The Community Center at Carlson Commons Apartments was filled to capacity Wednesday, May 5, 2010 for the second forum on Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority’s (RGRTA) proposed Transit Center, which was hosted by the Rochester City Council.
What is this proposed Transit Center?
The proposed center is a scaled-down version of the Renaissance Square project, which in addition to the Transit Center, would have included a theatre (think Broadway plays, etc.), the Monroe Community College campus, and retail space. After ten years of negotiations, fund raising, and neighborhood opposition, the project fell through, courtesy of the Mayor and City Council.
How do area residents feel about the Transit Center?
Most of the people at the forum, including me, live in the downtown area, and are opposed to the proposed bus terminal, despite an unscientific survey of bus riders conducted by City Council. Their survey showed 60 riders were in favor of the terminal, while 11 were against it.
Had City Council surveyed people who live near Mortimer and Clinton Street, the site of the proposed transit center, they would have gotten vastly different results. They may have realized this when they saw that out of 27 people who spoke, only 4 people were in support of the idea.
I was one of the ones who spoke against the project, one of 13 people with disabilities who attended the forum. As someone who not only lives in the neighborhood, but who lives in the historic Michaels-Stern building, barely 30 feet from the northernmost point of the proposed terminal, I had (and still have) a number of concerns.
What are the concerns of those who live in the neighborhood?
The location that has been chosen is an inappropriate one because it will wreak havoc on the community, not only during construction, but afterward. The area is densely populated meaning parking is already an issue. The Michaels-Stern Building, where I live, is a mixed-use building containing businesses and residential apartments. Many of the folks who work and live there use the parking lot adjacent to it. When the Transit Center is finished, that lot will only be available to RGRTA staff. Workers and residents of the Michaels-Stern will be forced to look for on-street parking, which, contrary to RGRTA’s claims, is scare.
Although RGRTA says that the building will be constructed with filters and open spaces, I and many area residents are still concerned about pollution levels as a result of the exhaust fumes from all of the buses that will be confined in one relatively small area. Some of us worry about the potential increase in crime in our neighborhood. Those of us who will live closest to the center simply don’t want to see a bus terminal outside our windows.
How will this affect people with disabilities who live in the area?
Another serious problem is wheelchair access for people with disabilities along the West side of Clinton Avenue, the East side of St. Paul Street, and the South side of Pleasant Street (West of Clinton) during the construction period. The construction is set to begin in the summer of 2011, and end in the summer of 2013. During the construction, people who use wheelchairs will have to wheel in the street, a dangerous undertaking on busy streets such as Clinton and St. Paul.
Once the center is complete, it is unclear if there will be adequate physical access inside the center, such as a safe, accessible area to wait for buses, as well as physical access to amenities inside the center, such as public restrooms, ticket counters, and real-time bus arrival information. While there is an ADA committee as part of the project, they have ignored the disability community’s input.
How do people with disabilities, in general, feel about the project?
Many riders with disabilities feel that the money being spent on the transit center should be spent to improve the fixed-route and para-transit service. Bus service to certain areas is either very sparse, or is being drastically cut. Some routes are even being eliminated, leaving some people with no way of getting to work or school. This impacts Lift Line (para-transit) users, who because of the fixed-route eliminations suddenly find themselves in an extended service area, paying $6.00 for base fare. Lift Line riders are charged twice the fare of fixed-route bus riders, and must pay $6.00 for a same-day ride, if they can get it. They also experience frequent ride denials, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, due to capacity constraints.
The new terminal should be built in an area that is less densely populated so that there will be less of a negative impact on the community from pollution, crowding, and potential criminal activity. Several proposals have been made, but it appears that RGRTA may have its way, and build the center on Mortimer Street. Hopefully, they and the city will work with those of us who live in that neighborhood to mitigate the most harmful effects of the Transit Center on our community.
City Council will be voting on the issue of the proposed Transit Center this evening, May 11, 2010.