Our View: Is city’s transit plan about to miss the bus?

September 18, 2018

Transportation with a capital ‘T’ has to be one of top priorities of Rochester and the Destination Medical Center project.

And Transportation 101 would seem to be an expansion of the city bus service — more routes, better routes, more convenient times, and on and on. It’s either that or choke the city streets with cars, and starve employers of workers who can’t get to their jobs.

So it’s dismaying to hear city officials say that the expansion of the bus service is likely going to take place slower than anticipated. Budgetary concerns are to blame, we’re told, for tapping the brakes on the city’s five-year transit plan.

City Administrator Steve Rymer said the proposed rollout of the transit plan has been modified to stay within anticipated budget levels. Simply put, he said, the city doesn’t have the money to keep the expansion on schedule. The unpalatable option would be to increase the tax levy. Or the state could come up with a firm figure on future transportation funding.

Short of that, the City Council faces a difficult choice: Either delay the important expansion of the transit system, or find money somewhere in the proposed $289.3 million budget. The final budget and tax levy are due to be approved in December, so there is some time to carefully explore the options.

The good news is that not all of the planned expansion is going to run late. A cross-town service that would link the city’s northwest park-and-ride location with Rochester Community & Technical College is due to start next month.

And in the best-case scenario, the overall plan would only be pushed back a year or two.

Still, after all the talk from city and DMC officials about the importance of transit, a slow-down of any kind is disappointing. Frustration with commuting issues has been high this summer with so many downtown streets closed or narrowed — a process that perhaps could have enticed more people to ride the bus if better routes had been available.

That’s a missed opportunity. Let’s hope further delays don’t result in more people missing the bus.

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