• 30Apr

    Most folks know the issues have most focused on, housing, transit, planning, broadband. I am delighted to see significant progress on transit. I requested some additional information to illustrate just how much we are expanding service in the next 5 years. Effectively this is an 80% increase in transit service, expanding hours, routes, and days. Each update will be effective on July 1. Click on the links to see details of every single route.

    Special thanks to Bryan Law for doing such a great job putting this information together.

    Michael –

    You asked about some information about the changes we are proposing with the Transit Development Plan (TDP), especially how those changes might be phased in.  I have links, below, to maps for each of the five years of the TDP, along with a brief note about what we can expect in each year.

    Year 1 (July 2017)

    RPT will be adding service to current routes, especially by expanding the service span (the time of day during which routes run). Almost all weekday peak-hour routes will arrive downtown at least once before 6:00 am, and will also arrive downtown at least once after 7:00 pm. Saturday routes will also be expanded to run from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. RPT will institute Sunday and holiday service, which will be a repeat of the expanded Saturday schedule.  The map of Year 1 should look much like the current system map; the differences will be in the hours of operation.

     photo 2017_zpsoxnhyj9s.jpg

    2017 Transit Route Details

    Year 2 (July 2018)

    RPT will dramatically change its route nomenclature, expand its geographical service area, and extend much more frequency to routes during off-peak hours (particularly in the midday). Almost all the changes involve the addition of service. Some routes have been reconfigured such that there are more opportunities for transfers to be made in places outside downtown. The Crosstown Loop (Route 91) will begin service, providing even more opportunities for transfers outside of downtown. If RPT’s system looks like a hub and spokes, the Crosstown Loop completes the wheel by adding a rim to it.

     photo 2018_zpshd8cutrd.jpg

    2018 Transit Route Details

    Year 3 (2019)

    An expected shortage of vehicles in Year 2 leads us to anticipate not being able to split the successor to the current Route 8 (serving Country Club Manor) until delivery of new buses in Year 3. In Year 2, the current Route 8 will be renamed Route 50, but will otherwise operate as it currently does. In Year 3, however, this will finally be split into Routes 52 and 54, allowing for more efficient service to the northern and southern halves of the neighborhood.

     photo 2019_zpslvyxouu4.jpg

    2019 Transit Route Details

    Year 4 (2020)

    In the fourth year of the TDP, an east-west Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route – as contemplated by the Destination Medical Center plan – might be feasible. This route would connect St Marys Hospital and Mayo’s main campus, and might continue to points further east, before terminating and turning around near the K-Mart site on 9 St SE. This is represented on the map by Route 84.

     photo 2020_zps6moyozvc.jpg

    2020 Transit Route Details

    2021 – North-South BRT service

    In the fifth year of the TDP, a north-south BRT route could be established along Broadway Ave., connecting the northeast side of the City with the airport. This is represented on the map by Route 84.

     photo 2021_zpsstypewhd.jpg

    2021 Transit Route Details

    I hope this helps.  Let me know if there is anything else I can provide you.

    —————

    Bryan Law, AICP

    Transit Planner | Rochester Public Transit

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  • 28Feb

    Here is some context to the bus shutdown on Friday. I know it is frustrating, but we call it a snow emergency for a reason.

    Gary,

    Below I am repeating some the information I shared on Friday with Council Members  Hickey, Campion and Bilderback.

    The decision to run, delay, or partial or  full shutdown involves various inputs;  weather forecasts (including the projected timing of the storm), street conditions, the plowing/ sanding schedule and consultation with Mayo. A final decision is made jointly by the City Transit and Parking Manager and First Transit General Manager. The bus routes for the most part are on arterials or neighborhood collector streets. A number of years back a policy was set in place that bus routes would have priority in regards to order of plowing for City streets. (RPT routes also operates on roads under the  jurisdiction of the Olmsted County and MnDOT.)  The discussion starts with a staff meeting the day before the forecasted event where all information is reviewed. The plan for public dissemination is also laid out.  A review of actual conditions depends on the timing. The last major storms were overnight events. Therefore,  a review of conditions including a visual observation of street conditions started at 2:00 a.m.. A decision to shut down for the last storm was made at 4:00 a.m..

    RPT also parks 1500 commuters in its park and ride lots. The leases require all lots to be cleared by 6:00 a.m. Some lots are cleared by RPT’s snow contractor. In the last storm two lots representing about 50% of our capacity did not get cleared by 6:00 a.m. These were owner operated. We will be following up with the owners.

    Following is a summary of events for the February 24 storm.

    Planning started (2/23) with  an operations meeting to discuss the street plowing schedule, forecasts and the various community cancellations. Communications were also initiated with Mayo. On February 23 (the day before the storm) RPT posted that passengers should consult the website and media as to RPT’s status. Mayo was also asked to post alerts on their internal website.

    A reconnaissance by RPT/FT (First Transit) of street conditions started at 2 a.m. with review of the forecast and the plowing schedule. The decision to shutdown  was made at 4:00 a.m.  The alerts were sent out to media and posted on the website and RPT’s  AVL phone app after the decision was made. Dispatchers were still called in to answer calls. Most major roads appeared to be clear by 7:00 a.m. but there was  a lot of glazing with a continuing fine mist that was freezing on the road surface.  A mid- morning reconnaissance of routes and park and ride lots was made followed by a RPT staff meeting at 10:00 a.m. to discuss whether drivers should be called in for the remainder of day. Staff consulted with street maintenance and the weather forecasts that were predicting a second storm starting at 11 :00 a.m.  We were informed there would be no sanding because of the next storm coming in.

    These are hard calls to make.  They are white knuckle events (stressful) for drivers. Last winter (2016) there was a similar storm where we decided to run as the plows started at 4:00 a.m. RPT started out from the garage at  5:00 a.m. The weather shifted and we had a significant snow fall after the decision was made requiring RPT to pull buses and shut down for 2 hours.

    Our practice after each of these events is to have a debriefing and assess our performance. We will be discussing with Infrastructure the timing of snow removal at the downtown bus stop area to accommodate bus turning movements.  There are always things we can do better. We have excellent service and coordination from the Infrastructure Division (street maintenance).  The final decision is driven by road conditions and safety.

    Respectfully,

    Tony

    Anthony J Knauer

    Transit and Parking Manager

    4300 East River Road

    Rochester, MN 55906

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  • 14Dec

    Check out this 1 pager to learn the latest.

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  • 13Oct

    Answers coming soon.

    Affordable Housing:
    Considering the massive crisis that we face in the availability of affordable housing for households with income below $55,000 per year, what do you think is the responsibility of City government to help create affordable housing and what specific measures do you think the City could take now to facilitate the development of affordable housing?

    Education:
    We recognize that you are running for City Council, not the School Board. However, given the importance of our children’s education, we are asking this question:
    What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Rochester related to the education of our youth, and what, in your role as a City Council member, are the factors you will consider to address this?

    Living Wage:
    Do you support tying a Living Wage to any business seeking public funding from the city?

    Historic Preservation:
    What do you think would be the appropriate response by the city council regarding the current situation with the Kutzky House?

    Social Services:
    How are you going to get input from the working poor of Rochester on an ongoing basis? Will you include housing, transportation and living wages in your conversations?

    Sustainability:
    “The workforce we want is attracted by sustainability. Our Mayor has made a proclamation that Rochester will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2031. And the one formal city initiative on energy sustainability is our Climate Smart Municipalities partnership with German cities. What are three ways you would lead the city council to capitalize on our German partnership to create a more attractive and sustainable city?”

    Transportation:
    Plans for the DMC and the City Comprehensive plan call for a significant shift away from people driving alone into Rochester for work and other trips. Much of the public investment in the DMC revolves around improvements to public transit, especially buses. Biking and pedestrian route upgrades are also included, and demand for them is growing. However, we’ve also seen a recent uptick in crashes involving people walking or biking. Recent figures show that 2016 is on par to be the deadliest year for pedestrians in Minnesota as a whole, and this is especially true in Rochester. Two of the seven bicycle related deaths were in Rochester. What are your priorities on making it easier for people to drive less so we can meet these goals and to do so safely?

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  • 10Oct

    Rochester Public Transit (RPT) is completing a Transit Development Plan (TDP) which will guide the City’s transit system for the next five years. An important part of the planning process is public input. RPT has arranged five public meetings in order to inform the public about the TDP’s recommendations for transit in the coming years, and for the public to give feedback on those recommendations. One meeting will be held downtown, and the other meetings will be held in each of the four quadrants of the City. Each meeting will be an open-house style meeting, with the public invited to come and go as they please, with a brief, formal presentation at 4:45 (or just after 5:00 for the City Hall meeting), and again at 6:00. The public is invited to attend any meeting they wish. The schedule of meetings is as follows:

    John Marshall High School, Room 2-100A Rocket Center
    Monday, October 17, 2016, 4:30-7:00 p.m.

    Mayo High School, Room 1-109 Cafeteria
    Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 4:30-7:00 p.m.

    Century High School, Cafeteria North New Section
    Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 4:30-7:00 p.m.

    City Hall, Conference Room 104
    Thursday, October 20, 2016, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

    Bamber Valley Elementary School, Room 501 Music
    Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 4:30-7:00 p.m.

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  • 20Sep

    I don’t just speak about working with other levels of government, but I try to actually do it. My friend & school board member Julie Workman and I host a community coffee twice a month with County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden. As such, we get to keep in touch and bounce ideas off of each other. I also sit down with Superintendent Michael Munoz a few times a year.

    Two themes keep coming up. Middle & High School kids are starting school at a time that a mountain of data indicates is too early to achieve best results. They have to do this because of limitations in the school transportation system. Conversely the city of Rochester has massive unused capacity at certain times, particularly after the morning rush.

    After several meetings with school and city staff we agreed to jointly study using city transportation resources for middle & high school students. The study if approved by both bodies will cost $42k to be shared equally. A feasibility report would be back to us by the end of 1Q 2017 allowing an option to start the program for the 2017-2018 school year.

    I’m sure you have a ton of questions, and so do I. My ideal scenario would be:

    • serving most, but not all school 6-12 needs with city buses.
    • reducing the total transportation costs for the city and/or school system.
    • adjusting routes to improve effectiveness and coverage.
    • allowing school IDs to function as bus passes, available any time.
    • meeting the needs of students with after school activities.
    • ensuring the safety of all.

    I think it would be foolish to not research the option. Mr. Munoz has seen this work in a previous position, there is no reason why it can’t here.

    Interestingly this question actually came up in a recent candidate forum. We both agreed this was something good to look at, however we were differentiated because I do not want elementary school kids included in the program, at least for now. I am comfortable with middle school and up.

    Scope of work for addition transit study

    Study Proposal

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  • 14Jul

    The Rochester City Council will consider this piece of work on Monday. Thanks to all the people that poured a lot of energy and advocacy into this.

    Rochester Energy Action Plan

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  • 04Jun

    More good news for people that breath!

    Renewable-Based Fuel is Cleaner, Costs Less Than Traditional Diesel

    ROCHESTER, MINN. – June 2, 2016 – On June 1st, Rochester Public Transit (RPT) switched from the 10 percent biodiesel blend required statewide to a 20 percent blend, a move that will reduce emissions from 49 transit buses while saving money for the city. RPT officials said that the higher biodiesel content does not require the city to make major investments in vehicles or in fueling infrastructure. RPT has been using a lower percent biodiesel for a number of years. Under State law all diesel fuel will increase to 20% biodiesel beginning May 1, 2018. The decision was welcomed by the American Lung Association in Minnesota, which has long supported biodiesel as a clean air choice® for Minnesota motorists with diesel vehicles.

    “Using this higher biodiesel blend will have an immediate effect on the air pollutants these buses emit, reducing particulate matter, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions,” said Kelly Marczak, regional senior director for clean air at the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “It also represents another step away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner, more sustainable fuels produced here in Minnesota.”

    Rochester’s bus fleet will use the B20 blend during warm months (through September), switching back to a five percent blend (B5) during the cold-weather months. This is consistent with a statewide law, the first of its kind in the United States, which requires a minimum 10 percent biodiesel blend in the warm weather months and B5 in the winter. The ALAMN noted in a recent analysis of biodiesel use in Minnesota that the state’s biodiesel standard has the same greenhouse gas emissions reduction benefits as removing 128,000 passenger vehicles from Minnesota’s roads each year. Using B20 in the summer months represents a 15% reduction in GHG emissions when compared to petroleum diesel. RPT stated that the use of biodiesel is consistent with its other efforts towards lower emissions and improved fuel conservation. While the cost of biodiesel fluctuates in the marketplace, RPT expects to achieve fuel savings of between two and five cents per gallon by using a 20% biodiesel blend.

    Biodiesel was the first biofuel designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an Advanced Biofuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel has been approved for use as a vehicle fuel by the EPA and blends up to B20 can be used in any diesel engine without the need for any special modifications. The renewable fuel can be made from nearly any plant-based oil or animal fat. Most of the biodiesel used in the upper Midwest is made from excess soybean oil. Minnesota has three biodiesel plants in Albert Lea, Brewster and Isanti with a combined production capacity of approximately 63 million gallons. For more information, visit www.biodiesel.mn

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  • 02May

    A Transit Networked Company (TNC) is a program that links those looking for rides with those willing to provide them. I support TNCs in Rochester without picking and choosing which ones can come here. Uber & Lyft are among the most well known TNCs. My preference is that we be open to any innovative company that wishes to do business here and meet are willing to meet our safety standards. I suspect that the entry of TNCs present a challenge to tradition cab companies, however protecting existing jobs is a terrible reason to stifle innovation.

    1) Will TNCs will destroy local jobs?

    I personally believe that in Rochester there will always be rolls for some cab drivers. TNCs may challenge existing jobs in the Taxi Industry however the deployment of driverless cars will do the same. We have seen many industries change with the advent of new technology. We didn’t ban Travelocity to protect travel agent jobs.

    2) Will TNCs help reduce congestion, car dependence, and weaknesses in the transit system?

    Probably.

    Here is an article from the Urban Land Institute on how TNCs has reduced the need for cars in some areas.

    ULI: Multimodal Transit Dials Down the Need for Cars in Cities

    3) Will TNCs endanger public safety?

    No. Not if implemented correctly. While I do support TNCs, I also think we should require the same driver licensing that we do for cabs, this would ensure our standards are met. Further many cities have learned that TNCs like Uber can actually improve public safety.

    Uber and DUIs

    4) Should Rochester regulate TNC pricing?

    No.

    5) Why are TNCs currently banned?

    Because the ordinance the city council passed addressing taxi-cabs deliberately put in place requirements that do not apply and can not be met by TNCs. When the ordinance was passed I stated that the ordinance would effectively prevent TNCs from operating in Rochester. At the time the majority of the council was just fine with that. This might be changing.

    6) Should TNCs be able to access the airport?

    Yes, I believe so, so long as they pay the same access fee as cabs.

     

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  • 17Jan

    Here is a little transparency on the St. Marys area discussion. If we kept up with our own recommendations for planning in the area we wouldn’t be struggling right now.

    Council

    I sent staff my concerns about our recent Holiday Inn meetings and wished to express the same concerns to the council as well. I believe that once again the lack of proactive city planning has led to a situation were rather than implementing a quality plan we are bending to accommodate whatever comes forward.

    Here are my concerns, you will notice that none of them are with the current project its self for which we are still in a quasi-judicial capacity. I see the TIF discussion as being unrelated to the project discussion.

    1) Small group meetings were held in secret away from public scrutiny – There were other topics discussed that clearly can’t be public at this point, but absolutely nothing was discussing regarding the Holiday Inn that could not be discussed in public. While this does not violate the open meeting law, I think it violates the spirit of transparency. Further it removes the ability of the council to interact and control the discussion. I also disagree with this, except when it is necessary.

    2) There seems to be a disconnect between the project needs a tunnel and we need to pay for a tunnel. As with all TIF in this project I will ask staff to show quantitate data justifying TIF before I am willing to support it.

    3) DMCC did the right thing – I appreciate their willingness to ensure that a project meets the design standards for a great neighborhood before supporting it.

    4) The parking bothers me some and I will ask for some independant guidance. The idea of using TIF to build private parking with private revenues but some public oversight is novel. It seems that the cost per spot might be better than we can get otherwise, but again quantitative data is needed.

    5) Planning, Planning, Planning – I have seen how flexible Larry has been to try to get things done. This tells me that if we had done a better job in creating a district plan ahead of time we would probably be done my now. Deciding on your infrastructure and design standards after a plan has been submitted is a terrible way to do business. Building a tunnel system around a connection to a single block that is cutoff from the rest of the area by utilities MAY be a bad practice (or it may not).

    6) Creating a great place – every time we have created a great public place, peace plaza for example the public has embraced it. St. Marys Place can be another great place, but only if the public spaces are inviting. Bisecting the area with fast moving traffic (4 adjacent lanes averaging 12′ apiece) will crush the neighborhood, tunnel or not. My goals would be 1) safety / connectivity 2) Neighborhood / Business Vibrancy 3) Everything else 4) L.O.S.

    7) I am asking some community volunteers to help me create an event to draw attention to the needs for better planning in this area.

    Read more…

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