Sunday, March 21, 2010

Center City Circulator Feasibility Study

Tomorrow at 4PM a public input meeting will be held regarding the potential implementation of a Center City Circulator. The following is the meat and potatoes of the brief address I will be delivering.

Much of my understanding of the official positions and procedures to be followed with respect to the circulator effort has been gleaned from document #6352, the Scope of Work for the Center City Circulator Study. I’d like to begin by praising some of the recognitions made by the primary stakeholders in the background portion.

I consider it a positive development that city governments have come to the conclusion that building parking garages is an unsustainable practice. Setting aside for a moment the idea of what makes a city a vibrant and desirable environment, trends indicate that the age of personal automotive transportation reached its crescendo in 2004 before embarking on a decline beginning in 2007. A combination of higher fuel prices, vehicle financing issues, enthusiasm for various forms of public transportation, and a cognizance of the health benefits of walking or bicycling have contributed to the first national year-over-year reduction in vehicular miles traveled since 1980.

I’d also like to applaud the preparers of the documentation that I have read to date for not precluding any potential modes or vehicle types. I am not here to advocate for any one particular type, though I do have my personal preferences. I am here to simply reinforce a few ideas so that the circulator implementation is appropriate in concert with a broader city-strengthening approach.

The document cited earlier defines the Study Area as a focus on the Center City district, but that it is not limited to this region. This is crucial. An attempt to serve one population segment will likely bear less fruit than one designed to serve business, student, and entertainment populations. Fully realizing the general small scale of something labeled ‘circulator,’ I would encourage further studies to consider connecting to the closest institutions of higher education, namely the University of Rochester and Monroe Community College, at meaningful times to the student bodies. I would also encourage serious consideration of short services to the nearest neighborhoods on the center city perimeter such as the Frontier Field/High Falls area and its accompanying parking facilities, the intercity bus and train stations, Marketview Heights and the Public Market when appropriate, Corn Hill, and near South and East side vibrant districts. We must begin to think in terms of a city not choked by an Inner Loop around its neck, but one of seamless integration of proper densities, a model transect.

I’d like to conclude with a request to truly consider non-obvious destinations for enhanced transit. Dependent on the ultimate scope of the circulator and mode chosen, an opportunity exists to spur reinvestment as well as new development in urban locales which have experienced rampant disinvestment in more modern times. For instance, the Genesee Transportation Council’s satellite transit center study determined that Bulls Head represented the most traveled non-downtown RTS transit node. This once important hub of urban activity can be so once again thanks to careful and forward-thinking transportation planning.

On the agenda for future installments are a look at the Grand Ballroom in South Chicago and the role of ShoreBank in its restoration as well as a comparison between Scranton's 500 Block of Lackawanna Avenue project and the possibilites for our similar situation, the former Renaissance Square site.

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