Council: Consider costs of transit hubs

January 16, 2019
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Micahael Wojcik

Local planners must keep cost in mind when considering locations for new commuter transit hubs.

That was the message from the Rochester City Council on Monday.

“As we have learned, it’s a lot more expensive to build a parking ramp when part of it is over a rail bed than it is to build out over a better laid-out site,” Council Member Michael Wojcik said, pointing to the city’s new parking ramp, which is slated to open next month.

The transit hubs, being planned as part of the overall Destination Medical Center project, would serve as anchor points for a downtown circulator route, which would provide a higher level of service for commuting downtown workers than bus routes typically offer.

“This is really a key strategy in order to address the challenges we have in downtown with parking and with our limited portal capacity for the streets coming into the downtown,” said Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish.

The proposed hubs would provide parking and other services catering to commuters, including potential retail space. The placements would likely influence new development in the surrounding areas.

Recent transit studies have indicated at least two hubs will likely be needed to serve a growing number of commuters as DMC efforts unfold. Without citing specific properties, plans suggest a hub be developed northwest of downtown with a second location southeast of the city’s core.

Wojcik said he wants the city staff to consider the costs of preparing potential sites for construction when analyzing where to build.

Parrish assured Wojcik, and others on the council, that development costs will be part of the site selection criteria for the hubs.

With proposed criteria in mind, Council Member Shaun Palmer said he’d like to see the city consider building a hub as far out as Byron to capture commuters coming from that direction. For the smaller southeast site, he suggested working with the county to construct something at Graham Park.

Council Member Nick Campion suggested the Byron proposal may be too far away to reap the benefits cited in the transit studies, since commuters enter Rochester from several directions.

“Putting it in Byron would skew that a bit,” he said, noting an in-city hub could provide a quicker trip to downtown, while attracting more commuters.

Palmer said implementation would be the key to attracting people to a hub, regardless of location.

“If you make it convenient for people to use, they will use it,” he said, noting a Byron location could be good for the city’s neighbors.

Several council members, however, said such discussions would need to include discussions with Byron city officials before being considered.

At the same time, Council Member Mark Bilderback said the impact on neighborhoods in Rochester also need to be considered when potential hub sites are reviewed.

Potential locations for the southeast hub stretch from just south of downtown along Third Avenue Southeast to south of Graham Park. Some of those areas are near Ward 4 neighborhoods Bilderback represents.

“I think we need to be really careful,” he said.

On the other side of the equation, Wojcik sadi the creation of transit hubs could benefit neighborhoods, which are feeling parking pressures created by commuter traffic entering residential areas of the city.

He said alternate parking options could reduce on-street parking and other concerns.

Parrish said the council’s comments will be considered during the upcoming weeks as city staff reviews potential properties for transit hub consideration.

He said the findings of the continued review are likely to be presented next early next month in time for the council to receive the report before the Feb. 5 meeting of the DMC Corp. board.

Once the location of potential hubs are determined, Parrish said the city can seek federal funding to support the project. At that point, it would likely take four to five years to complete the hubs.

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