Last night the City of Rochester held the first of two informational/public input sessions for the new Center City Master Plan . This meeting was primarily intended for residents of downtown, although many people who work or live outside the inner loop also gave input.
I listened for about an hour as many great ideas were put on the table… “Plant trees down the middle of Main Street to make it nicer for pedestrians.” “Make people feel safer about walking downtown.” “Stop demolishing older and historic buildings.”
Then one resident announced, “Sometimes I go to the bathroom and I need toilet paper, but the only place to find toilet paper is Wegmans or Tops which are too far to walk to.” So, simply put, downtown could use more retailers and small grocers – for life’s little necessities (i.e. T.P.). Brilliant!
Now can somebody please explain something to me… On the meeting handout entitled “Center City Objectives,” why is MOBILITY way down the list at #7 – right behind enhancing and expanding public spaces? Before I can enjoy all those beautiful public spaces, don’t I need to GET THERE first? Oh, sure, I could drive there. Duh.
Here’s the deal; downtown Rochester has an identity crisis. We want it to be a “real city,” with shop-lined streets and people-jammed sidewalks. We ask it to be urban. But at the same time we also ask it to be drivable, and SUB-urban. Let’s look at the facts:
To entice businesses to locate jobs downtown we allow historic buildings to become parking lots.
To make people “feel safe” we spend millions to move all the RTS buses (and “those transit people”) off Main Street.
To give people access to the little stuff, like toilet paper, we practically beg Wegman’s to build one of the largest single big-box stores any city anywhere has ever seen.
And after all this, downtown residents still cannot get to the toilet paper?!
Rochester has tried to make peace with the automobile. Yet businesses are still moving employees out of downtown because, they say, parking is difficult to find. And people still feel unsafe walking more than a few blocks downtown because vast expanses of parking lots (and garages) create dead zones where even the homeless don’t dare roam. And even if we could convince a developer to put a shovel in the ground, sixty-percent of our downtown surface area is undevelopable because it might mean parking spaces would be lost.
Before any master plan can begin to help Rochester, Rochester needs to decide what it wants to be. We can be urban. Or we can be sub-urban. We cannot be both at the same time. And we cannot weave a walker’s paradise through a maze of parking lots.
Okay, good. So we’ve decided to be urban. Next, we must deal with MOBILITY. Surprisingly, much of the thinking has already been laid out for us in dozens of previous studies, plans and reports…
- Let’s work with RGRTA and neighboring communities to enhance regional transit corridors and to entice more people to come downtown – without a car.
- Let’s move faster on that Bike Master Plan. Finish connecting all those broken bike routes. And let’s get a bike sharing system on the ground, NOW.
- Let’s take the Circulator Study off the back burner and let’s give people a way to move across downtown free-ly and quickly – without a car.
- And for Pete’s sake… let’s enforce all the stuff about “walkability” and “designing streets for pedestrians” that we put in the LAST Center City Master Plan ten years ago!
You may be asking yourself, “How will we ever afford all of these dreamy things like bikes and circulators and good urban design?” And to that I ask, how will we ever afford more of the same old same old? Our downtown is dying for some toilet paper!
Attend the next public input session:
DATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23
TIME: 5:30- 7 p.m.
LOCATION: City Council Chambers, City Hall, 30 Church St.
And send your suggestions to:
Center City Master Plan
Bureau of Planning and Zoning
City Hall Room 125B
30 Church Street
Rochester, NY 14614
Tags: Center City, Center City Circulator Study, downtown Rochester, Rochester, Rochester Bicycle Master Plan Project, Rochester Center City Master Plan, Rochester NY, transit-oriented development
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 at 8:06 am and is filed under Opinion, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.