• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

    Join 643 other subscribers

VanpoolMore Rochesterians carpool to work than you might think. According to the U.S. Census, 8 percent of workers in the region carpooled in 2013. That’s about 42,000 people. That’s more than take the bus to work.

That’s probably why Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is studying the idea of a “vanpool.” RGRTA would contract with an operator who has a fleet of SUVs or vans. A designated passenger would have possession of the van and pick up people on the way to work. There are typically 5 to 12 people in a vanpool.

In Dallas, passengers split the charge of $335 a month. The service picks up insurance and vehicle costs. There are also tax incentives for commuters.

The census shows long commutes are not an issue for Rochester carpoolers; it doesn’t take them much longer to get to work. But Rochester’s carpoolers are poor, as two-thirds earn less than $35,000. Only 8 percent of carpoolers don’t have a vehicle available, suggesting a family member may need the car or they want to save on gas and car maintenance. Many carpoolers work in education, health care, social services and the service industry, according to the census.

The census didn’t ask if carpoolers how much they have to pay for parking at work. That’s an issue for workers at downtown garages and the University of Rochester.

RGRTA wants to know what you think of the vanpooling concept in this survey.

In a statement CEO Bill Carpenter said, “Transit agencies in the U.S. are finding that vanpool services can complement existing bus routes and expand transit services by offering a substitute method of travel to common destinations. The purpose of this study is to determine the feasibility of a vanpool program capable of linking commuters from similar origins to similar destinations throughout the Rochester area.”


Links of the Day:


– Assemblyman David Gantt’s bill would allow self-driving cars.

– This is what the new state senate boss is saying when he’s not saying anything.

What’s really ailing America’s cities?

– A Rochester charter school is under scrutiny for being too white and too middle class.

Buffalo only gives its schools $70 million. (Meanwhile, Rochester, a smaller city, is required by law to give its schools $119 million.)

– Rochester is slated to get a “pedal tour” this summer. It’s a bike party bus thing.

– Syracuse is getting a dinner-movie theater. (I wonder if this would work at Midtown.)

City of Rochester

City of Rochester

I have several guy friends who drive SUVs and think bicyclists should get out of their way. They hate bike lanes. They hate bike boxes. They hate sharrows. They think they’re a waste of money and make it harder for drivers to get around town. One thinks government shouldn’t install bike infrastructure until huge numbers of commuters hop on two wheels. Another thinks putting in bike lanes in a snowy city is dumb. In short, these guys think they own the road.

They’re wrong.

First, many people, particularly women, want to ride bikes but won’t because they don’t think it’s safe. Installing bike lanes and trails would encourage them to try out cycling.

Second, there are good reasons to encourage bicycle use. It’s good for exercise. It relieves traffic congestion. It means less wear and tear on the roads. It means less pollution. It means fewer parking spaces are needed. It means more people on the streets who could easily patronize businesses and create foot traffic.

Third, bicyclists do pay for roads. Many of them also own cars. Many of them pay state and federal taxes, as well as property taxes. Do you think drivers cover the entire cost of maintaining roads, highways, bridges and parking garages? They do not. Everyone pays for driving infrastructure.

Fourth, some of the cities with high rates of bicycle commuters are cold and snowy.

Finally, the number of people who bike to work is growing. This is happening as the rate of car ownership is declining. It’s also happening as fewer teenagers want driver’s licenses.

A report by U.S. PIRG found the Rochester urbanized area (defined by census as roughly Monroe County) had the 8th highest rate of growth of bicycle commuters in the country between 2000 and 2007-11. The increase in bicycle commuters was .4 percent, which sounds small, but that’s more than 1,000 extra cyclists.

The report also found a 7.5 percent decline in vehicle miles driven by Rochesterians between 2006 and 2011. There was a 37 percent increase in the number of miles we traveled on public transit. There was a 1 percent decline in the number of people who got to work by car. There was a 1 percent increase in the number of households with more vehicle. There was a three percent drop in households with two or more cars.

Whether you bike or not, the practice benefits all of us. The same goes for walking and public transit. Think about that the next time you don’t want to share the road.

(One other thing – every time I talk about the importance of bike lanes, people ask me if I bike. I do not, but I plan to one day. I just don’t know why I have to personally engage in cycling to think it’s a worthwhile investment. I don’t like jogging, but I think joggers are terrific and entitled to use the sidewalk.)


Links of the Day:


– New York prisons are taking over the responsibility of caring for the mentally ill.

– At the Auburn Correctional Facility, inmates crochet things for needy kids.

– The D&C’s Nestor Ramos tells the Sheriff to find another job if he doesn’t like his salary. (Isn’t that what conservatives tell those making minimum wage?)

– “If there were a chutzpah caucus in the United States Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would be its natural leader.”

– Should the U.S. and Canada eliminate their border?

– Women find having a stay-at-home husband helps them get ahead on Wall Street.

– Los Angeles television stations go insane over a “bitter blast of cold.” It was 50 degrees. This makes TV news look vapid and silly.

Remembering All Day Sunday at Midtown Plaza.


Tweet of the Day:


School busNew York spends more money per pupil – $1,100 – on transportation than any other state. The state’s spending on transportation doubled in ten years to $2.97 billion in 2010. Student transportation accounts for about 5.7 percent of school budgets. A report from the Citizens Budget Commission urges the state and school districts to control these growing costs.

Three out of four students in New York State gets a ride. The figure is higher Upstate – 84 percent. State policy is to provide free transportation to students, but some districts give rides to students at shorter distances than required.

Adding to the cost, state law requires private school students get public transportation. Forty-one percent of non-public students get taxpayer-funded rides to school.

The report says there are few incentives for districts to reduce transportation costs because of state aid formulas. For example, some districts, including the Rochester City School District, get 90 percent of transportation costs reimbursed by the state.

The Albany Times Union reports:

New York schools transport about 2.3 million students a day, said Peter Mannella, spokesman for the New York Association for Pupil Transportation. He said the modern school district is spread out in larger centralized buildings. “We’ve constructed schools in a way that they’re not in a neighborhood anymore,” he said. “There’s no getting around the fact that costs something.”

But then how does one explain the RCSD’s $1,501 per pupil transportation cost? The districts spends $50 million on busing, despite the fact the city is dense and many schools are within walking distance of homes. The RCSD’s transportation costs are higher than spread-out, suburban districts in Monroe County. Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said neighborhood schools must be explored. Transportation issues, including students missing the bus was a factor cited by parents of truant students.

The Citizens Budget Commission urges the state to lower reimbursement for transportation, forcing districts to economize.

Look up your school district’s transportation costs with an interactive map.

Links of the Day:

– The Seneca County man suspected of killing his son and his first wife gave a jailhouse interview in which he claims he has a lot of bad luck.

Kirsten Gillibrand no longer has guns under her bed.

– Jim Boeheim says he doesn’t have a computer and won’t be able to read newspapers online.

– “8 to 1: Men with receding hairlines vs. men with ponytails.” A review of the Genesee Brew House.

Ever drive along on Mt. Read Blvd. and wonder why it exists?

Mt. Read, at least in its current form, has always felt overbuilt and unnecessary. It’s also fairly unattractive. Interstate 390 was built after Mt. Read, which makes the road feel rather redundant.

“It’s more like an expressway. Does it need to be that?” said Eric Frisch, transportation specialist for the City of Rochester.

The city is now studying the future of Mt. Read. City Council will vote on an $85,000 contract with Bergmann to come up with a vision plan for a 4-mile stretch of the corridor, running from Stone Rd. to Buffalo Rd. The project is in partnership with the state, which owns the road.

About 18,000 cars use Mt. Read a day. The boulevard is not only showing its age, it’s got functional issues. There are a number of factories along the boulevard, including Eastman Business Park. Trucks use service roads along Mt. Read. There are issues with signals and safety and there’s congestion at Lyell Ave. It’s a brutal area for bicycles and pedestrians. There are also some brownfields, which the city has been cleaning up.

Let’s not forget Mt. Read cuts through residential neighborhoods, too. There are 15,000 people who live in streets off the road.

I’m eager to see the vision plan.

Mt. Read Blvd., sometimes between 1903-1936. Mother of Sorrows steeple in background.


Intersection of Mt. Read Blvd. and W. Ridge Road around 1950


Links of the Day:

– If you build more highways and keep adding lanes, you make more traffic. Louisville is struggling with what to do about its downtown expressways. Think about Rochester when you read this.

– Rochester used to have a Main Streetwith people.

– The gutting of Kodak continues with the announcement the company will stop making consumer ink jet printers.

– The Supreme Court may limit the use of race in college admissions.

– A scathing state report about the Aqueduct race track blames horse deaths on track officials.

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.

Old Can of Worms


Let’s talk about the Can of Worms.

It’s a classic example of Rochester’s propensity for building big things, only to undo them later. Rochester converted a historic aqueduct to accommodate a subway it later abandoned. Midtown Plaza was torn down within 50 years of opening. The city bought a ferry to Toronto and then pulled the plug. After destroying wide swaths of downtown for its construction, the Inner Loop may be filled in.

But the Can of Worms ranks right up there in civic disasters. The highway was built in 1964 to connect Routes 490 and 590 and provide a link to the Thruway and Seabreeze. There’s a reference to the Can of Worms nickname in a 1965 paper on Rochester street names that suggests the more elegant name of “Brighton Bow Tie.”

Forever known as “The Can,” the complicated interchange featured confusing, short weaving distances. The Can was soon overwhelmed with cars. (Wikipedia and Empirestateroads.com have good explanations on The Can design.)

Rochester History Journal

The Can of Worms was rebuilt from 1987 to 1991 at a cost of more than $100 million. That’s more than $200 million in today’s dollars, a staggering amount of money to fix a boo-boo. There were other costs associated with Rochester’s fast-growing highway system of the 1960s. The neighborhood immediately surrounding The Can, is very disjointed.  East and University are all kinds of messed up where they were realigned. The expressways facilitated suburban growth from which the city still hasn’t recovered.

Now the state plans to fix the “Western Can of Worms” at 390 and 490 at a cost of $140 million. The state also plans to build an interchange and make surrounding improvements at 390 and Kendrick at a cost of $100 million. The first project is likely a necessary fix. As for the second project, I question the University of Rochester’s dire need for an exit ramp.

Let’s hope those projects don’t end up on the civic disaster list. We can ill afford to untangle another Can of Worms.


Links of the Day:

– Here we are again. Gas prices are on the way up. In Rochester, we’re paying $3.82 a gallon, up 36 cents in last year.

The Buffalo News reports:

As the price at the pump continues its steady rise, expect ride-sharing, public transportation and fuel-efficient vehicles to become more popular — as they did during previous price hikes.

But people here are reliant on their cars, and drivers tend to go back to their old, gas-gulping habits when prices go down again in the fall.

However, experts say we could see $4.50-per-gallon gas here — and $5 per gallon in the most expensive cities in the country.

And those record prices could be a catalyst for real change in our national motor-vehicle network, easing the way for cars powered by electricity, natural gas or other alternatives.

“When you get to $4.50 a gallon, the math [on a hybrid car] works,” said Tony Daily, general manager of the Towne Automotive Group. “At $3 a gallon, it doesn’t.”

In Monroe County, 7 percent of workers carpool and 2 percent take public transportation, according to the Census. The number of carpoolers has been dropping. In 1980 15 to 20 percent of us carpooled.

Do you see that changing if gas prices get to a certain level? The trend over the last 30 years says no.

– Yet another column in the Wall Street Journal about Kodak knocks Rochester:

Its digital imaging division, locked up in its headquarters in Rochester, always appeared to be under pressure to create synergies between film and digital. But doing digital from Rochester was always going to be a challenge.

– What’s the future of the telecommunications industry? One expert compares it to rise and fall of the railroad industry. Rochester is a mini-telecom hub, so it’s worth paying attention to this sector.

– The old “Hello Rochester” 13WHAM commercial that ran in the Oscars was a big hit. You can find more vintage stuff on the station’s Creative Services web page.

– What’s a news station to do when it has cellphone video of a mayor playfully slapping a woman’s butt?