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On Monday June 28 at 7:00pm you are invited to a FREE screening of PBS’s eye-opening film, BLUEPRINT AMERICA: BEYOND THE MOTOR CITY. The documentary is touring cities across America to raise questions—and seek answers—about the future of transportation in America. Can we build the “infrastructure of tomorrow” today? Can the cash-strapped and car-dependent cities of the so-called Rust Belt become new models for fast, clean, public transit? The links and similarities between Rochester NY and Detroit MI are glaringly obvious—and I think you owe it to yourself to see this film.
If we’re being 100% honest with each other I have to tell you I used to pee myself with fear at the thought of having to ride Rochester’s bus system. Not because the buses are dirty—they’re actually some of the cleanest buses I’ve ever been in. And no, I’m not afraid of the “people” who ride the bus—some my best friends use RTS to get everywhere they go. I’m ashamed to say I used to avoid taking the bus because I couldn’t read those damn bus schedules. Pathetic I know.
Traveling to and from downtown wasn’t the problem. All I had to do was find a bus stop and hop on—it’s a straight shot. But if I had to get anywhere involving a transfer (which, in Rochester, is pretty much everywhere) then I was lost. How in the world would I know which bus to transfer to once I got downtown? And how long would I have to wait? Would it be quicker to walk? How do I know if this is the most direct route? How much time do I have to leave myself to catch the 7 o’clock show at the Little? AAAAAAH! Forget it! I’ll drive.
The West Village artist behind these subway etiquette signs, Jason Shelowitz (aka jayshells ), is being embraced by the masses for his good deed/public art project. He’s created around 400 of the posters, all calling out straphanger’s on their unsavory underground habits. So far only 50 are up, and the NY Post notes that he used double-sided tape that won’t leave a mess once the sign is removed (he is the etiquette artist after all!).
About a year ago I had the awesome pleasure of riding Seattle’s new South Lake Union Streetcar—a 1.3 mile line that opened in December 2007. Peep this video from Streetfilms.org. Seattle’s state-of-the-art streetcar line features real time arrival message boards, solar-powered ticket vending machines, and human-activated doors to save energy while the train is in layover mode. And check this out, you can find out the next arrival time and actually watch the streetcars moving via GPS trackers all from the Seattle Streetcar web site.
But what has this hi-tech investment done for the South Lake Union neighborhood? For one thing, a Whole Foods Market moved in—downtown Seattle’s first full service supermarket in decades. Plus, new condos, mixed-use development, and Amazon.com’s brand new world headquarters. That’s impressive.
Oh and while I was there I made sure to ride the monorail ! You know I love you Rochester, but I had some serious reservations about returning fromthat trip.
America seems to have taken a renewed interest in mobility. Maybe due to President Obama’s recent commitment to high speed rail—or perhaps the positive results seen in towns like Portland and Denver have caught our collective attention. Whatever the reason, from the top down, people are rethinking our automobile-oriented culture—and getting excited about the possibilities.
There’s also good reason to focus on transportation as a way of jump-starting economic development. Industry requires access to people. And people need to have easy access to centers of employment. Continually improving access makes further development possible. Interrupting access will have the opposite effect. Likewise, doing nothing or simply maintaining existing infrastructure for an extended period of time will also hinder development.
For 30+ years Rochester has relied on the infrastructure choices it made in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. At that time we made development choices that encouraged our population to emigrate from the downtown core. We scrapped our extensive streetcar system, choked off downtown with the construction of the inner-loop, and paved super highways to take us from the city to the NY State Thruway and beyond. Since then that’s exactly where our money, our workforce, and our future have gone—down I-490 and out of state.
Long before hybrid cars, SUV’s, JetBlue, and even Amtrak, travel between American cities occurred largely by rail. With the industrial and technological revolution around the turn of the 20th century, America’s interurban railway developed so fast and connected so many of us, it must have seemed like the future had suddenly arrived out of nowhere. So when Henry Ford’s Model T was introduced who could have anticipated the turn transportation history would soon take.
If you’re interested in understanding the history of rail travel in American (its rise and quick fall), we’ve got a book for you. One of our readers, Laurence Keefe, recently brought this one to our attention. The following is Larry’s review…
“When we were children on summer vacation, the highlight of the day was when Dad got home from work. We would eat dinner at six o’clock, when the news came on the radio. That was because it took him 50 minutes to get from his office near the Four Corners in Rochester, NY to our farm in Victor…
Yet another reason to bring back the Rochester Subway… We’re missing out on No Pants Day! Hundreds of New Yorkers stripped down to their skivvies on Sunday for the ninth annual No Pants Subway Ride. The event, organized by a Guerilla group called Improv Everywhere, has grown from 7 or 8 people riding the NY Subway in 2002 to over 3,000 people taking part in 44 cities and 16 countries around the world.
Wow, this match wasn’t even close. An Arizona driver runs a red rail crossing signal and gets plowed into by an oncoming commuter train. Her van is then dragged… well, I don’t need to give you the play-by-play. The entire violent fiasco was caught on the train’s onboard surveillance camera! Watch the video…
BECKY BOHRER (AP) NEW ORLEANS — The federal government is making available $280 million for street cars and other public transportation projects aimed at creating jobs and more walkable, environmentally friendly communities.
(Will Rochester see a dime?)
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the announcement Tuesday at a streetcar barn in New Orleans. The city, which has been trying to overhaul its public transit system since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was LaHood’s first stop on a listening tour on federal transportation policy.
The last transportation spending bill expired in September. While President Barack Obama’s administration has sought a reprieve into 2011, given the federal stimulus package that passed earlier this year and was aimed largely at public works projects, Congress hasn’t agreed to an extension past mid-December.
LaHood said there’s a “pent up demand” for infrastructure work around the country… (more…)
In a recent post I implored our readers to send Maggie Brooks an email and request that she listen to Mayor Duffy’s concerns about the Renaissance Square project. It took a while but I actually did receive a response from Ms. Brooks. There no big surprises in it. As expected she defends the project citing the federal dollars, potential new jobs, and the 11 years it’s taken the project to get off the ground (11 years and still counting). But there are a few points that seem rather curious to me—one of which is a “full return on investment [for taxpayers] within seven years. Sure sounds dreamy. Here’s Maggies full response…
Okay, the cat’s out of the bag. Our fans have been patiently awaiting this news for nearly a year. The 1928 Rochester Subway Poster is now in production and will be available to purchase right here beginning July 1! But subscribers to our newsletter have already put their orders in. “How’s this possible” you ask? That’s because our dedicated followers received an invitation to pre-order a copy of the 1928 poster early. BUT WAIT, there’s more… not only did these lucky railfans get to pre-order, they also received a hefty discount offer. Want to find out how much they saved? Oh alright you beat it out of me… Sign up for our newsletter before July 4, 2009 and I’ll send you the very same offer! Tick, tock.
UPDATE: This offer has expired. Email me for new offers & promotions on our Rochester Subway merchandise.
The City Newspaper this week published an interview with Mayor Duffy, ‘It’s not too late to change’: Duffy on Ren Square . In it Duffy explains his recent coming out against the project as it is currently proposed. He cites recent changes in the business and development landscape downtown, new transportation stimulus funding, and sort of a personal awakening for his change of heart. Let’s show the Mayor we support him…
Fast forward or rewind? The dream of high speed rail in Upstate NY is nothing new. Back in 1993 Mario Cuomo wanted to see Amtrak service upgraded to 125mph between Albany and Buffalo. And the idea has been studied up and down since the 70’s. But now with Obama and Biden calling for a new high speed rail network to ease congestion on U.S. roadways, and Representative Louise Slaughter spearheading a new push to bring high speed upstate , what’s old just may be new again. Check out this poster…
If I said Rochester may one day have a rapid transportation system linking RIT to downtown Rochester and beyond, you might automatically think ‘light rail’. Think again. RochesterSubway.com recently discussed the future of Rochester’s transportation infrastructure with Richard Perrin, Executive Director of the Genesee Transportation Council and an AICP certified city planner.
NOTE: If you’ve got a question that we didn’t ask in our interview, please leave a comment at the end of this post and we’ll pass it along to Mr. Perrin who will do his best to answer it as time permits.
I asked Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks if our current transportation infrastructure (highways, bus routes, etc.) are adequate to serve the needs and growth of our community moving into the future. I also asked what she thought Rochester mass-transit should look like by the year 2020 and if there was anything she’d like to see changed or improved. Read her response, then please let me know what YOU think…
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
its place as a link between the five different railroads and interurban trolley
lines that served the Rochester area. As the industrial landscape of Rochester
changed, and highways replaced the railroads, the Rochester subway gradually
became a relic of a bygone era. In 1956 the subway was abandoned and much of
its route was converted into Interstate 490 built to connect Rochester
with the New York State Thruway (I-90). Read more about the history of the Rochester Subway.
RochesterSubway.com exists to help spark
public dialogue around how we can better connect the neighborhoods of Rochester
NY, surrounding communities, and their cultural offerings. Rochesters
future is written in her past. Let's rediscover it.