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A lot of people are very upset over the city’s plan to put a stretch of Lake Avenue leading to Charlotte on a “road diet.”

Lake Avenue, from Merrill St. to Burley Rd. would be reduced from four travel lanes to two travel lanes. There would be a turning lane in the middle. There would also be 5-foot wide bike lanes.

People fear their commutes would slow to a crawl.

Right now, an average of 18,475 cars drive on this portion of Lake Ave. every day. The 85th percentile speed is 48 m.p.h. That means 15 percent of drivers go faster than 48 m.p.h. The speed limit is 35 m.p.h.

Lake Ave.The city’s traffic study found no major impact from reducing lanes, other than improving safety. People would drive closer to the speed limit. There would be fewer crashes. The intersections along this route have a higher crash rate than the county average. Half of them are rear-end and overtaking crashes.

(The study did not include possible development at the port because peak travel times for the port will not be rush hour travel times. It did factor in development at Eastman Business Park.)

It’s important to note a major reason for putting roads on a diet is not just for driver safety. It’s also to make roads safer and more accessible for pedestrians and bicycles.

In Rochester, we’ve seen portions of St. Paul, University, Dewey. Mt. Hope and East Ave. put on road diets. It might take you a few extra minutes to reach your destination during rush hour, but traffic moves just fine.

These road diets are the future. We’ve engineered our cities to service cars, sacrificing beautiful, safe streets in the process. (Walkable Cities author Jeff Speck will be talking about this issue Tuesday night in Rochester.)

(Thank you to Rochester Subway for digging up the traffic study, which I can’t find on the city’s project page. Rochester Subway also has a detailed petition supporting the project.)

UPDATE: The city says this project is now dead, because of complaints from residents. But to meet the city’s complete streets policy, the city may add a bicycle track parallel to the road. – RB 1/23/14

In Other Road Diet News:


St. Paul


City Council is voting this month on bonds for the $1.1 million two-way conversion of St. Paul and Clinton. Construction should be finished in the fall. This will dramatically change how we get around downtown.


Links of the Day:


– Mayor Lovely Warren woke up to two highly critical items in the Democrat and Chronicle. Nestor Ramos writes about Warren’s “defense of the indefensible uncle hiring, the dissembling and the dodging.” The editorial board, which has been kind to Warren, wrote she “must start talking candidly about her fateful Jan. 8 road trip to Albany.”

The suburb where everyone can walk to school.

– Living in cities is more environmentally-friendly than living in the suburbs. <Cool interactive carbon footprint Zip Code map.>

– A lack of parking is not why some restaurants at Corn Hill Landing have failed. If that were the case, nothing would survive on Park Ave. and Tony D’s would have closed long ago.

– Syracuse’s mayor is feeling the heat for questioning $200 million in state money for a new SU sports stadium while her city can’t afford basic fixes.

No, older workers are not stealing the jobs of younger workers.

Confessions of a Wall Street wealth addict.

– Chobani downsized its yogurt containers  – but not their price.

19 Responses to The Lake Avenue Road Diet

  1. I think the restaurants in Harvest Cafe’s current space have failed because it doesn’t offer the river and skyline views of the other restaurant spaces at Corn Hill Landing. I think being primarily a breakfast joint will work in Harvest Cafe’s favor, since views are less important (I think) when eating breakfast. I just went there today actually and the coffee was excellent, almost on par with Joe Bean and Fuego.

  2. January 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm RaChaCha responds:

    Thanks — I signed the petition! I used to train for the Rochester marathon on the river trails, a segment of which is alongside Lake Avenue in this area. Occasionally I would run north, then grab a southbound Lake Avenue bus to return to the Park Avenue area. I would dread having to cross the street to catch the southbound bus, because traffic would operate as if on an expressway. No question this stretch of Lake Ave needs a road diet. This stretch of road with the cemeteries & former seminary, with its stretches of green space & lovely medina standstone walls & buildings just calls out for a parkway/boulevard design with a median — rather than the current 4-lane highway.

  3. January 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm Louis T. Amico responds:

    This is a good idea in theory. However, there is a reality involved here that everyone seems to be overlooking. This stretch of road corresponds to the length of two large cemetery properties: Holy Sepulcher and Riverside. There is already a traffic issue when a vehicular funeral procession turns into one of the two cemeteries with the existing four lane configuration. If it were reduced to two lanes; it would severely impact travel time for commuters and travelers.

    Most funerals probably take place during non-peak hours. However people do travel this route, including emergency vehicles, at all times. The reduction to two lanes at these times would restrict free access from Charlotte to the rest of the Rochester community; as well as the greater problem of restricting the transit of emergency vehicles.

    I do not see any reference to this hazard in the Rochesterian article; nor do I see the issue addressed on the City of Rochester webpage addressing the project.

  4. “A lot of people are upset”…..what people and why are they upset? I grew up in Charlotte. My relatives still live there. I travel this route often. I don’t see the problem. A single lane should move fine. A bike lane is a good idea, but it should be curbed or separate from the traffic. This traffic will probably continue to run fast through this stretch. Cyclists will be in danger, especially the ones that ride two or more abreast.

  5. January 20, 2014 at 12:06 am lee drake responds:

    Traffic on university flows just fine? Have you actually traveled university going out of the city between 430 and 530 in the afternoon especially in bad weather. A 3 to 4 block backup at Culver is normal. If there is bad weather or a backup on another route, traffic backed up to park ave is not rare. The traffic does not easily flow on this road, and the advent of the city adding bump curbs have turned leaving from side streets like Elton into a blind crap shoot. It doesn’t help that they refuse to enforce the sandwich signage laws in the university ave neighborhood allowing ugly sight blocking advertising sign on the bump curbs literally chained to the street signs. Nothing about what they have done to university is an improvement.

    • January 20, 2014 at 7:35 am RaChaCha responds:

      Lee Drake, I’m sure folks appreciate you locating your business in the Neighborhood of the Arts, but do you actually live in that neighborhood–? I worked on the planning of the University Ave improvements & ARTWalk in that area, and all the things you’re describing are what most folks find to be major improvements to the neighborhood for those who live, work, walk, and play there. In exchange for some short-term inconvenience for those driving _through_ the neighborhood — often trying to escape the city as quickly as possible after work. Perhaps, while waiting in traffic, those folks will notice the nicely rehabbed houses and buildings, and see the offerings of retail businesses on the sandwich boards, and think “hey, if I lived here (instead of whichever “P” town) I’d be home already!”

      The University Ave/ARTWalk improvements, which later extended west, north, and south, put booster rockets under the rehab & reuse of buildings in the neighborhood and addition of amenities — all of which help make it attractive not just to residents but also business owners, like you. The walkability and liveability improvements were at the heart of what happened there, and the direct result of the City’s Neighbors-Building-Neighborhoods philosophy of neighborhood residents setting the vision for what they want their neighborhoods to be.

      When the City originally proposed to widen University Ave in the late ’90s, it was decision time for the neighborhood. To create an urban neighborhood that was very walkable required counterintuitively putting the street on what now would be called a “road diet.” Or widen the street so that a couple of times a day folks heading for the suburbs could pass through as quickly as possible — so as not to see the vacant buildings and bullet holes in the shop windows (as could be seen 20 years ago). Especially seen in retrospect, I don’t think the choice could have been more stark. I think the right tradeoff was made. And a bonus: after the changes to the street, injury accidents (car on car, car on pedestrian, car on bike) dropped to near zero. In addition to all else, there is no doubt that lives were saved.

  6. I live near the Neighborhood of the Arts and frequently bike on University Avenue and walk its sidewalks year-round. I greatly appreciate all the work that’s been done there and all the new businesses that have come in, including Towners, Joe Bean, and the Revelry. It’s getting to be a very nice street with all its old industrial architecture and proximity to great neighborhoods like NOTA, East Avenue, and North Winton Village. Thank you, RaChaCha.

  7. January 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm Matthew McDermott responds:

    Most of the opposition I see is due to the fear or idea that this will be less convenient for drivers. Maybe so or maybe not.

    Most of the things I’ve seen about road diets where you go from four lanes to two with a turning lane show reductions in rear end collisions. Lower average speeds mean that collisions that do occur are less severe. More space for bikers and pedestrians lowers the chance of injuries or fatalities. I don’t know about you but nothing ruins my morning commute more than being in a car accident.

    On a separate note, I’m not trying to be snarky about it but are there that many funeral processions on Lake Ave? Clearly there are some with the cemeteries there but is it more than one or two a day? I had to slow down for one on Marsh Road near White Haven Cemetery in the fall, but I got to my destination without a big delay. It’s not like being in the middle of the Can of Worms construction project. Just my .02.

    • January 20, 2014 at 9:50 pm Louis T. Amico responds:

      One or two funeral processions per day are enough of a pain now with four lanes on Lake Avenue. One or two funerals with TWO Lanes could be a real problem.

      I am less concerned however with slow downs of personal and business trips as I am when two lane congestion inhibits emergency vehicles. This might be an issue just several times each year. But if it’s your emergency; it might as well be hundreds of times.

  8. January 20, 2014 at 6:08 pm Orielly responds:

    Traffic jams leaving Rochester on (University and East ave) City streets, 5 days a week, for 1000s of taxpayers who support the city.. who cares right? Those people don’t live in the city. But on the other side of the city we spent 130M for the UR’s own expressway exit. (hows that work?)

    The 100 or so max people Riding their bike on university avenue mostly on the weekends during daylight in the Summer …thats whats important.

    Build up Charlotte, new marina, city run Bar on the river, etc, then make it more difficult for people to get there on the main road in and out. Yep that makes sense.

    A true sign of Rochester’s decline is the reduction of 4 lane roads to two and filling in the inner loop. Most cities are expanding roadways.

    And is the money spent worth it? Who cares right? But I thought the city was 40M in the hole? They are but who cares?

    Does anyone in the city care about fiscal responsibility? Multiple limos for the mayor, her own Secret Service with her uncle at the helm. City run Bars in charlotte with a 250K matra dee. 1M for a second walking bridge to the UR. No lets fill in the inner loop, build a marina for 80 boats, the re-watering of broad street can’t be far behind.

    Whats the theme – Hey its not my money?

  9. January 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    Indeed, St. Paul and North Clinton should be converted to two-way. So should South Avenue and South Clinton if the way the cross I-490 could be reconfigured, as should all of Plymouth Avenue, Smith Street, and Brown Street and a four-way stop sign at Brown and Oak. Stone Street could also be converted to two-lane and two-way in its entirety if the South Avenue Parking Garage could be reconfigured to allow cars to exit onto Stone.

  10. Oreilly, every city worth living in is dismantling the car based roadways of the 50s and 60s. I don’t think any of us in favor of the road diet for Lake Ave were in favor of the U of R’s own exit. I am strongly opposed to it.

    For all the people concerned about emergency vehicle response time to Charlotte, where were you when the former fire chief cut 2 people and a fire truck from the Charlotte firehouse? Or is that only a talking point because its a cover for your commute?

    How selfish it is for all of you complaining about traffic on East, University, Lake, etc to want to make someone else’s neighborhood dangerous to shorten your commute by a minute or two. How would you feel if I was doing 50 down your suburban development?

    • January 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm Louis T. Amico responds:

      Actually Bill, I agree with you that Charlotte’s fire personnel and equipment should not have been cut. And my travel up Lake Avenue is occasional, not commuting, mainly for recreation and to visit a few friends that live up there. I actually live in the City on the west side.

      And I do not believe that people should be able to fly down Lake Avenue at 50 mph plus, either. I just think there might be better ways to slow down the speed demons than cutting the number of lanes in half. And to be honest with you, I do not know what might be a better solution. A median down this stretch of road might help slow down traffic. Or perhaps reducing the lanes to three down most of this stretch with a widening with a left turn lane near the cemeteries, which could help accommodate the funeral processions. I think the consultant should look seriously at these options.

  11. ” every city worth living in is dismantling the car based roadways of the 50s and 60s”

    Says Who? Those cities that aren’t worth living in (in your opinion) you just write off and say they aren’t worth living in? Really? And Conservatives and PRO Life people have no business living in NYS, right Andrew?

    We spent Billions in Boston.. took the old overhead roads out but also Expanded the roads with more lanes and another tunnel all underground. Logic says that cities that are expanding are places that people want to move to. Those expanding cities are not, can not, “dismantle the car based roadways of the 50s and 60s. If they do, they do that as part of an expansion of roadways.

    If all the people living in the BURBs here and suddenly decided the commute wasn’t worth it and they want to live on University Ave, you’d all be mad at that because they would drive you out. Home prices would go up, most FAMS would have multiple cars so traffic and parking would be worse every day etc. There are only so many homes in that neighborhood and they aren’t building more.

    Truth hurts. The population of this area has grown since 1950, dramatically here between 1950 and 1970s. Besides the name calling of ‘white flight’ in reality there was no where for them to go except to the burbs.

    And finally, one of the few things that almost everyone says positive about ROCHESTER is the small travel times. You can get anywhere at anytime in 20 minutes or less. Many comments on this board, apparently have the goal to get rid of that benefit.

    We can’t all live in the city, there’s not enough room. Many of us don’t want to live there for numerous logical reasons, safety, and schools among them. We are not wrong. Its a free country, he have the right to live where we want. And those living in the Burbs are not lessor, less intelligent beings for living there.

  12. If that’s what the people that live in the area want, more power to them.

    That said, those same people should refrain from complaining when people from outside the city no longer visit as the city makes it more difficult to get around in a car.

    There’s a balance to be struck… just keep in mind that it’s pretty easy for everyone that lives outside the city to get around to the various towns outside of the city, so as the city makes it harder or more stressful to get downtown, don’t be surprised if fewer people come.

    Count me among the people that only go downtown if I have to (and at this point, that’s generally limited to sporting events), simply because I already can’t be bothered. Driving in from outside Monroe County, I generally have closer or less stressful (in terms of traffic, red light cameras even though I don’t run red lights, one way streets, etc) options for things not exclusively downtown. As is, the city is already just an obstacle to avoid.

  13. Some population numbers, taken from the census comparing 1970 to 2010

    Rochester 296233 (1970) 210565 (2010) -28.9%
    Monroe 711917 744344 +4.6%
    Livingston 54041 65393 +21.0%
    Ontario 78849 107931 +36.9%
    Wayne 79404 93772 +18.1%
    Genesee 58722 60079 +2.3%
    Orleans 37305 42883 +15.0%

    Monroe and Genesee Counties growth is pretty minimal compared to the growth of the neighboring counties. The biggest thing hurting Monroe County’s overall population is the city significantly shrinking (which it has been doing since the 1950s).

    We can debate the whys, but the simple fact is, for decades, people have decided that they didn’t want to live in the city itself. Projects like this may very well make the city more livable… for the people that want to live in a city. Many of us simply don’t want to, no matter how attractive it is made for people that prefer an urban lifestyle.

    Sure, it may attract a handful of people to move into the city, but it isn’t going to solve any of the city’s problems, particularly its economic woes. It also does no good to blame people that don’t want to live in the city for those woes, particularly if the people that prefer to live in the city put up barriers, even if only mental/emotional, to keep those people out.

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