The Rochester Subway:
What Might Have Been
Local artist offers a glimpse into the mass transit system City Council wants to
bury As it was, and as it might have looked in the 21st century.
ROCHESTER, NY (September 25, 2008) As gas prices convince more and more
Americans to leave their cars in the driveway, use of mass transportation nationwide
is at it highest level in 50 years. It was this phenomenon, and the recent decision by
Rochester City Council to fill in the abandoned Broad Street subway tunnel, that inspired
local graphic artist Michael Governale to create a
map of the 1927 Rochester subway A transit system which he believes
could, and should still be in use today.
Governale first had the idea to create a Rochester subway poster last Fall after seeing a
documentary about the old Rochester subway line. I started thinking about all the
possibilities that a subway or light rail system could offer a city like Rochester now,
Governale said. With more commuters choosing to use mass transit and the city looking to bring
more people downtown, is a return of the Rochester Subway so far-fetched? And if the original
subway were still in operation today, what would it look like? The result is a map that
resembles something commuters in larger cities like New York or Washington D.C. are familiar
with. Governales subway map shows the original 1927 subway line with all of its stops,
plus four new lines that might have one day made up more of a complete subway system taking
passengers between downtown Rochester, the airport, Charlotte, Henrietta, and Pittsford. Train
routes, stations, transfer points, major sites of interest, and geographic landmarks are included
to help would-be riders plan their trip around Rochester.
While he admits it to be somewhat of a fantasy, Governale says his map is grounded
in reality based largely on old hand-drawn maps and articles, as well as actual proposals
that were brought before the city prior to the subway closing in 1956. Some of these proposals
called for converting old industrial railway corridors into commuter surface lines. Today, most
of these corridors are abandoned but remain visible from the skies over Monroe County as they
cut through city neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs. Using Google Earth (an online satellite
based map service), Governale was able to reconnect these old routes and piece together an image
of how the subway system might look today had it grown into the bustling network that many
in its heyday had envisioned.
Governale believes the city of Rochester is literally sitting on a hidden treasure. The
abandoned tunnels downtown could one day be a valuable asset for our community, says
Governale. When I heard of City Councils plan to fill them with dirt I was disappointed.
That tunnel represents wonderful possibilities for the future of Rochester and Monroe County, not to
mention the history thats down there. And he certainly isnt the only one whos
fascinated by the story of Rochesters subway. Fred Armstrong co-produced
The End of the Line Rochesters
Subway, the film documentary that inspired Governales map. Theres almost
a cult following, says Armstrong, I think many people are intrigued by the idea that
Rochester actually had a subway. But more so I think Rochesterians like to imagine where it might
have taken them today. This poster has some fun with that idea.
The Rochester Subway poster is available at The
Center at High Falls gift shop, Mercury Posters,
Poster Art on Monroe Avenue, and online at
About the Rochester Subway
The Rochester Subway (AAR reporting marks RSB) or Rochester Industrial and Rapid Transit
Railway was an underground rapid transit system in the city of Rochester, New York from
1927 to 1956. It used single streetcar vehicles so by todays terms would likely be
described as a light rail system, even though a large portion of it ran underground.
The rail system
ran on its own private, grade-separated right of way through its entire
length. Known to most simply as the Subway, it was built to ease interurban
traffic from the streets of downtown. It also served as an interchange for the five
railroads that entered the city and as a link to interurban lines serving the east