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Rochester consistently ranks highly for having short commutes and rush hours that would make commuters in other cities weep with joy. The average commute in the Flower City is about 20 minutes.

But short commutes don’t necessarily equate to efficient commutes, according to the annual Urban Mobility Report put out by Texas A&M Transportation Institute. While Rochester tops best commute lists, out of 101 metros, it ranks in the middle of the pack for excess fuel consumed (60), commuter stress (63) and delays (63).

Consider these findings for Rochester commuters in 2011:

  • Rush hour travelers burned through an extra 6,719,000 gallons of fuel being stuck in traffic, or 13 gallons per commuter.
  • Rush hour travelers sat a combined 14,850,000 hours in traffic, or 28 hours per commuter.
  • We released an extra 134 million pounds of CO2, or 257 pounds per commuter.
  • Traffic delays cost us a combined $309 million, or $590 per commuter.

The data shows since 1991, Rochester rush hour commuters have doubled the amount of fuel wasted and excess CO2 emitted.

Rochester’s 20 minute commutes may be tops in the country. But some of those minutes are clearly wasted time and fuel.

Read the Rochester data in the report.

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13 Responses to The Other Side of Rochester’s Fast Commute

  1. February 5, 2013 at 8:38 am Hahvahd St responds:

    I can’t remember the last time I actually sat in traffic on my commute (Park Ave to Scottsville Rd). If you just leave a little earlier in the morning and a little earlier or later in the afternoon, it’s a breeze. Google Maps traffic is also pretty helpful.
    Of course in the summer, the commute is an easy 30 minutes on the bicycle.

  2. The easiest (and cheapest) way to fix this would be to synchronize the traffic lights, especially on major streets that aren’t through pedestrian neighborhoods like W. Henrietta/Mt. Hope. One should be able to drive down the road getting all green lights, hit one red, then have another stretch of many greens, rather than getting a red light at each intersection, wasting gas and wasting time. Many other cities are able to do this on similar roads, it would cut Rochester transit time significantly.

  3. Ed, Synchronizing lights often speeds traffic to levels that are not safe in the city (especially for pedestrians).
    Example: Clinton/St.Paul/South Downtown.

    There are environmental benefits to syncing lights (Less stop-go). They would need to include some traffic calming features.

    The best situation for everybody would be a steady 30mph without much stopping.

    The current situation is 45mph (or sometimes 50 off peak times) with halting stops and fast accelerations because people think that driving fast in the city gets them there faster. It doesn’t. It only creates a hostile driving environment.

    • There’s no reason W. Henrietta shouldn’t be a 40-45mph road south of Westfall are so or Jefferson between RIT and Clover, its practically all commercial, the environmental benefits (along with the time benefits) grossly outweigh any negatives since there are hardly any pedestrians.

      Downtown, I agree.

      Also driving faster always gets you there faster 100% of the time, it is an indisputable fact, and is especially true in cities where reaching a light 2-3 seconds earlier can save you a minute or two in travel time (which is large proportionally to total travel time).

  4. Rochester has not ALWAYS been a driving region. We once had a world class transit system.

    As long as driving remains this convenient, few people will consider more environmentally, socially, and economically friendly ways to commute.

    Monroe County is primarily suburban ( 700,000+ suburbs, 200,000+ City). However, in the city a somewhat experienced cyclist can navigate the denser neighborhoods just as fast if not faster than a car.

    Disclaimer: Short bicycle rant.

    I beat cars in 3 mile trips in the city all the time. When I don’t, I often catch up while they are driving around in circles looking for parking. I can park anywhere, anytime, for free (including downtown).

    This is even true in the winter. The main roads are almost always clear (side-streets are tough). Many people warm there cars up before driving. That’s more Co2 not mentioned in the study that Rachel is quoting. I just throw on ONE thermal layer (enough to keep me warm WITHOUT breaking a sweat, can where it comfortably all day), and hit the street immediately. Not to mention the time I save by simply carrying my bike to the street while neighbors spend 20 min shoveling their cars out.

    Call it what you want, but a study was done the said after all the HOURS that Americans work just to pay for driving, their average speed is 5mph. So when your not stuck in your car, your working to pay for it.

    Bicycle rant OVER.

    The buses here are way too inconvenient. But getting from Charlotte to the East Ave Wegs for 1 buck, without a transfer is pretty impressive. Bus stops are too frequent and close together in many (not all) places.

    If you think of congestion on a scale of 1-10, in the 1-5 range municipalities will generally widen roads. In the 5-10 range they will generally promote and improve mass transit and active transportation.

    We are obviously in the 1-5 range. College Town at UR might have been our first opportunity in many years to go the other way, but we didn’t.

    Wow, sorry for such a long post.

    • you yourself pointed out the biggest flaw with your pro-bicycle argument. the vast majority of the county is suburban, thus the vast majority of people who work in the city are suburban. it is not quicker to bike from webster to downtown rochester than it is to drive. it is not feasible. also i’d love to see a citation for the study you post (and driving from webster to downtown certainly has >5mph average park). further, if you are going to work, most major places of employment have parking so you aren’t spending a huge deal of time looking for it. further bike theft is a serious problem in many areas (especially around college campuses) which makes people averse to leaving their bikes unattended all day.

      driving isn’t always bad, in fact it’s mostly good, the fastest growing regions in this country (TX, the southeast, and california) also are home to the most spread out cities in the country that require the most driving…. maybe people enjoy living in the suburbs and driving to work and maybe that’s justification enough to widen roads and lower traffic times

  5. I commute from Orleans County to Rochester daily, and encounter only two areas of congestion. The first is travel along Rte 31 between Brockport and the 531 entrance, which could be alleviated by simply finishing the 531 to Brockport extension. The other area is the slowdown and chaos at the 490/390 interchange, which was poorly designed from the start. Honestly, I don’t see how Rochester could fair so middle-of-the-pack when the reality is, our traffic flows pretty smoothly.

  6. Dead against any street widening in the city, if they want that in the ‘burbs, whatever but it should be funded by that muncipality. If anything we need traffic calming in the city and else where, the streets are very unfriendly to bicycles and pedestrians. If more people could bike and walk that would help to relieve congestion. I think a lot of it is driver induced also, so street calming might actually help.

  7. February 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm Edward Richards responds:

    Of course the rich, well off Rochesterians with their historic quarter and half a million dollar mansions off seneca parkway don’t have to worry about a commute now do they?

  8. February 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm Edward Richards responds:

    There are way too many lights in the city. Can’t stand it. Not including the high speed red light camera pick pocket.

    Don’t get me started.

  9. Gee Rachael How come this issue about commute time, gas wasted and pollution caused by cars etc is never mentioned in the MCC Downtown vs ONE campus debate.

    With two campuses, 1,000s of unneeded trips between the two campuses are required every day for students, staff, teachers, security etc. Yet its not mentioned not even a concern. Talk about being anti green! Yet here is something we could all get behind and understand, yet its not even EVER mentioned. I wonder why? You would even think a reporter would ask a politician to explain why two MCCs is better than one campus for all and bring up the green issues.

    The Green issues are only used when they suit one’s political objective. IF THE DEMS want something and its not green, by a long shot, its not an issue. One would think someone should bring that up?

  10. If we had a better mass transit to all points in the county would reduce traffic even more.

  11. If we had better mass transit to all points in the county, how often are we going to be making those runs and by what method? Two trips a day won’t be enough to get people to use it, a trip every hour would leave the buses mostly empty. The same would be true of light rail. Then, once people get to their destination, what do they do to get around? If I ride the public transport from Greece to Rush, how do I get around Rush once I’m there?

    The proponents of mass transit tend to ignore or downplay the inefficiencies of mass transit while overestimating the benefit. There are undoubtedly lines that make sense in the Rochester region, but to cover the entire county would be foolish.

    Come down to Livingston County and see how LATS works. It’s a nightmare just to try to get my dad to his doctor’s office just 4 miles away since he’s currently unable to stand and I don’t have a wheelchair van yet. That 4 miles (10 minutes each way by car) requires a 3-4 hour trip for him… and it’ll be even more fun when I have to schedule an appointment for him at one of the hospital’s outpatient offices for specialist follow up care.

    Nobody is going to want to be dependent upon a system like that when they can just get into a car, but that’s the best you’re going to end up with if you try to force countywide mass transit… either that, or a pile of debt that will never get paid off while we run empty vehicles all over the place pretending we’re green.

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