to organically grow our transit system, and meet its current needs, we’ve held it up in the hopes of sowing the seeds of a new system.

    We waited patiently for ten years, and those seeds did not bear any fruit.

    Now, the opportunity has arisen to again organically grow our transit infrastructure to create a station that meets the immediate and pressing needs of its current ridership.

    Are we supposed to wait again? It seems to me we keep striking out because we’re trying to hit home runs, what’s wrong with a base hit? I don’t think the transit station is settling for the lesser of two evils. I think it’s progress after ten years of nothing.

    I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to wait another five, ten or fifteen years while we debate, design, fund and construct a new transit space. Especially if that means a redesigning our whole transit system to go with it.

    Remember, the transit system isn’t some abstract concept. People with real needs rely on it every day, and we need to ensure that the people who actually use it are served first.

  9. admin says:

    Jason, we’re sort of arguing the same point here. We’ve WAITED ten years for SOMETHING. All the while NOTHING except for a bus terminal has been planned for. I’m not arguing against a bus shelter. I’m arguing FOR a transit solution. Transit is not just about buses. And the bigger point here is that the City has taken very little initiative in this area where it’s become very clear that RGRTA wants to be a bus company and nothing more.

    But having said that, your points are all valid.

  10. Harry Davis says:

    Jason,

    I will be brief. Obama has $$ for inter-modal transit which when done properly, will fix the transit Mike speaks of AND will create good development, as John Robert Smith has advocated, and done!

    Here is a link for “Livability.”

    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/252

    I am in a hurry now buit all being said, I think we all need to consider strong, radical action next Monday & Tuesday! We must be heard. Anybody got any ideas?

    Harry

  11. Jay Partyka says:

    I don’t care what we do so long as working people aren’t left out in the cold for another ten years.

  12. Harry Davis says:

    We, Bonnie Cannan & I, think we should do something radical, an action, on Monday’s planning committee presentation at city council.

    As Robert Redford said this week:

    “Ultimately, the only way to break the industry’s hold on political decision making is for America to shift to more fuel efficient cars, MORE PUBLIC TRANSIT and other technologies.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-redford/the-fix-dirty-energys-und_b_606278.html

    “More public transit.” This folks, is public transport in Rochester. Our “leaders” are ignoring the Gulf Oil Gusher. 40,000 barrels per day and city council refuses to do what is right in Rochester!

    So, I propose that we go to the meeting on Monday and pour OIL on the right subject. Any takers? We need about 10 of us who will be prepared to be arrested.

    5 minutes worth of oil.

    Call me 585-355-4259 or email: vote4harry@gmail.com

    Harry Davis

  13. Jay Partyka says:

    Yeah, I’m going to have to pass on the whole oil pouring thing, let me know how that works out for you though…

  14. admin says:

    Yeeee yah… I’m with Jay on that one.

    Does it have to be oil? Maybe chocolate syrup?
    I’ll bring the ice cream 😉

  15. Harry Davis says:

    I just spoke with Tony diMarzo for 30 minutes. We have a plan. His attorneys will draw up a petition for us to begin to pass tomorrow. We will be talking tomorrow. We expect to get some answers & plan tomorrow. I will let you all know. Please be ready to pass a petiton tomorrow. More later. Be ready to be at city council 6:30PM Monday.

    Harry

  16. Harry Davis says:

    John Robert Smith on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Rochester
    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/281

    As someone who had the pleasure of visiting Rochester and speaking to the Reshaping Rochester Lecture Series, I wanted to share my experience with transportation and development issues, in the hope that what I have learned may prove of value to Rochester as it works to better connect its’ citizens and provide a more livable community.

    Redevelopment and transportation go hand-in-hand. You cannot revitalize a downtown without providing access to it. Reconnecting America focuses on transit-oriented development or TOD. We work to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve to provide more connectivity and livability for all Americans.

    On my trip, I learned that Rochester is currently undergoing a transportation metamorphosis. The bus lines are scheduled to relocate from Main Street into a new bus station on Mortimer Street. While most agree that moving the buses off of Main Street will help the local businesses and lead to renewed commercial development, is Mortimer Street really the right place to go? With historic buildings that have been or will be converted to high-end and market-rate housing, will a bus facility affect their value? In addition, the station will not be co-located with any other modes of transportation, not intercity bus service, nor the Amtrak Station, nor the proposed high-speed rail station. Failing to think and build inter-modally may prove detrimental for Rochester’s future development when high-speed rail arrives.

    I realize that some feel there are good reasons to pursue the current course of action. But with such a major infrastructure investment, it never hurts to re-check assumptions. I understand a portion of the $52M from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) expires this month, but FTA has been willing to extend deadlines in other communities. Obtaining an extension allows for time to carefully plan transit locations where residents and visitors can seamlessly connect in a multimodal facility. Spending $52M is a big decision for Rochester– one that needn’t be driven by artificial deadlines.

    It is widely recognized that prioritizing investments that revitalize downtowns and local businesses increases the land value of surrounding transportation projects and offers the potential to reverse sprawl that has damaged the historic character of many city centers.

    Rochester has a rich architectural history with its turn-of-the-century buildings. As much of it should be preserved as possible. The link between transportation and revitalization is one that has been proven. Any future planning should take this into careful consideration.

    John Robert Smith
    http://www.reconnectingamerica.org/

  17. Harry Davis says:

    John Robert Smith says “We Can Save the Mortimer $52mil”=Build transit-oriented development in ROC
    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/281

  18. Harry Davis says:

    Tell Rochester City Council to Just Say “NO” to Mortimer Street Bus Barn this Monday & Tuesday!

    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/284

  19. Rochester City Planning Commission votes 5-0 against bus barn.

  20. harry davis says:

    ROC City Plan Commission Votes NO Unanimously to Duffy Mortimer Bus Barn=ROC Media Ignores Vote!

    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/293

  21. admin says:

    D&C says Council should vote in favor of the terminal… says a positive development is that the transit authority will hold a minimum of a dozen meetings with various constituents to explain plans and get input…

    http://rocnow.com/article/editorials/20106150301

  22. Harry Davis says:

    Rochester City Council voted 7-2 to abandon Mortimer Street for the bus barn. I spoke with Beth Osborn today, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy for Livability projects in DC. Ms. Osborn had attempted to arrange a conference call today with all ROC city council members to show them how they can support President Obama and build an inter-modal transit station in Rochester.

    This conversation did not occur because Senator Chuck Schumer, who holds the purse strings to the $52million for Mortimer, made sure Ms. Osborn would not have her free speech and talk to Rochester’s “leaders.”

    My 7 years of hanging around Rochester politicians and knowing the current crop very well leads me to surmise that City Council President Lovely Warren called her mentor, NYS Assembly Member David Gantt, Mr. Transportation in Albany, and told him of the attempted conversation. Gantt said “NO!” and Gantt called Senator Schumer who told DOT & Ms. Osborn this conversation would stop. Again, Ms. Osborn told me three times today she was afraid of being fired from her DOT job because of her attempt to tell Rochester of it’s transportation alternatives.

    After the meeting tonight, Bonnie & I had a conversation with Mayor Duffy who essentially told us that the RGRTA is too powerful. It is an Authority and the Mayor of Rochester and City Council do not have the power to stop them from doing what they want. Again, three times Deputy Secretary Osborn told me she was afraid of being fire from her position.

    http://www.harrydavis2010.com/node/291

  23. Harry Davis says:

    “Worst Public Speaker EVER Award, Goes to Me”

    mike, nobody heard your self described faults, or cares. i am sorry to see you made yourself the subject of a headline, quite self indulgent when the most destructive vote i have ever seen in roc came down.

    with all due respect, you are not the headline frown Tuesday. also sorry you left no room for comments on the story.

    we must all come together now and see how to stop this. to rely on the RGRTA to use their “13 landmarks” and hope they listen is truly naive.

  24. admin says:

    Harry, I’m not sure what you’re talking about… comments are wide open on all my posts. Also this isn’t the D&C or CNN. If I want to talk about what it’s like to speak at a City Council meeting or what I ate for breakfast this morning that’s my choice. I don’t go to YOUR web site and attack you for stating your opinion. In fact, I’ve never attacked any of the opinions you’ve posted on MY site. I’m sorry you didn’t like my blog post the other day 🙂

  25. chase tyler says:

    Have you ever mentioned this website at city council meetings? This could be a big help for them. Am I right?

  26. Rich Rolwing says:

    I know this article goes back a bit but it seemed the most relevant as far as where to ask questions regarding the new bus terminal. I was just curious (as opposed to having a personal stake in the answers, not having needed to avail myself of bus services in the recent past), what are the closest points downtown (or near downtown, depending on your definition of where downtown proper begins) where buses will still stop at street bus-stops, before proceeding to the new terminal? And more in the vein of a comment–Won’t people that don’t work (or live) right next to the terminal still have to brave the respective elements of the particular season involved as they make their way to the terminal to catch their bus? I’m not sure if these are dumb questions but thanks to anybody who might be able to throw some light on them.


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