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Shifting gears

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Rochesterians are spending less time driving and more time on bikes and buses, says a recent report from the US Public Interest Research Group. "Transportation in Transition" analyzed the country's 100 largest urban areas to measure shifts in how people get around.

Rich Perrin, executive director of the Genesee Transportation Council, says that people are increasingly interested in biking and public transportation. If those options are feasible, he says, people will use them. And local transportation planners are emphasizing projects to make those options easier, he says.

"Really, what we're trying to do is adjust our systems as people's behaviors change," says William Carpenter, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority.

Transit ridership saw the biggest shift locally; Rochester's increase was the 13th largest nationwide, the report says. The RGRTA recorded 13.1 million trips in 2005 and 17.2 million in 2010, a 31.6 percent increase, the report says.

Carpenter says that a growing downtown population has boosted ridership. And the $1 fare plays a role, too, he says.

RGRTA's routes are frequently re-evaluated and reconfigured, Carpenter says. In some cases, RGRTA works with large employers or institutions to develop and fund routes, he says, and to encourage employees to use the bus system.

Other shifts detailed in the report aren't as dramatic. For example, the Rochester area saw a .4 percent increase in the number of people who bike to work, which gave the city the eighth-largest increase nationwide, the report says.

And Rochester drivers are logging fewer miles; they drove 400 million fewer miles in 2011 than in 2006, the report says. Rochester saw a 7.5 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled per capita over that time period, which puts the city in 21st place nationwide. The 7.5 percent figure matches the national average.

The report takes into account the population of an area so that shifts in transportation choices are true shifts and not the result of population growth.

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