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These are boom times for Amtrak. The railroad released its Fiscal Year 2012 ridership numbers, showing a dramatic increase over the last decade. Amtrak carried 31.2 million passengers over the last year, up 3.5 percent from the previous year and up a whopping 49 percent from 2000.

What’s driving the growth? It could be high gas prices, frustration with air travel and new Amtrak amenities such as Wi-Fi.

In Upstate New York, Amtrak did not see such dramatic year-to-year growth. Ridership between Toronto and Albany went up only .4 percent, although revenue for this line increased  5 percent. The route carried 407,729 passengers over the past year.

The Albany-New York City route is far more successful, carrying more than a million passengers.

Also notable, the top 5 train stations in New York state did not include Rochester or Buffalo. Total on/offs:

  • New York, NY 9,493,414
  • Albany-Rensselaer, NY 769,413
  • Rhinecliff, NY 177,375
  • Hudson, NY 167,286
  • Syracuse, NY 152,957

Perhaps Western New Yorkers don’t embrace Amtrak because it’s so much faster to fly – or even drive – to New York City. That’s where high-speed rail could make a huge difference in our willingness to jump aboard. But is it worth the cost?

Links of the Day:

– Check out the city’s latest conceptual drawings for Midtown Plaza.

– Suburbs want to be more city-like. Think I-Square.

– The head of the Massachusetts DOT is against…building highways.

– One Erie County town. Four districts. Is it time to consolidate?

– New York State prisoners staff DMV call centers.

– Wegmans is selling toys made from recycled milk jugs.

Links of the Day:

– Trailways and city officials celebrated the opening of a modular structure on Central Ave. near the train station to serve intercity bus passengers. I mention the fact it’s a pre-fab building because it’s supposed to be temporary.

If the city can secure federal funding, it would like to build a $26 million intermodal facility on the site. The facility would replace the aging, unattractive Amtrak station and serve intercity buses.

Even though the Trailways building is supposed to be temporary, the city spent $1.4 million moving Trailways and Greyhound out of Midtown to these new digs.

But this is site where temporary can quickly become permanent. The Amtrak station was built as a temporary structure – in 1978. I reported for 13WHAM News today:

Trailways owner Eugene Berardi does not view the new station as temporary. As for the intermodal station, he said, “Some day it may (happen), maybe not in my lifetime.”

Rendering of RGRTA Terminal

Meantime, RGRTA plans to break ground in three weeks on its own transit facility. Mayor Tom Richards said studies showed train and intercity bus passengers were not reliant on RGRTA buses, but there will be shuttles between the two facilities.

We’d have a truly intermodal facility, combining rail, intercity and intracity buses if the train tracks were not so far north of downtown. Yes, it’s a quick walk. But the train station is separated from Main St. by a virtual “no man’s land” of a highway and vacant lots. It’s too bad we couldn’t find a way to bridge the gap.

In the meantime, we will have an intercity bus terminal, a intracity bus terminal and a train station. All aboard.

– The New York Daily News hails the governor’s support of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in an editorial and a hilarious cartoon.

– Men are looked at suspiciously if they’re alone in parks where children are playing. Now they can’t shop in the children’s section of a bookstore.

– Chicago teachers are voting tomorrow to strike.

– There’s no such thing as a concert selling out 20,000 tickets in 30 seconds.

– I’m not a huge fan of commencement addresses, but this one is worth reading.

– Half the face of a man who’s been driving a truck for 28 years has prematurely aged.

Links of the Day:

– The new train station design is a throwback. The city plans to replace the Amtrak station on Central Ave., which has long been an eyesore. The design released last night clearly tries to mimic the stunning Claude Bragdon station torn down in 1965 (Rochester Subway blogs about the horrific demolition.) We cannot replace that kind of building, but it’s high time we had something pleasing to welcome visitors to Rochester.

I’m not a fan of calling it an intermodal station, as the city desires. It’s a train station that happens to have Greyhound and Trailways buses.

The challenge is to better connect the Amtrak station to the rest of downtown. It’s isolated and not particularly walkable, unless you like walking over treeless overpasses.

Old Train Station

Old Train Station

– Rochester is rather fortunate compared to other metro areas. One-third of adults have college degrees. There’s a growing divide among cities that have access to a knowledgeable workforce and those that don’t.

– Next time New York State politicians say they want to be more business-friendly, don’t believe them. The state is eyeing a huge toll increase for commercial trucks.

 – Rochester was named the 5th “Most-Watched” city, thanks to the plethora of surveillance and red light cameras.