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Last week I shared an interview with a local Lyft driver. A debate in the comments—and on Facebook—about the legality of rideshare services (such as Lyft) immediately ensued. After hearing from both sides of the issue, I’m just as confused as I was before.
On one hand, Lyft has responded to these challenges by saying its service is absolutely not illegal, and that their insurance has drivers and passengers covered. On the other hand, a local insurance agent, Michael Montag has reached out to RochesterSubway.com. He believes Lyft drivers are operating illegally – even if Lyft itself may not be illegal. I’ll post both responses here, and if you’re thinking of driving for Lyft or similar services, do your homework first…
Have you seen one of these big pink mustaches tooling around town lately? This past April a ridesharing service called Lyft entered the Rochester market. Lyft connects people—via mobile app—who need a ride with drivers in their area. The pink facial hair is sort of the calling card of the Lyft brand.
Recently I got to talking with a local Lyft driver, Fred from Penfield, and he says from his point of view, the service has been a smashing success. “There are about 40 of us in Rochester,” says Fred. “We are similar to Uber and Sidecar, but we are much friendlier and have a much bigger focus on safety.”
Besides the pink moustaches, it’s also common for drivers and passengers to fist pump at the start of each ride. The following is a summary of our conversation about Lyft…
I took a few hours to have some fun this week at The Strong, National Museum of Play. They’ve got a killer exhibit going on right now, through May 12. A history of transportation built entirely out of LEGO! I haven’t geeked out this bad since Norm Abrams came to Chase-Pitkin for a “This Old House” book signing. Check this out…
Last November I had the ridiculously huge privilege to give a talk at TEDxRochester. The gravity of the honor may have been too much for my little brain to comprehend. In fact, when they initially asked me to do it I said “no thanks” – twice. Long story short, I gave in. And I’m glad I did, because the experience was one of those “once in a lifetime” things.
Since much of my talk was influenced by you, RocSubway readers and participants, I thought you’d like to watch (and share) the official video which has just been released. A word of caution: I’m not the most riveting public speaker, but there is lots of good stuff buried within this 12-minute presentation, so watch thru to the end if you can…
It’s no secret that I am wholeheartedly in favor of removing Rochester’s Inner Loop roadway which encircles downtown and chokes it off from the surrounding neighborhoods like an ever tightening noose. What we didn’t know until today was that City Council and Mayor Tom Richards feel the same…
Last week fresh paint went down on Saint Paul Street – from the Monroe County Social Services building north to School #8 near Avenue A. But wait a cottonpickin’ second… why’s that lane so darn skinny? How am I supposed to squeeze my Hummer through there?
Recently I received an email from a local woman asking for help identifying an old bell with some strange letters. She states quite simply, “I have an old bell with these letters RC&BRR. Can you give me any information on this?” Right away I recognized those letters…
The City of Rochester has been busy busy busy. Last week we took a look at our new Bike Master Plan. This week we’ll get a chance to review and ask questions about the proposed Center City Circulator. What? You have no idea what a “circulator” is? No worries. Watch the video clip below and learn about Washington D.C.’s new-ish circulator system with Gabe Klein, Director of Washington D.C.’s Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Last summer I posted a progress report on Rochester’s Bike Master Plan and I commented on the importance of such planning—even if you don’t own a bike. Well, I’m all giddy with excitement to report… Rochester has a bike plan! Officially.
I just read an article in Sunday’s Albany Times Union that has me scratching my head. Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, wants to consolidate the four big transit authorities of upstate New York—Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. On the surface it seems to make sense. They each do the same thing in relatively similar cities in a single state. But does Aesch really believe consolidating operations across a 250 mile wide region will lead to better public transit service for all four regions? Or are we witnessing the beginning of a power grab?
Something outstanding is happening in our community—Rochester is catching Bike Fever. Over the past decade or more Monroe County and local municipalities have been steadily making investments in existing off-road trails and in new ones, especially around our colleges, universities and along the river and lake shore. You may have noticed some new ones near you. Bicycling Magazine even placed Rochester on their list of America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities this year. Albeit at #50, but hey, it’s a good start!
A recent story in the City Newspaper, “Glamming Rochester’s Gateways” touched on the idea that filling in part of the Inner Loop would help reconnect certain neighborhoods with downtown and improve Rochester’s eastern gateways. Then came the raging comments from readers who blindly defended the inner loop and its many blessings.
Howard Decker is new to Rochester. He moved here last Fall after spending much of his professional life designing transit systems from Chicago to Houston to Washington DC. He is a lifelong historic preservationist, an FAIA, architect, urban designer, and former Chief Curator of the National Building Museum. As a self-proclaimed “transit-geek” he is now spending time familiarizing himself with, and blogging about Rochester and working with groups such as the RRCDC and Reconnect Rochester . Last week Howard attended the public input meeting on RGRTA’s planned transit center on Mortimer Street. Today he posted his opinion on the whole thing. Read his article (below). And please attend the final public input meeting tomorrow night (May 5).
Buses and Subways and Trains, Oh My
A Town Square (May 4, 2010) — Our home place here is in the midst of considering a change to its transit system. As usual, Rochester is the perfect case study of how cities can screw themselves up with the greatest of ease. My newly adopted city, like so many of its sister places, has made a vast litany of urban gaffes over the last century, and we are about to see yet another. Let me explain.
In the early 20th century, Rochester had a system of streetcars and interurbans and even a subway, all of which provided transit options to citizens. In those days, say the 1920s, the population of the city was quite a bit larger than today, though the region was much smaller – sprawl was only just getting started.
By the mid 1950s, everything was gone. Streetcars gone. Interurbans gone. Subway gone. Left on the roads? Cars, and buses. Retail was headed out of town, following all those who began to sprawl. Downtown’s fate was sealed…
Rochester is buzzing with talk about new downtown development, new transit stations, high speed rail, and downtown circulators. But how do these pieces fit together? Cities across America are using transportation investments like these to transform themselves in a big way. And, if we play our cards right, we too can join the list of revitalized American cities.
On May 10, 2010, John Robert Smith — CEO of Reconnecting America and one of the people who helped spark this revolution — will be in Rochester to help give us some perspective. Come see how he and others are reconnecting America and find out how transportation can help shape a new Rochester.
If you were at the Circulator Study Public Meeting tonight, THANK YOU! Turn out was good. It could’ve been even better… but there were plenty of people there asking questions and giving input and the room had a constant buzz. Even the media thought enough to make an appearance. There will be another public meeting in June/July to share the preliminary findings of the study so stay tuned and continue to share this story with friends and neighbors. We’ll need even more of you at the next meeting.
The City has partnered with C&S Companies to analyze and make recommendations to enhance commuting, circulation, and parking in Downtown Rochester. Among the potential enhancements under consideration is a circulator transit service—a.k.a shuttle buses or streetcars. Listen carefully Rochester…
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.
Some of you may remember our story on Harry Davis last September. At that time Harry was running a long-shot campaign for Rochester City Council. He didn’t win any of the 5 open council seats. But that didn’t discourage him. He turned right around and announced he’d be write-in candidate for Mayor in November. Mayor Duffy squashed that dream pretty easily on election day. But Harry kept at it. He promptly asked to be hired by Mayor Duffy to lead a “green” urban renewal plan for the city. The Mayor turned him down.
So now Mr. Davis is coming at things from a different angle. Last month he formed his own Political Action Committee (PAC). According to Mr. Davis this new group stands for “green, sustainable development and transportation.” Davis affirms, “The importance of sustainable and efficient transportation for Rochester cannot be overstated. This would include light rail, high-speed rail, bike paths and additional pedestrian options – all of which should complement a rational and minimalist approach to automotive traffic.”
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…
If you and the kiddies find yourselves moping around the house this winter watching the lint in your bellybuttons pile up, don’t blame the good people at the New York Museum of Transportation! That’s because NYMT is holding “Bring Your Own Train Sundays” every Sunday now through April 25. Visitors who bring there own model trains can take over the throttles under the supervision of museum volunteers. Visitors are also welcome to become a subway motorman for a day on the museum’s N-scale model of the Rochester Subway.
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.
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