Monday, December 28, 2009

Satellite Transit Center Study

In a very roundabout way, via this story, I stumbled upon a study prepared for RGRTA by the Genesee Transportation Council regarding the establishment of satellite transit centers at highly traveled nodes across the more urban portions of our region.

Noting that Congresswoman Louise Slaughter had secured $800,000 in federal stimulus funds for a 'Mt. Hope Station Transit Center,' my interest was piqued. It turns out the study was finalized in May of 2009 and planning appears to be well on its way. The study is a fascinating look into how the preferred site for the first transit center of its kind in our area was determined.

The Genesee Transportation Council is a metropolitan planning organization whose existence is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation if the region hopes to qualify for the recipt of federal highway and transit funds. I hate to blatantly copy their executive summary word for word, but I feel it does a tremendous job of encapsulating what we are talking about and what went into it.

An evaluation of the viability of 19 potential sites to serve a satellite transit center address the following criteria:

  • Transit Functionality (routes, ridership)
  • Market Assessment (proximity to residences and activity-generators; commercial potential)
  • Site Suitability (vehicular and pedestrian access; availability of land)
  • Partnership Opportunities

Four sites were selected for further consideration: Mt. Hope Station (Strong Hospital); West Main Street; Brighton 12 Corners and CityGate. The potential for the Lake/Ridge site to be developed for transit in conjunction with economic development should be addressed in a future study.

Six sites were recommended for enhancements:

  • Medley Centre (Irondequoit)
  • Irondequoit Plaza (Irondequoit)
  • Greece Ridge Mall (Greece)
  • Marketplace Mall (Henrietta)
  • Monroe Community College (Brighton)
  • Winton Road/East Avenue (Rochester)

In addition to sufficient platform loading space for buses, the satellite transit center design needs to include indoor waiting area, ticket booth or kiosk, real-time bus schedule information, video security system, benches, bicycle lockers, trash receptacles, pedestrian access, parking, and landscaping. A building of approximately 10,000 square feet is recommended to accomodate ancillary commercial or service uses in addition to space for passenger waiting and ticket sales. Anticipated costs include land acquisition, demolition and site preparation, site development, construction, and design/legal/administrative fees.

Mt. Hope Station

The preferred site would be part of the proposed "Collegetown" development on the east (West?) side of Mt. Hope Avenue between Crittenden Blvd. and Elmwood Ave. Alternative sites are located along the west (east?) side of Mt. Hope Ave. and the south side of Crittenden Blvd. A transit center at Strong would need to require loading space for 8 buses at any one time. Four alternative conceptual designs for the Collegetown site and one each for the two alternative locations were prepared. Costs are estimated at $8-9 million. Joint development is encouraged in conjuction with the private development of Collegetown.

West Main Street

The preferred site is located at Bullshead Plaza, located southwest of the intersection of West Main and Genesee Streets. A transit center in this location would require four bus bays. Several off‐street and onstreet designs were considered. The most effective design from a transit operations perspective would require the demolition of a portion of the Bullshead plaza building. Costs are estimated at $14 million.

Brighton 12 Corners

Enhanced bus shelters are recommended, utilizing Town‐owned land in the “triangle” at the center of 12 corners. Custom designed and constructed shelters are recommended.


A transit center with three bus bays is recommended to be constructed in conjunction with a parking structure. A joint development agreement with the developer of CityGate is recommended.

There is a lot of information contained in the study's 44 pages regarding what exactly constitutes transit 'enhancements' at sites not ultimately chosen for more detailed discussion, but I am going to focus on the Mt. Hope Station as it WAS chosen and I live just about 1/2 mile from the preferred site.

A sizable piece of the land in question was once a Wegman's Supermarket, but now accomodates surface parking for the medical center. The rest hosts the UR Towne House, once a 50's era motel that now contains a modicum of student housing and some other university offices, and the Mt. Hope Professional Building, purported to be host to a smattering of private health practices.

The University of Rochester intends to make all of this land available for private development as a Collegetown, featuring a mix of residential and commercial uses. Apparently driven by the Mt. Hope Avenue Task Force (I need to get in touch with this Dan Hurley), a transit center is envisioned in conjunction with development on the site.

Insofar as transit functionality is concerned, the area is a hotbed of converging bus routes on business days. 8 RTS Routes (5 - South Ave.; 8B - Genesee Park Blvd./West Ave./ W. Main St.; 12 - 19th Ward to MCC; 18 - Plymouth Ave.; 19 - Elmwood Ave./Winton Rd./University Ave.; 24 - Mt. Hope/Marketplace Mall; 50 - Mt. Hope/MCC; 91 - E. Henrietta Rd./Avon) in addition to 2 University shuttles currently make stops in and around Strong Hospital.

When talking about site design, options are presented that accomodate both inline and sawtooth (like a Greyhound Depot) loading configurations. This brings me to my first point of contention. Of the four 'options' on Page 15, the only one that has my total support is Option B. For me, inline loading is a must if we are ever to easily convert the station for the accomodation of an electric street railway. Option A is disqualified on this criteria. Options C and D are too land hungry in my opinion. Both to me would really torch pedestrian connectivity between the college-owned facilites and the Collegetown. Option B also does the best job (as far as can be gleaned from a massing model) of properly treating Elmwood, Mt. Hope, and Crittenden from an urbanist standpoint. Remember, the neighbors in the Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood should benefit from improved urban fabric, not have it turn its back to them like the U of R's apartments on Plymouth Ave.

Figures 5 and 6 on Pages 18 and 19 show alternative locations if for whatever reason the station was not integrated directly into the collegetown. As of today, the casualties of using alternate site A would a McDonald's and a Bruegger's which may make land acquisition costly, but otherwise is not a net loss of any quality urban fabric. Alternative Site B, however is a goddamned disgrace. A decent bank building and between 18-20 occupied homes would have to be demolished while leaving a miserable auto repair shop on the corner. I honestly hope this isn't ever actually considered.

Ultimately the Mt. Hope Site was chosen over the Bulls Head site not due to ridership figures, but more likely due to affluence/reason for travel/employment center and the ability to piggyback on other development versus the prohibitive land acquisition costs reported in the study for the West Main Street station option. The study is definitely worth a comprehensive read.

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