Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Urban News Vol. 63

I'm back from my tour of four iconic Mid-Atlantic cities, and while I couldn't bring myself to write any additional RIT downtown history, I thought I'd chime in with my unfiltered stance on the new downtown bus terminal plans as a sort of raw dress rehearsal in case I am compelled to speak at the next meeting.

by David Andreatta, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Article Key Points:
  • Last chance to spend $52 million in federal and state funds
  • 11 of 19 speakers were against project
  • 73,000 square feet with 26 bus bays
  • 'I know none of you would like to have a bus station next door to you, so what's changed?' -Anthony DiMarzo, H.H. Warner Building Owner
  • Mayor Duffy wants to reduce bus traffic on Main Street that he says is hampering growth
  • Next public input session at 7PM May 5th at Carlson Commons, 80 Coretta Scott Crossing

A blog piece at the City Newspaper domain reports that bus riders were under-represented at the first public input meeting held last night on Webster Avenue. Construction unions predictably are in favor while those with an interest in nearby housing developments are opposed.

This is asinine.

As I posted in my comments to Ms. Fien's blog, in a city that is serious about denseness, living within a short walk of transit nodes is a selling point, not a detriment. I would indeed like to have the main station of a system like this at my front door. It would enhance a completely car-free lifestyle, something we, as a society, need to get more serious about.

Some other things in the con argument that rankle me include:

  • The racial undertones sensed by Loretta Scott are very real. I've read elsewhere comments about "the types of people who ride the bus." What the hell are people afraid of? I guess its me, that dastardly type with the multiple engineering degrees. I've never had a problem with another rider. People are simply trying to get from point A to point B. Nobody is willing to waste their day waiting for a specific whitey to get on in order to harass/attack them. "Getting the buses off Main" is a thinly veiled political gimmick in the same vain unlikely to have any impact on 'growth.'
  • "Getting the buses off Main" is also highly impractical. Main is one of 2 East-West through streets through downtown. Broad is inefficient beyond the innerloop (and this situation could be exacerbated by the canal project). All routes fan out from Main to some extent. People will still want to catch buses on Main at the ends of downtown in order to transfer at the hub.
  • Pedestrian safety will be no different than any other corner where vehicles make turns governed by traffic signals. Buses will not indiscriminately blast out of the portal. Signalling will become especially intricate if the narrowed Mortimer is allowed to remain alongside the building.
  • People don't really understand why they want 'intermodal' or what they want out of it. Washington's tremendous Union Station is not at the major junction of intra-city transport. The role of RTS is to serve the daily needs of Rochesterians first and foremost. We also don't need to isolate our train/inter-city bus stations on a transit island that preempts any walking to it from downtown residences. The restoration of the street grid and removal of the inner loop would allow for a dense spine that re-establishes the station as part of downtown. It would not take much to run a short shuttle route between stations an hour before and after the 8 current train departures on a very short headway like an airport parking lot shuttle.

In reality I'm not even a huge backer of this station or this location, but I am tired of those who don't use the system, and know nothing about it, labeling this as some sort of heinous development that will have the new downtown bourgeoisie choking on fumes all day long.

It is interesting when looking at the limited files available that the pavement inside is not completely sawtooth in nature. It makes we wonder if such a facility would be easily convertible into a streetcar station.

I have three posts in the works. The first will be a recap and review of tonight's Lawrence Frank lecture. Second will be a pseudo-review of things we liked and disliked on our whirlwind tour. Finally, I will get back into the RIT series.


Mike Kraus said...

Hilarious because it's so sad and true...

My favorite pet peeve is when you are at a meeting and someone suggests that instead of a streetcar or bus, they install a high speed train or a personal people mover.

In Chicago, businesses fought against bus shelters until they found out they they attracted more people and, therefore, more customers to their stores. Now, they are fighting for more bus shelters.

Mike said...

The main reason why I believe everyone should attend the next and final public meeting on this topic (May 5) is to suggest improvements or ideas for the future. I really don't care to hear people casting votes "for" or "against". This terminal is needed. But it's success and the success of downtown will hinge on constructive input from the public. For example, one speaker at the last meeting requested a few bicycle-friendly amenities be added. He deserved a standing-O. But overall ideas like this were sorely lacking and I'm hopeful that May 5 will be more fruitful. In fact, I know it will with the Urban Champ rising to the podium :-)

Bob and Tia said...


Thanks for reading and commenting. Boy could we use more shelters out in the neighborhoods.


Thanks for the added pressure!

At least I have the advantage of being able to ask you what is in the presentation at the beginning. In what detail do they go into features/amenities?

Your perspective on how to approach a 2 minute comment portion is correct. I'd imagine I'll spend some time thinking about features I've encountered on transit systems in the past, but a heads up on something to react/add to in their speech would be golden.

I suppose this post read like a huge endorsement. My intent was really to critique the misguided and condemn counter-productive social attitudes.

In a small timeframe I won't be able to crusade for social justice or proper building reuse. Need to come up with a winner or two to enhance the service and work to build transit enthuasiasm in town.