Rochester Fantasy Map

Rochester, NY – a city of 210,000, has a long and complicated history with public transit. What was once home to a thriving streetcar and subway system, but ripped them up in favor of the automobile.

Operating from 1927 to 1956, the Rochester Industrial and Rapid Transit Railway (the Rochester Subway) ran diagonal across Rochester from General Motors station in the northeast, through downtown, to Sunset Drive in the southeast.

Due to declining ridership after the end of WWII, and a push to expand highway connections through Rochester, the line was ultimately abandoned.

Today, much of the right of way in the southeast was replaced with highways, while the tunnels under Broad St in Northeast Rochester were filled in to reduce maintenance costs on the abandoned tunnels and avoid safety deficiencies in the tunnels structure.

However, that doesn’t mean it would be impossible to reuse the tunnels for a new subway or light rail network. It wouldn’t be impossible to dig the tunnels up and repair them to a state where passenger service can run through them again.

But, this begs the question: What if Rochester never abandoned its subway network, and expanded it over the years? What could that look like? That’s what this fantasy map hopes to answer, as well as starts the conversation (hopefully) of rapid transit in Rochester.

Like all of the previous maps in this series, I try and use existing right of ways where possible, and design the networks to minimize tunneling outside of a downtown central corridor. This time around, I’m testing something new out: a map of the construction methods used by each line.

R1 has 2 branches; one serving Westgate and the Rochester airport, and one serving South Winston Road in South Rochester. I considered sending R2 down to the airport and serving a similar corridor, but that would wither miss the University of Rochester, or create a super indirect route from the Airport to downtown. I think this is a good compromise that boosts service to the University of Rochester and doesn’t mess up the line pairing / balancing in downtown. After serving the University of Rochester, R1 makes 2 stops along the Genesee River (both would have a pedestrian bridge over the river to maximize the walkshed) before entering the downtown trunk.

One of the reasons my new maps include these short shared sections in downtown before branching out is to emulate a S-bahn like network – suburb to suburb via the city center – while minimizing tunneling. This design also allows for painless transfers between lines, and makes it easy to expand capacity (just build another short downtown trunk or build a parallel tunnel with more tracks).

Though having every line share tracks in downtown can be seen as a weak point of a network – and in many circumstances can be – I don’t foresee this network, if ever built, getting to the point where each line needs sub 5 minute frequencies.

In this network design, R1 would run at a higher frequency than the other lines, both to maintain good headways on both branches, and to maximize service to the airport and University of Rochester, as well as the section through the Neighborhood of the Arts.

After exiting the downtown trunk, R1 follows an existing right-of-way for 3 stops, before paralleling I-590 (part of the former subway lines route) and the Pittsford Trail System down to Pittsford.

R2 is the main east-west line of the network, running from Elmgrove Rd in the West, serving North Gates and Dutchtown, before joining up with R3 and R4 at Susan B Anthony. After Rochester Station, R2 tuns elevated above Empire Boulevard and Culver Road up to East Irondequoit.

R3 starts in North Greece, paralleling route 390 south to Weiland Road. From there, it follows what I can only assume used to be a railroad right-of-way until it joins with R4. From General Motors all the way to Cornerstone Park, R3 follows the route of the former Rochester Subway – reusing tunnels, abandoned right of ways and the really cool Broad St Bridge to reach downtown Rochester. After Rochester Station, R3 runs elevated above Portland Ave all the way up to Titus ave, serving the Group 14621 and Irondequoit neighborhoods, and the Rochester General Hospital.

Finally, R4 – the giant U – paralells the Genesee River on both ends of its route. Starting at Ontario Beach, R4 follows an existing right-of-way all the way until it merges with R3 in Edgerton. After Rochester Station, R4 makes a tight curve onto Upper Falls Blvd, which allows it to serve Rochester Station instead of skipping it. After a couple of fairly tight curves, R4 runs at grade for 3 stops, paralleling a bike trail, before running elevated over St Paul Ave up to West Irondequoit.

I want to end this post off with a thank you for all of the support I’ve received for this series – it means alot to me, and I’m excited to see where this project leads to 🙂

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