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University of Rochester


People who live in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Rochester are fed up with commuters parking along their streets. The Democrat and Chronicle reports:

“It’s kind of a free-for-all over there,” said Bob Good, past president of the neighborhood association and currently a member of the group’s parking committee.

“Certain streets can get very crowded. They will park right up by people’s driveways. It’s difficult for snowplows. It’s difficult for garbage pickup.”


“It’s not going to get easier,” (City Engineer Jim) McIntosh said, given the growth of UR, the area’s largest employer. “(And) I think they realize they can’t build garages to get themselves out of this problem. They are going to have to get people to think of using other modes of transportation.”

Here are reasons more garages and parking lots will not and should not solve UR’s parking crunch:

1. They’re ugly.

2. They take up valuable land, which drives up the price of surrounding land. They limit the college’s land use options.

3. Garages are very expensive to build and maintain. Some studies estimate one space costs $10,000 to $25,000.

4. They encourage driving to work, which only makes the congestion and parking crunch worse.

5. Encouraging more cars means more headaches for bicyclists and pedestrians.

What should be done instead?

Make as many UR workers as possible leave their cars at home. This can be done by designing convenient bus routes and making them free to riders. RGRTA and the college are already working on such a design, but the UR should be taking a much more active leadership role.

(It’s a shame College Town scrapped a bus station and will include a massive garage. It’s also a shame the UR has been a chief proponent of the 390 redesign, which will create a special university exit that will only serve to bring more cars to campus.)

Other things that can be done to alleviate the demand for cars is build more dense housing in the vicinity of the college and improve the city’s bike infrastructure. The UR already utilizes off-site shuttle bus services and encourages carpooling.

Finally, the city can restrict parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

But I live in the suburbs and need to be able to drive to my job at the college!

There will (should?) come a point where the UR says, “I’m sorry, but you cannot have a space on campus.”

That puts the burden on the worker to either find another job or find another way to get to work. Maybe the worker will discover a park and ride that’s convenient. Maybe RGRTA will design a route that frequently comes up a main thoroughfare in his town. Maybe the worker will decide he has to move closer to his employer because his car-dependent life isn’t sustainable anymore.

In cities across the country, taking alternate transportation to work is a way of life. The workers don’t have a choice. Driving to work isn’t a right. And in UR’s case, which keeps adding to its 20,000-strong workforce, it might not be the right thing to do for much longer.

West side of downtown Rochester is mostly parking lots.

West side of downtown Rochester is mostly parking lots. Building more parking lots created excess supply, marred the landscape and did not create development.


Links of the Day:

– Neighbors worry about the impact of a proposed apartment complex on Park Avenue on parking. Their concerns are debunked in this blog post.

– A Boston developer wants approval to build apartment housing without parking.

– University of Rochester researchers figured out a way to make mice smarter. They injected them with human brain cells, which raises some ethical issues.

– Rochester has one of the lowest percentages of federal workers in the country.

– Got caught? Charges are pending in Western New York’s first criminal prosecution of milk smashing.

43 Responses to Garages & Lots NOT the Answer

  1. UR already has a free shuttle bus service for students and employees. Schedules here. It has stops downtown, the South Wedge, Alexander Street, East Ave, Monroe Ave, and Park Avenue. It’s also very easy to bike to UR.

    There is no reason for this mess.

    • March 8, 2013 at 11:13 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Yes, but RGRTA and the UR would like to reach workers who live farther away. For example, perhaps it makes sense for a direct route bus line down Ridge Rd. or up Dewey Ave. or down Monroe starting in Pittsford. Routes that don’t stop downtown.

  2. Forcing to find a way around driving to work only hurts the poorest employees that have to make accommodations for that. What about childcare for their kids that may end at an early hour. Doctors and professors can always afford parking spaces, or they won’t be able to recruit faculty. We don’t have a traffic problem. The highest growing areas of the country are the southeast, with it’s largely suburban cities, maybe it’s a model that works.

    • March 8, 2013 at 11:12 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Many poor workers already take the bus to work. Driving is way more expensive. And maybe the UR should consider daycare on site. There are solutions.

      • There aren’t solutions to people’s preferences, I think a workforce should meet the demand of it’s employees, and if that demand is for parking lots that is what should be done, if its for buses, then so be it, but based on the development of this pseudo-black market of parking in upper Mt Hope, I think it’s obvious parking is in demand. Further limiting parking will only further develop a black market causing more problems, it’s economics.

        • March 8, 2013 at 11:30 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

          This black market is really easy to fix. You don’t see people in NYC driving to work, do you? They can’t.

          • “Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 41% use the subway, 24% drive alone, 12% take the bus, 10% walk to work, 2% travel by commuter rail, 5% carpool, 1% use a taxi, 0.6% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.2% travel by ferry”

            I’d still say that’s a significant amount, and all the people who train into work still drive to the train station (and there are massive parking lots at those in the suburbs). And NYC is the exception, not the rule (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/USCommutePatterns2006%282%29.png), also note the trend in that chart of increasing commute times with increased usage of public transit, a few weeks ago you were abhoring the massive transit times the “mega-commuters” make…

      • I wouldn’t use work childcare even if it was provided for me. In the infant and toddler stage, I can see the benefit of on-site childcare, but once your child hits school-age, they need to be in a childcare situation that allows busing to and from school. Nevermind the fact that most parents want to their children to build those early friendships with families who live in their town, rather than with there co-workers kids.

        Solutions have to work for real people in order for them to be used. And if you think a new mom has any desire to lug a baby carrier, a stroller, daycare supplies (most require you provide diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, food etc.) on an RTS bus if she doesn’t absolutely have to, you are out of your mind.

  3. I don’t buy the “this will only hurt poor employees” argument either. Cars are expensive: gas, parking fees, insurance, repairs, maintenance, and inspections, and so on. If you want to help poor people, make it easier for them to live without cars.

  4. Not related to UR, but the inset picture of the west side of downtown – the block north of Main between Scott Alley and N. Plymouth is being completely redeveloped. They are adding about 20 townhomes with alley garage parking (hidden from the main streets) and a business building on the corner with parking available within the building’s structure. They are taking huge step to replace lots with city life and the parking is discrete.

    p.s. parking for UR employees in UR lots is not free, people pay a pretty penny for it with a monthly parking pass.

    • March 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Yes the Plymouth development is a positive, except that buyers of the luxury condos get hefty tax breaks.

  5. March 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm MrRochester responds:

    I personally love driving and I would not accept a job where I was forced to take public transportation. I would also not live in a city where traffic would hinder the joy of driving a car or it would be so expensive where I couldnt afford to park or maintain a car.

    If you do not enjoy driving a car, you probably feel it is just a way to get from point A to point B. Thats a personal opinion and everyones right. My recommendation is buy a car that is fun to drive or has fun luxuries to play with that might change your mind. A Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, or Honda Civic is not fun to drive, you might want to spend a few more dollars and reconsider your driving options.

    I am an American and I deserve the right to purchase a house, drive a car when I want to, and walk to work if I so choose. I would not work in a career path or live in a city that would hinder me from enjoying some of these best things in life, IMO.

  6. March 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    The public light rail line from Charlotte to western Henrietta that was first proposed 40 years ago and would serve the U of R campus needs to become a reality. After all, U at Buffalo’s new downtown medical school and campus are trying to tie into to their light rail line with their transit authority. A satellite bus hub at Elmwood and Kendrick should also become reality, now that one has been scuttled from Collegetown, as should two other satellite bus hubs in two other parts of the outer city.

  7. March 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm Stephen Wershing responds:


    While fewer parking lots bring some positives to downtown, the parking shortage is still a serious issue. That parking lot between N. Plymouth and Scott Alley? Mostly gone now. It is wonderful that there is mixed use new construction going on along that block. At the same time, it compounds a serious problem for the Hochstein School (where I am on the Board). We just completed a survey, and parking was the top problem written in by parents of our students. We can’t take the position of an employer – the families would just find another place to take music and dance. It is a real conundrum.

    • March 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Yes, I know RDDC has identified west side of downtown as having parking crunch. Surface lots, however, problematic on prime corners.

      Hochstein is close to two garages, however, that are empty at night. And night street parking is abundant there…

      • March 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm Stephen Wershing responds:


        We tried a relationship with the Sister Cities garage, which is only a block away. That should be a great solution but there is tremendous resistance. Top among them may be the perception of a safety issue. We will be working on how we address it in the months to come. More research on peoples’ concerns and their opinion about alternatives is in order.

        • March 10, 2013 at 11:29 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

          That’s just silly. People are going to a downtown music hall, not a big box in the suburbs. Keep me posted.

          • March 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm Steve Wershing responds:


            I agree it is silly. Still, it is the feedback we have gotten. Once we update the strategic plan, we may find a way to address it. For now the problem remains.

            Just for clarification, it is not a music performance hall people are going to, it is a music school they are taking their kids to. Performance audiences may feel differently about the walk at night.


  8. March 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm Hahvahd St responds:

    Encourage people to bike by providing FREE lockers, showers, etc. UR is located at the “Can of Worms” for biking, the intersection of the Canal and the River trail. If you live within a half mile of the Canal or River Trail, it is a breeze to get anywhere near there.

    • March 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm Kevin Yost responds:

      “Garages and Parking Lots are not the Answer.” This should be a “duh” and everyone should know this.

  9. MrRochester – you have the right to purchase your right to buy a house and travel in whatever fashion you choose. You don’t have is a right to make other people suffer because you want something to be convenient for you.

  10. Ahem, that’s what happens when you press “Post” too quickly…

    MrRochester – you have the right to purchase a house and travel in whatever fashion you choose. You don’t have is a right to make other people suffer because you want something to be convenient for you.

    • and how exactly is anyone suffering? global warming? what if I drive a volt or a hybrid? do you eat meat? livestock contributes not only to global warming but antibiotic resistance, let’s ban meat consumption. been on an airplane? huge contributors to carbon emissions due to the altitude, let’s ban those too. bicylists make me suffer because they slow down my speed on w. henrietta and make me late to things, why is your suffering more important than mine. capitalism at its purest is a zero-sum game, for every dollar person x makes, person y loses a dollar, the fear of being person y is the motivating factor for many in this great nation.

      • March 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm Stephen Wershing responds:


        Totally off topic, but capitalism is absolutely NOT a zero sum game. You take some raw materials and add value (make something)and sell it for more than your cost, and I buy that and make something more out of it, adding value and selling it for yet a higher price, we all end up better off. Capitalism is an ever-expanding pie. What solution can we find that benefits everyone?

  11. March 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm Orielly responds:

    I really believe we are losing our freedoms here. Did mayor Bloomberg suddenly try and solve the UR parking problem? What gives an employer the right to say how you can travel to work? And that concept, like limiting the size of a soda should drive any freedom loving American up a wall.

    The UR has billions in the bank they should provide parking for their employees. Parking garages are UGLY? Says who?

    People can’t Drive to NYC …not true I have done it. Traffic tolls and parking rates make it hard to justify. Do we have that here? NO … Comparing NYC to Strong / UR is a way stretch like by billions.

    What do you have around orchard park for a bills game or around the LPGA at LH? small business people who sell spots on their lawn. The UR has no land? Come again? They own the rest of GVP park except the Golf Course and could have that if they wanted it. In fact in 100yrs or less the UR and RIT will have adjoining campuses all along the river. Maybe then they will consider a merger. They would fit perfectly together academically and location wise and go D1 sports with a Dome along the river. (never happen)

    The UR can build parking garages tomorrow if they want and they will make money off it. ITs likely on the UR PREZ’s list to ask the tax payers to pay for it or his employees will continue to park on City Streets.

    If he doesn’t see this problem, then it isn’t a problem. And if and when he does, it will be refreshing if he trys and pays for the solution with UR money. OR start giving breaks to area taxpayers by paying tax and or offering reduced rates to ALL Monroe county residents who attend the UR.

  12. Driving a car isn’t a right. Streets existed long before cars and are there to service all users, not just automobiles.

    Other modes of transit should be encouraged, there are old rail right of ways in the area that could be put into service for light rail. Perhaps primary school options need to be addressed in that part of the city ( schools I would wager are the primary factor in those capable of moving leaving the city I can only assume its a primary factor for someone employed by a college) fix that and maybe more will live near U of R easing congestion.

    • March 9, 2013 at 12:24 am orielly responds:

      When “all users” of the road, you know horses and dogs or mass transit- contribute as much as cars (via gas tax, sales tax, registration, auto parts sales, auto manufacturing income …this list is endless) to the building and maintenance of roads, then perhaps we could consider the “rights” of other modes of transportation to use the roads cars pay for.

      Driving is not a “right” for the individual but logic says that the mode that pays and “paves” the way clearly has more rights than say horses. When mass transit can pay its own way on the roads cars now pay for, let us know. It has yet to happen in this country…..ever.

  13. March 9, 2013 at 9:02 am Tracy Nalewalski responds:

    I don’t understand why you think it’s a “shame” that UR sponsored the Kendrick Rd exit from 390. Anyone who drives that horrible route on 390 from Greece to Henrietta every day is thankful for this improvement. Maybe it would be better in a perfect world if everyone carpooled and took buses and rode their bikes to work, but the reality is that they don’t. The traffic in that area is not only UR, it is also MCC and RIT and 1000’s of Henrietta workers. I am thankful that UR pushed for this improvement and can’t wait for it to be done.

    • March 10, 2013 at 11:29 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Because it won’t solve traffic problems. A lot of studies are coming out now saying when you expand capacity for traffic – the traffic fills in that capacity. It’s called induced demand.

  14. Why is everything always all about money with you? Are you capable of wrapping your narrow mind around anything else?

    First off, most people who bike also own cars. They are simply trying to use the car less for exercise and to help the environment. You are also assuming that walking and biking have no benefits to the community. In fact, communities with large numbers of people using alternative modes of transportation are healthier, greener, and more vibrant. Where people walk or bike, there is pedestrian culture of visually appealing architecture, streetscape improvements such as public art, and small businesses attractive to strollers. There are people outside interacting with a community designed for them, not the machine. Look at Park Avenue, the South Wedge, and other trendy neighborhoods in the city and compare them to something like a cookie-cutter subdivision in Pittsford that always looks dead except for the occasional car going down the street.

    Public transportation also helps because it decreases the number of cars on the street, which helps the environment and makes it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Try crossing Monroe Avenue or East Main near the Public Market on foot and you’ll see how unnerving it is.

  15. Dear Rachel:

    In certain respects, your arguments are difficult to disagree with. However, this is not San Diego, or Santa Barbara, or even Portland, OR. Our weather can be quite cold, and quite snowy and rainy. In America, people are allowed to live wherever they like, and if they are willing to pay the price of gas, and commute any distance they choose, then they have a right to drive from any suburb, now matter how distant, and have a reasonable expectation that once they arrive at our region’s largest employer (U. of R./Strong), they may park their car, and arrive at their place of work.

    Ideally, we Americans, we Rochesterians, would drive less, take buses more often, and maybe someday organize our collective efforts enough so that we may successfully lobby for light rail transit (LRT). As a Monroe County Legislator, I worked in conjucntion with the Rochester Rail Transit Committee, and formally asked the Mon. Co. Dept. of Transportation to conduct a study about building an LRT line.

    The County’s conclusion? We don’t have the population density to sustain such an endeavor. I was skeptical, but I was only one of 29 legislators, and was not successful in lobbying fellow legislators for LRT.

    Let’s face it: Riding a bus includes a stigma, for many middle class and upper middle class professionals. Also, even a good Park & Ride can include waiting times outside, in poor weather.

    For better or for worse (probably for worse), at least for the time being, the automobile will be the prefered mode for commuters.

    Thank you!

    Christopher J. Wilmot
    Pittsford, NY

  16. March 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm lynn e responds:

    Parking lots are needed for cars and for people who work. If you first argument is that they are ugly, then make them attractive. If you would like to learn more about the development of the road system in the US. Please read The Big Roads. Regally good book. Roads were developed for cars so that people could travel safely from place to place. The cities got them last and were already empiting out because the road systems were poor. Cities adopted them after they were in danger of losing population. NYC is a different city from other American cities and has been doing well lately. It was business that brought people back but and immigration that kept it alive. A parallel private school system has attracted families but is expensive. Rochester doesn’t have the density of population to keep public transportation systems going like that here.

  17. Orielly you are usually pretty good at being truthful even if I don’t agree with you, but its a much repeated fallacy. Gas and other related automobile taxes do not entirely cover the cost of roads. Roads are subsidized by everyone. New York does better with its higher taxes, but even here everyone is paying in. Besides you should want more pedestrians and bicyclists, they lessen congestion by taking drivers off the road and they aren’t as damaging to the asphalt so the road stays in better shape. So once car owners pay the entirety of road costs ill be open to taxing cyclists, until then you have no claim to ownership of the road.

  18. March 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm Orielly responds:

    In fact, communities with large numbers of people using alternative modes of transportation are healthier, greener, and more vibrant. Where people walk or bike, there is pedestrian culture of visually appealing architecture, streetscape improvements such as public art, and small businesses attractive to strollers.

    This is not… IN FACT.. It is your opinion.

    There are people outside interacting with a community designed for them, not the machine. Look at Park Avenue, the South Wedge, and other trendy neighborhoods in the city. Those neighborhoods where not “designed” for them. People walked park ave in the 70s. It was then as it is now an area for singles and the under 40 crowd. Those without families. Few people raise kids in those hoods.

    And in those hoods, just like the villages of Pittsford, Fairport etc true retail, not bars and coffee houses are dying. There are none, as landloards over change and taxes kill the small retailer. The south wedge is a 10th of Park ave retail, and park ave retail and the wedge added up and multiplied by 100,000 does not come close to the retail volume of one major mall in Victor. In fact, street walking retail in this area is next to nothing.
    Your living in a dream land.

  19. March 9, 2013 at 10:38 pm Orielly responds:

    Road tax paid by trucks make make up what part of the road building and maintenance costs? The Car associated tax make up then how much? Than the employees associated with cars, oil, road maintenance business, car manufactures, piston makers, door makers repair shop… this all drives our economy. Far more by factors of Billions over bike related business or walking shoes.

    And all are a far greater percent of our economy than, High tech and apple.

    Roads and cars aren’t good they are great. And they built and still do drive our economy. Like it… or not.

  20. I think you’ve all missed the point. ERS needs to step up to the plate not only is not easy to get to work from the ” P’s” but trying to get to a job out there is a pain. And Mr. American if u were a true American you would be buying American made cars…..

  21. Now you’re just being silly. If you want to count that, we can count all the negatives associated with car centric culture. Environmental impact of those factories, service stations, gas stations, CO2 emmisions, environmental impact of oil exploration, transport and refining. Then we can look at the costs of construction pushed by the car centric lobby and funded by every taxpayer. Then the negative health effects of the car facilitated life style. Lost revenue for the city as taxable land was cleared for expressways and the associated property value drops of nearby property. So if we want to get silly and start making sweeping comments the same can be said for the cost of a car dominated society.

  22. forgot to add in the cost of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths. Not only for car occupants but pedestrians and bicyclists. I’m not saying cars are evil, but if you are going to claim they are a mechanical messiah and even suggest they pay for themselves you are in outer space.

  23. March 10, 2013 at 12:19 am Orielly responds:

    There wouldn’t be cities without cars. We’d all be on our own farms. THE air today in the US is the cleanest it’s been in 100yrs. Coal heated homes in the 1900s to 1960s did that. Taxable land was cleared for the expressways so people could get to the cities which drove property tax rates up Far more than the loss of property used for expressways by again factors of 1000’s
    Talk about being silly

  24. There wouldn’t be cities without cars? How then does Rochester and many other cities in the US predate the car?

  25. March 10, 2013 at 6:06 pm Sarah J responds:

    “Trying to cure congestion with more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.” Renowned traffic engineer Walter Kulash had it right. Making roads wider or more plentiful to accommodate large volumes of traffic only relieves that congestion for a brief time. With the new build, more traffic will fill in the gap. If I have too much stuff filling up my house, moving to a larger house will not make me more comfortable. It just gives me more room to put in more stuff.

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