Our unclogged arterials

September 15, 2004

Greater Rochester's highways are less congested these days.

In fact, according to a nationwide report released last week by the Texas Transportation Institute, local drivers spend less time in traffic than those in nearly all other metropolitan areas. In 2002, the latest year included in the study, area rush-hour travelers wasted 1.9 million hours in traffic, down from more than 2 million during the previous three years. That comes out to about six hours of each Rochester rush-hour traveler's year, ranking us 82nd of the 85 metro areas studied.

Los Angeles topped the list (as it has ever since 1982, when the study's data begins) with travelers losing 93 hours to travel annually. The San Francisco Bay Area (73 hours lost) and Washington DC (62) were second and third. Anchorage, Alaska, and Brownsville, Texas, tied for last with travelers losing only five hours each year to traffic jams. Closer to home, Buffalo's commuters devoted 10 hours out of their year to waiting in traffic, while in Albany that number was 12 (Syracuse wasn't included in the study).

The study points directly to one factor that's easing the strain on the highway system: public transportation saved about 260,000 person-hours of delay, or nearly an hour a year for each traveler. That's up from 2001 (it saved only 218,000) but down from previous years which topped 300,000. RGRTA officials did not immediately return phone calls inquiring about rider levels in recent years, but the study cited 46 million passenger-miles on the system for 2002, up from 38 million in 2001.

There's also another, less comforting factor that tends to ease strains on the commute: job loss. 2002 figures aren't available yet from the U.S. Census Bureau, but the number of people employed in Monroe County dropped by nearly a percentage point between 2000 and 2001.

Furthermore, even the relatively minor delays Rochester's commuters face cost something. Idling drivers used 4 million extra gallons of fuel due to delay, or just over 10 gallons a year for each rush-hour traveler. Add the cost of that gasoline to the value of time lost, and congestion cost the Rochester economy $36 million in 2002.


The art of communication

There has been some confusion over the Rochester Association of Art Dealers' Galleries Night (one Friday evening, usually in September, when local galleries all host opening receptions). Last year the annual event fizzled because of a lack of any (visible) organization. This year, galleries started sending out information on art openings for two separate Galleries Nights: Friday, September 10, and Friday, September 17.

Calls to individual galleries finally led to Kimberly Trenholm, of Artisan Works, a RAAD member. Trenholm clarified --- after conferring with other RAAD members --- that both Galleries Nights are now part of a new, expanded Galleries Week. RAAD members organized their Galleries Night on September 17; other galleries kicked off the artful week the Friday before (September 10, also the weekend of the Memorial Art Gallery's Clothesline Festival). "The more galleries that want to celebrate Galleries Week the better," Trenholm wrote in an email, "and it doesn't matter much if they are a member of RAAD or not."

In the end, it's just more art for us. RAAD members are Artisan Works, Oxford Gallery, Austin Harvard Gallery, Roslyn Goldman, Ramon Santiago Gallery, Nancy Esmay, Nan Miller Gallery, and Gallery r. Information on the second Galleries Night can be found in City's visual art calendar.


Light command

One local resident's dreams of putting a holiday light show in Seneca Park have been placed on hold, for this season at least.

AdWorks President Kerry Gleason had been working for months to convince the Monroe County Parks Department to authorize the show, with no success. He then was pushing for the County Legislature to introduce a referral for the light show in its September session (see "Up in lights," Metro ink, September 1-7).

But time eventually ran out on Gleason, and after meeting recently with County Legislator Mitch Rowe, he decided to look toward 2005.

"I know I did say previously that this was getting way too political," Gleason says. "But I think, as of the meeting we had last week, if we do some things on our end like generating some corporate sponsorship and addressing some of the security issues and some of the neighborhood issues, we will have the political support we need."

For more information on Gleason's proposal, go to www.RochestersBest.com

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