BRT visualization (copy) (copy)

An artist's depiction shows the potential for a bus rapid transit system near the corner of Second Street and Sixth Avenue Southwest. 

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton hasn’t hidden her opposition to current plans for a downtown circulator.

Citing a desire to continue looking at alternatives, she recently said she believes many in the community are unaware of what’s being proposed.

“I’ve been finding in the public eye, they don’t know what a circulator means,” she said.

While specific details remain to be hammered out as the city ramps up engineering and other planning needed to seek federal funds next year, here are some details from the concept that’s being pitched at this point:

1. A circulator will serve as specialized transit serving downtown.

As proposed, the circulator would run a dedicated route between a pair of transit hubs, also commonly known as transit villages. The hubs are proposed at the current Mayo Clinic west parking lot on Second Street Southwest and at Graham Park or the former Seneca Foods canning facility.

The 3.5-mile route would travel on Second Street from the west lot until it hits Broadway Avenue, where it will head south to the southeast hub before returning along the same route.

2. The vehicles will be specialized buses.

Often referred to as bus rapid transit, the vehicles proposed for the circulator are specialized electric buses.

They are designed to replicate many light-rail features, providing curb-level entrance without stairs to make them ADA compliant. They would also have higher capacity than standard buses, as well as added comfort features designed to encourage use over parking downtown.

3. Dedicated stops are being determined.

Early discussions indicated stops along the proposed route would be every quarter to half mile to provide quick and fast service to multiple downtown locations. Unlike traditional buses, passengers won’t be able to request stops between the designated locations.

Rochester Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish has said the exact location and number of stops will be defined during the upcoming study process.

Additionally, officials want to make sure select stops are climate controlled.

4. Fares would be paid before entering the vehicle.

While details on cost of riding the circulator remain unknown, the purchase of any fare or pass is expected to be handled at the stop before the vehicle arrives, making for quicker stops as passengers board and exit the vehicle.

5. Vehicles will have priority at lights.

To ensure the buses keep moving, they will be able to extend green lights as they approach an intersection with a traffic signal.

6. Dedicated lanes are planned.

The current proposal would reserve a lane in each direction for public transit, which could include periodic uses by other city buses.

The dedicated lanes, which would reduce the downtown travel lanes, have been the largest sticking point in some discussions and will be the topic of future studies.

7. Multiple buses would be on the road.

With a circulator round trip expected to take approximately 40 minutes, multiple vehicles will be on the route. The goal will be to have a vehicle arrive at each stop every 10 minutes during peak travel periods.

8. The system is expected to cost $98.6 million.

Early studies put price tags on potential routes and vehicle types for the circulator.

The specialized buses came in at nearly a quarter the price of a railed option, which ranged from $356 million to $388 million.

9. The city has 1,946 days left to planned operation.

During recent discussions, Council Member Michael Wojcik has been announcing a daily countdown based on a proposed timeline for creation of the circulator and transit hubs.

R.T. Ryback, chairman of the Destination Medical Center Corp. board, has suggested implementing some elements of the circulator early as the complete system is being built, and some DMC funds have been earmarked for a circulator prototype to test elements of the system.

What's your reaction?