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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Differences Between Two Upstate Bus Sheds

You can read in my entry below - Comment On The Bus Shed - about the controversy surrounding the placement, design, cost and impact of the Rochester bus transfer terminal.

I could not find one facility in any of the 60 U.S. cities of similar size I examined that could act as precedent for the Rochester hub.

The only project that resembled Rochester's was in Boise, Id as it was similar in plan and placement to the Rochester plan, was not yet built and was raising the same concerns amongst their local developers who, like Rochester developers, insisted that the hub should not be placed in the center of a growing downtown residential and office district.

I did not pay much attention to the Syracuse hub and was not aware of their plan until  a wealth of information was discovered on the planning, design and construction of the new transfer station.

Well, it seems that my old hometown is once again showing us in the "Flower City" how to do it right...or, at least, less wrong.

The cities are similar in size and economic situation yet the two plans are very different in their physical and economic impacts on their respective downtown areas.

Syracuse Plan:

- 22 Bus bays arranged along the edges and at the center of a canopied/open air terminal
- Above compact arrangement allows the terminal to fit on 3/4 of an already existing city block
- Built at the edge of downtown in a underdeveloped area
- Opened September 4, 2012
- Final Cost: $20 $18.8 Million

Rochester Plan:

- 26 Bus bays arranged in a block long "cigar" shaped terminal with a closed roof, necessitating ventilation  equipment for Diesel fumes
- Street is being demapped to allow terminal to fit between two main downtown streets (Clinton and Main)
- To be built in a fast growing downtown residential neighborhood of market rate converted industrial lofts
- Completion Date: 2015
- Estimated cost: $47 $50 Million

Let's review...
Rochester will spend over twice as much as Syracuse for a terminal with FOUR more bus bays that will not be finished for at least another two years. The Rochester terminal will not improve the surrounding property values and may well do damage to the residential market in that neighborhood.


It should also be noted that there are federal funds being allotted for the design and construction of a new Greyhound/Trailways and Amtrak station near the site of the current train station in Rochester.
This new station is expected to be a monument to travel that will recall the glory days of Rochester's rail stations while preparing Rochester for the future of travel: a high speed railway across the U.S.
Many in the community feel that the bus terminal should be moved to the site of the new station as it would make the new train station a truly inter-modal facility.
The train station is located at the edge of Rochester's downtown in an area that is underdeveloped and could see restaurants and retail spring up to serve all of those folks arriving at the station.

The main argument against putting the bus station at the edge of Rochester's CBD is that it is too far from the main intersection downtown and that people would have to walk all that way to transfer buses.
Once again, I turn to my old hometown for the solution...

Syracuse buses will still pick up and drop off throughout downtown, including the transfer hub at the edge of the CBD.
No one will have to walk the four or five city blocks from the main downtown intersection at Salina and Fayette Streets to the transfer hub.
They will simply board the bus at their normal stop and depart at the transfer terminal and on from there.
The only difference will be the lack of buses lining Syracuse's "Main Street."

Back in the early 1950's the planners of Rochester's War Memorial visited with the builders of the already completed Onondaga County War Memorial to see what they could learn from the experiences of the Syracuse team.
Perhaps the folks at RTS should follow suit and dial up their counterparts at Centro.

Just a thought.

Link to Syracuse plan: http://www.centro.org/TransferHub.aspx

A video on the Syracuse hub as it nears completion:

Opening day, Syracuse hub:

Rochester hub website: http://www.rgrta.com/TransitCenter/ProjectDetails.aspx

The latest look at the Rochester hub from fall 2012:

Good luck, Roc City.


  1. I'm excited to see what happens with the new terminal here in Syracuse. I'm also so very happy that someone is suggesting Rochester looks to Syracuse for an idea instead of the other way around! I linked to your post! Thanks!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Being from Syracuse and having lived in Rochester for a decade I certainly know what you mean. When I first moved to Rochester it seemed like a city that did it right more than it got it wrong - having just left a city who's only hope for revival was an expansion of a mall. Even today, Syracuse cannot compete with Rochester for diversity of livable yet affordable neighborhoods but it now seems to be doing smarter and more naturally-occurring development in the downtown area, especially Armory Square.

      Rochester HAS looked to innovative Syracuse in the past. Back in the post WWII years the architects of Rochester's Community War Memorial arena studied the Onondaga County War Memorial's design, particularly its thin shell concrete roof system.

      The Rochester people eventually decided on a more conventional truss supported roof design and the building itself suffered from a rather dull exterior.
      The Syracuse building was built in the 1940's and benefited from having Art Moderne ornamentation incorporated into its limestone covered walls, especially on the north facade/memorial hall.
      For all its shortcomings due to never having been rebuilt/expanded or replaced by a new facility the Onondaga County War Memorial has stood the test of time far better than the Rochester building - which tried to become more like newer arenas yet lost it's focus as a memorial to the community's fallen without much gain in seating capacity.