Density of people is good for cities. Density of cars is not . More people create more demand for local shops and services, which, in return, attract more people. Businesses seeking talent are attracted as well, and the city benefits from increased sales and property tax revenue and by increased utilization of its existing infrastructure. On the other hand when a lot of people are living in a small area, and all of those people own cars, we run out of places to put them. A winter like this one just makes us feel the pain a little more…
In the long run, the answer that seems to work best is to create an environment where people need fewer cars. Cities like New York and Toronto have this down pat: many affluent residents choose not to own cars or only own one car per family. Unlike Rochester, however, these cities never lost their density. New York and Toronto have thriving, walkable, neighborhoods and city cores that attract talent and corporations from around the world. Their transit infrastructure focuses on efficiently and conveniently taking people where they want to go.
There are many wonderful things about Rochester, and there are exciting developments happening downtown and in some of our neighborhoods. At the same time, we have not been good stewards of our region’s center. Rochester’s downtown is just starting to recover after years of decay and neglect and many of our neighborhoods suffer from extreme, concentrated, poverty. The city schools are a mess. Our public transit infrastructure delivers only a shadow of the service it provided a hundred years ago . Fixing these problems will be hard and will take a long time.
In the short run, though, we could start by clearing snow off the sidewalks:
- We must recognize that sidewalks and bicycle trails are part of our transportation infrastructure and they should be cleared of snow by the city. Rochester has some good bus routes, especially if one is going to or from downtown, but it’s hard to use them if the sidewalks and bus stops are choked with snow. Brighton manages to plow sidewalks for about $25 per house per year. Rochester charges about $40. The situations are different, but if, for the added cost of a new pair of sneakers, the city could do a good job of clearing the sidewalks so that I can get my latte and my neighbors can get to their job and my older neighbors can not break their hips and people living with disabilities can not be shut up in their houses for three months of the year it would be money well spent. Just raise my taxes already and be done with it.
- Neighborhood businesses in areas like the South Wedge where I live get a lot of local, walk in, traffic. I almost never drive to a restaurant, I just walk. The businesses in the Wedge do a great job of keeping the sidewalks on South Avenue clear, but the residents on the side streets have struggled to keep up this winter. Clearing the sidewalks isn’t just about making life pleasant for city residents, it’s a way to support local businesses.
- One of the single best antipoverty measures within the city’s power to implement is to make it less difficult for people to live without a car. Over a quarter of city households do not own a car. For those of us with cars impassible sidewalks are annoying. For people who need to walk, bicycle, or take transit to get to work impassible sidewalks are a disaster. Impassible sidewalks not only make it hard to get to work, they also make it more dangerous and increase the likelihood of arriving late, which, especially in lowwage industries, can cost a job and plunge a struggling family into deep poverty . Car ownership is also a financial drain on families: if 25% of our households don’t have cars , we can be pretty sure that in cardependent Rochester many families that do have cars can’t really afford them. While access to a car can open up new job opportunities to people living in poverty, cars are extremely expensive to purchase, maintain, insure, and operate. Furthermore, most of the money spent on cars leaves the community, while money that stays in the community supports local jobs and businesses.
There are so many problems that the City of Rochester simply cannot take on by itself. One of the few things that the city does control is our local streets, side walks, and bicycle trails. The city should milk that for all it’s worth.
Tags: City of Rochester, infrastructure, pedestrian safety, Rochester, Rochester NY, sidewalks, snow, transportation
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 at 9:30 am and is filed under Opinion, Transit + Infrastructure. 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.