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Bus Selfie

Bus Selfie

A few days ago, I decided to take the bus downtown for jury duty. There’s a bus stop on Bay Street that’s only a block from my house. I figured spending $2 a day for round-trip bus fare beats $8 in parking. The RTS website indicated the trip would only take a half hour, door to door.

First, I had to find $2 in cash. I rarely have cash. For this trip, I not only needed cash, but I needed exact change. Fortunately, a friend gave me a couple singles the night before to save me the hassle of going to an ATM. It would be great if RTS allowed people to buy rides on their smartphones or swipe a credit card.

The RTS Bus App told me when the bus would arrive in real time. I was concerned about news of canceled morning trips, but my bus was on schedule. It arrived on time, to the minute. The ride downtown was quick, even with multiple stops.

The “Plan My Trip” feature on the RTS website indicated I could stay on the Route 39 bus for a few more stops to get off at State and Main, the closest stop to the Hall of Justice. At the transit center, the bus driver told me I had to come to the front and pay another $1. The additional half mile is considered a transfer. That struck me as ridiculous. The implication is that people coming from the eastern part of the city to the west side of downtown have to pay extra to get closer to their destinations and vice versa. It’s also not technically a transfer if you’re staying on the same bus. The bus driver was kind enough to let the extra buck slide, but for this trip only. The policy of using the transit center as THE central stop flies in the face of how people actually travel downtown. If this is how RTS wants to play it, there should be some kind of free downtown shuttle for people in this situation.

In the afternoon for my trip home, I chose to walk to the transit center to save the extra dollar. While I don’t mind walking, that extra half mile could be a deterrent for those who have mobility issues. It would also be a pain in bad weather. I’ve since learned there is an all-day pass available for $3, which makes that transfer 50 cents. This is probably the best option.

When I got to the transit center around 4 p.m., I was astonished at the number of teenagers. I was aware hundreds of kids use the transit center in the afternoon, but I was still shocked. Teens appeared to outnumber adults 30 to 1. The media has reported on the occasional violent incident and unruly behavior at the transit center, but I felt 100 percent safe. There were visible police officers and security guards. The teens were very well-behaved. My trip home was fast and uneventful.

Despite the fact the transit center was orderly, I can’t say it’s pleasant to be in an environment that resembles a high school cafeteria on steroids. The volume of teens at that hour was a big turnoff. I’m not sure why they were all there at once. I’m not sure why there were not a lot of adult passengers at this hour to provide more balance. It’s also very easy to see how a small incident could create a big problem. The city, school district and bus company are working on this issue. I think it’s great young people are using public transit and I would hate to see them restricted. This situation, however, seems untenable.

In summary, I’ll be using the bus for the remainder of my jury duty. It’s quick and doesn’t require navigating traffic and garages or paying for parking. Even though the transfer situation caught me off-guard, the bus fare is pretty darn cheap, especially compared to other cities. I would definitely recommend trying out RTS if you live on a bus line.

Related: Check out this ode to the Buffalo bus system. 

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Lessons from Baltimore: If the Bills want a downtown stadium, mass transit is key.

– Why would the company that profits from red light camera tickets develop an app to tell you where the cameras are located? Money and data.

– This is how Chattanooga is remaking itself with fast broadband. (Come on, Rochester!)

– The NCAA wanted Jim Boeheim to be a policeman, but that’s never been his style.

– NBC would be insane to let Brian Williams return.

– ‘Snowiest place in America’ title brings international fame to tiny Upstate village.

– Baby Dorothy? Vintage baby names are making a comeback.

The University of Rochester, city and state are pushing to spend more than $100 million to add a new interchange on Route 390 at Kendrick Road. The project would also make improvements to the congested Routes 15 and 15A.

The University of Rochester claims it cannot grow and add jobs without its own on-ramp.

There’s a guy who wrote a book called “Walkable City” who slams these kinds of arguments.

Jeff Speck calls traffic studies “bull—-” and talks at length about the phenomenon of induced demand. If you expand roads, more people will drive on them and you’re left with even worse congestion:

Induced demand is the name for what happens when increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive, and obliterating any reductions in congestion.

(snip)

I was delighted to read the following recently, in Newsweek, hardly an esoteric publication: “demand from drivers tends to quickly overwhelm the new supply; today engineers acknowledge that building new roads usually makes traffic worse.”

(snip)

…you are paying to drive whether you drive or not, in which the more you drive, the less each mile costs, and in which the greatest constraint to driving, then, is congestion. While the cost of the trip will rarely keep us home, the threat of being stuck in traffic often will, at least in our larger cities. Congestion saves fuel because people hate to waste their time being miserable.

Speck isn’t necessarily arguing congestion is a good thing. Rather, he’s saying it’s silly to keep spending tax dollars to encourage more driving and create more congestion. The way to relieve congestion is something no one likes to talk about – public transit.

Meanwhile, the U of R scuttled the bus station component of the College Town project, even though in a recent Rochester Business Journal article, RGRTA said the college is its number one destination. The U of R and the college are still working on a transit plan.

Maybe that should be the priority, not an exit that will likely not alleviate traffic and could make it worse.

Links of the Day:

– RG&E and NYSEG were ripped by the state for managing on the fly and cutting staff.

– The gambling lobby is taking advantage of Hurricane Sandy and telling state officials casinos can help fill state coffers again.

– Say Yes, the organization that offers free college tuition to Syracuse and Buffalo students, often exaggerates its claims of success.

Hotels, some in historic buildings, sprout up in downtown Buffalo.

– The strongest housing markets are in walkable urban areas.

November 19 is World Toilet Day.

The Genesee Transportation Council did a survey of local travel, including modes of transportation, number of miles, number of trips and attitudes about public transit.

The late-2011 Internet and phone survey of 3,671 households in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne counties is rather fascinating.

Nine percent of respondents said they walked, biked or rode the bus regularly. Of those who did not, 40 percent said they would seek alternatives to cars if gas prices hit $4.00 a gallon. That would be 114,000 commuters.

Twenty percent of people said gas would have to get up to $8.50 for them to consider another means of transportation. That’s a lot of people willing to shell out huge bucks to keep driving!

Not surprisingly, the more money people make, the higher gas prices would have to go for them to ditch their cars.

The majority of people said their “car is king.” White people earning more than $200,000 were most likely to agree with the statement.

 

The survey also found women are the errand-runners:

Women account for most trips, and the disparity with men is greatest at shorter distances. The necessity of juggling trips, here and nationally, falls mainly to women. Women are far more likely than men to make multiple stops — called trip chaining — on their way to or from home. This is significant because we have been witnessing a feminization of poverty” in America over the past two decades, as more elderly women and single women with children of all races and ethnicities fall into poverty and the time and costs required by transportation become a significant burden.

 Links of the Day:

– None of the local political ads we’re seeing on television are up to snuff, according to this excellent fact-check.

– Only one thing is standing in Andrew Cuomo’s wayHillary Clinton.

– Buffalo college students keep getting beat up and robbed in late-night attacks.

– California is now allowing the sale of some homemade food.