Sunday, December 1, 2013

Route 52 - RTS' New Crosstown Connection

Immediately after Labor Day, RGRTA CEO Bill Carpenter was on hand for the inaugural voyage of the newest addition to RTS' stable of bus routes.  A route planned with the University of Rochester Medical Center's parking situation in mind, Route 52 crosses through the heart of the vibrant Monroe and Park Avenue communities before terminating at the brand new East Avenue Wegman's store.  This new alignment, which follows a rigid 30 minute departure schedule from 6-10AM and 2:30-7PM (with a single midday trip), has had us at Reconnect excited for some time.  We've finally crunched the numbers to bring the public an idea of just how much this development is enhancing service.

As can be seen on the map (click to enlarge), bus 52 overlaps significant sections of the 1 - Park Avenue and 11 - Goodman Street routes.  It also provides alternative crosstown service to the original weekday crosstown route, the 18/19 loop via 12 Corners, Brighton.  We'll start with the implications for crosstown service as we identify 5 attributes that make Route 52 a highly attractive and noteworthy option in our region's alternative transportation network.

  • When Route 52 is in service, its addition to the 18/19 crosstown route reduces average wait time for travel between Strong and Wegmans from 33 to 16 minutes.
Commuters living on either the south or east sides who work at the opposite end of each of these routes have more options, many departing from the same stops they are used to.

  • Route 52 extends evening options.  Last 19 to Wegmans from Strong: 6:20, Last 52: 7:05.  Last 18 to Strong from Wegmans: 5:51, Last 52 6:35.
No more rushing to make that last bus to avoid the time-consuming downtown transfer, Route 52 actually adds two departures after the final 18/19 at each terminus.
  • Addition of Route 52 reduces average wait time for travel along Route 11G between Swillburg and the Rochester Psych Center. during periods of overlapping service from 45 to 18 minutes.
  • Addition of Route 52 reduces average wait time for travel along Route 1 between Wegmans and Park/Goodman during peak periods from an already respectable 23 minutes to a quite excellent 13 minutes.
These overlaps are significant for riders not intending to ride the entire route length.  Now they can simply hop on the first bus they see to save wait time.  The effect is particularly pronounced in the apartment-heavy Park Avenue Corridor where the 13 minute average headway approaches a high level of service seen in locales which truly emphasize transit as a primary mode.

Last, but certainly not least:
  • Route 52 utilizes the same schedule 7 days a week.
This further facilitates an understanding of the schedule for users and shows a commitment to serving the needs of the irregular work schedules of hospital employees.

As we've seen, this route can be quite useful for many people for commuting, shopping, and weekend trips among other uses.  Anecdotally, our riders have not seen big crowds despite promotion throughout the system and by URMC.  We encourage our bus riding friends on the south and east sides to make good use of the service to send a signal to RTS that not just this route in particular, but additional crosstown service is highly valued by the Rochester community.  We are also committed to helping our friends not currently utilizing the system to take the leap so that they might too realize the convenience and efficiency of collective transportation.  If you'd like more information on how to take advantage of this route, other routes, fare information, or any other questions, please send an E-mail to Reconnect Rochester, your favorite transit ombusman, at info@reconnectrochester.org or like us on Facebook and join the movement!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Latest Urban Freeway Removal Plan a Winner

Hello all.  The following is destined for the Blog at ReconnectRochester.org, but I thought I'd work out the editorial kinks over here.  While unlikely to be read, a personal update is in order.  I've completed the first year of the online Masters of Sustainable Transportation Planning at the University of Washington and earned a certificate in Sustainable Transportation: Planning and Livable Communities.  I currently await news regarding acceptance into the matriculated program to complete the degree by June 2015.



After tasting some success during the last round of the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program, the city has jumped back into the aptly named moat with an application that we at Reconnect Rochester are extremely excited about.

There is a very conscious effort afoot on the part of city staff to rid us once and for all of a sizable portion of the Inner Loop, that underutilized sunken ring road and choker of downtown connectivity.  And while the Intermodal Station took precedence in the 2012 fight for funds, this most recent expressway removal proposal document is the best we've seen yet.  A financial winner just on its face in terms of reducing future maintenance burden, the latest from city hall is very serious about reconnection and reintegration.  No longer a boulevard, per se, but rather a reimagining of Union Street as a complete street offers more bang for the buck in a myriad of areas, not just development potential, but also in the mobility realm.

Inspiring aspects of the new design are seen right away in the width of the proposed new Union Street.  With the appropriate number of two travel lanes, parking lanes, and pedestrian protection, immediately more development potential is realized.  This treatment has also been extended to long-forlorn Howell Street as well, which can only serve to better connect the new Union Street district to the eclectic Monroe Avenue.  The general straightness and adherence to the grid is vastly improved compared to previous proposal revisions, but what this really lends itself to, and what has us most enthusiastic here at Reconnect, is the possibly of implementation on MontrĂ©al-style two-way cycle tracks as seen in the description and rendering on pages 6 and 7.


The potential to create enticing developable and taxable land is a well known aspect of the proposal, but in terms of eliminating future infrastructure liability, this project pays for itself.  According to the application document, the money needed to maintain four expressway lane miles, three multi-span (and structurally deficient) bridges, 16,000 square feet of retaining walls, and other accessories such as guard rails, traffic signals, etc. will no longer be the responsibility of the State of New York and can be utilized to address more pressing needs.  Lifecycle costs to maintain a state of good repair of the existing 1960's-era infrastructure are estimated between $19.1 and $26 million.

That said, and those highly attractive points made, we wouldn't be Reconnect Rochester if we weren't advocating for greatness and going the extra mile.

In order to do that, removal of the Inner Loop clear to East Main Street is necessary. Rather than terminate ramps into the Charlotte Street roundabout (more on that later), a true restoration of Union Street would render the consolidated East Main entrance/exit as the terminus.  A secondary side benefit to this strategy would be the reconstitution of Anderson Park to its original configuration where the city once gathered to light its communal Christmas pine.   A more noteworthy aspect of this revision from Albany's point of view would be the ability to add another bridge, a seven-laner at that, to the list of removable unnecessary infrastructure for future fiscal consideration.

Finally, it is possible that we may have a case of roundabout fever. While the Howell/Union roundabout seems like a reasonable response to the complexity of the intersection and an opportunity for a district gateway, the Charlotte Street roundabout may have the opposite of intended effects.  This installation, as shown in the preliminary design drawing, does a number of deleterious things.  First, the Union Street dynamic is undermined by steering the lanes and sidewalk away from the existing frontage.  Second, the roundabout is seriously land-intensive, cutting into a solid connection both West and North.  Third, and perhaps most importantly is an inability to extend the cycle track from end to end of this new priority corridor.

So while we are absolutely firmly behind the grant proposal (as an undersignee) and the city's efforts to date, there are just a couple of tweaks we'd like to see that we feel would allow the project to reach its fullest potential.