Fellow Rochesterians, lend me your ears. I recently visited the reasonably pleasant city of Portland, OR. While I was there, I couldn’t help but notice a rather cleverly decorated, midcentury modern building. It was this one, actually…
Sorry it’s been so quiet in the subway for the past week. It got crazy busy with many things happening on many different fronts, and I had to force myself into a self-imposed digital detox program. But here’s a quicky update…
I just got back from the Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit; a conference (held in downtown Rochester) where mobs of cycling and transit advocates gathered for a day of discussion about moving Rochester forward… literally. Believe me, Spiderman isn’t the only one sporting the spandex lately. There’s an undeniable groundswell of support for walkable, bike-friendly streets, and transit options in this town. Maybe you were following the tweets coming out of Reconnect Rochester throughout the day? But if you were at the conference, you understand what I mean. The excitement was palpable, and contagious.
In Oregon, a battle raged for nearly twenty years over the construction of a highway project, proposed by the once acclaimed city planner Robert Moses. If approved, the Freeway would have removed more than 1% of all housing stock in Portland. In the mid 1970s, after the proposal’s defeat, the city opted to build a mass transit infrastructure instead. The result can be seen today in the form of a more pedestrian-friendly and livable city.
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.
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.