Back in the 80's, Buckingham bought up a bunch of warehouse space on University Avenue, near Culver. Everyone though they were crazy. I remember Mr. Glazer saying they wanted to be ready when the new University Avenue off-ramp from the newly rebuilt Can of Worms brought more traffic to the street. Now that piece of University is humming.
KATHRYN QUINN THOMAS
High Tech Rochester's plans for an "innovation district" in downtown Rochester is the best economic news for our city in years. We have a good portion of the foundation needed to grow a successful innovation district; however, we are missing a key pillar. The Brookings Institution has identified good public transportation, especially modern streetcars, as a prerequisite.
Robert Puentes and Adie Tomer of the Brookings institute wrote that "the geography of innovation is changing: from spread-out and isolated to concentrated and connected. Today's innovative firms and workers seek proximity so that ideas and knowledge can be transferred more quickly and seamlessly." A key factor for successful innovation districts, they said, is that "all require public transit to move people and provide access to jobs and economic opportunity."
GE recently announced that it will build a major facility in downtown Cincinnati, and they citied the under-construction modern streetcar line as a major factor in deciding the location.
Modern streetcar lines in cities including Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon (which had the same population and density as Rochester back in the 1970's, when Portland first began to invest in rail transit) have attracted vibrant new developments and have revitalized neighborhoods. New lines in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Detroit, Tucson, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington, DC, have spurred development even before the lines are completed.
Downtown Rochester had developed on our once-extensive streetcar network (including the former streetcar subway). After our transit service shriveled to an infrequent, minimalist bus-only system, downtown became dependent on parking and could no longer support the density that it once had. The proliferation of surface parking lots has diluted the vitality of downtown by isolating buildings and activity.
If Rochester is to follow the lead of cities that have successfully revitalized themselves, we need to reduce the dependence on parking to allow in-fill development to replace parking lots. We need frequent transit service to move people within the center city and to connect downtown to neighborhoods, the UR, Kodak Park, and brownfield redevelopment sites.
If we are to be successful in reducing our overwhelming poverty, we need to provide access from city neighborhoods to employment, and we need to provide the infrastructure that encourages more employers to locate within the city. Remote employment sites with little or no transit service, such as Victor and Genesee County's STAMP, will not make a dent in Rochester's poverty.
Modern streetcars provide frequent service more efficiently and cost-effectively than bus-only service. Modern streetcars are quiet, smooth-riding, electric, non-polluting, and energy efficient, and have been proven to attract new riders. It is past time for Rochester to get serious about exploring modern streetcars.