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A Tale Of Two Cities: Segregated Rochester And Public Transit

Blue Bus on Parking LotThis June, the Community Design Center Rochester hosted their 10th annual Reshaping Rochester Series, during which the group called for more pedestrian-friendly policies in Flower City. Norman Garrick, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Connecticut, gave the keynote address on the final day of the series. Garrick said the main problem facing Rochester’s transportation system and roadways was simple — too many cars, not enough pedestrians.

Plus, Garrick said it’s not just about public mobility. He argued that the culture and character of a city is steered by their transportation systems.

“We often don’t consider the consequences,” Garrick said. “You can’t build urban life on car travel…A good transportation system provides access to people and goods while enhancing equity, the local economy, and the social life of the city.”

In many ways, Rochester is a very segregated U.S. city, and that’s reflected in car versus public transportation usage. That’s a divide seen in many other U.S. cities, where middle and upper-income residents increasingly rely on cars as their primary mode of travel. In 1970, Americans traveled a total of one trillion miles by car every year; however, by 2000, that number had tripled to more than three trillion miles annually. Not only that, but the U.S. has more than 800 cars per 1,000 individuals.

The reliance on cars can affect city development in many ways. Garrick said that nearby Buffalo added more than 14,000 parking spaces to their downtown district decades ago, which is still negatively affecting both residents and businesses there.

Monroe County provides 66 taxpayer-funded vehicles to public employees for 24-hour use, while also providing additional cars for employees to use when commuting.

“Having everyone on the planet owning a car is a disaster,” Garrick said during the conclusion of his speech.

He told the crowd that not only do the best public transportation systems promote equality and shared culture, they also provide steady employment. Already, the Rochester transit system employs about 900 Rochester residents.