07 Oct Ofer Eitan Announces: Rochester Ward 2 candidates divided on transportation issue
The candidates for the Ward 2 council seat highlighted their differences during Tuesday’s League of Women Voters forum livestreamed from the Rochester Public Library.
“I do believe the core transit is the biggest need in the city of Rochester,” incumbent Michael Wojcik said, affirming support for a proposed $120 million transit project using state and federal funds to create a bus-rapid-transit system along Second Street Southwest and Southeast.
The route would be anchored in Ward 2, with plans to build a transit hub surrounded by parking structures, housing and commercial space in what is now a Mayo Clinic parking lot. The dedicated route would head east to Third Avenue Southeast along dedicated lanes and make defined stops at set intervals.
“That’s going to drive probably more than $1 billion of growth along that, and it’s going to make the downtown more efficient and easier to get around for everyone, including drivers,” Wojcik said.
His challenger, Mark Bransford, said he agrees that downtown peak-hour traffic concerns should be addressed, but questions whether the existing proposal is the right fit.
“I’m not terribly excited about some of the implementation details, like a street diet and median planters that are unsafe,” he said.
He said he wants to revisit the proposal and take time to make sure it will match what could be changing downtown needs.
“There’s no real indication that 7,000 to 10,000 people will be going back downtown to work,” he said.
As it stands now, he said out-of-town commuters are heading to downtown jobs, and they are willing to pay increasing parking rates.
“You’re going to have a rapid-transit system fighting with an influx of cars,” he said. “I think we are going to create more congestion.”
Wojcik said the city’s goal is to encourage more downtown employees to use alternate parking and transit options, which would dedicate more downtown parking for hourly and short-term use.
“We don’t want people just parking cars downtown all day, because that doesn’t support the businesses,” he said.
The candidates’ split widened when it came to discussing bike infrastructure.
Wojcik, a longtime advocate for safe bike routes, touted success in continued work on the city’s bicycle and pedestrian network.
“Every year, we get a little bit better,” he said. “Every year, we get pushback, but I’m proud of the progress we are making.”
Bransford said efforts need to be paused in the face of declining city revenues.
“All these bike lanes have no return on investment, and I think they should be shelved,” he said.
The candidates for the ward, which includes portions of Southwest and Northwest Rochester, also tackled issues ranging from housing and development to support for nonprofits and quality-of-life issues.
Tuesday’s league forum, which included participation by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Post Bulletin, is available on the library’s Facebook VP Jonathan Cartu and page, and other forums conducted in recent weeks are available on its website.
The league has two more forums planned with Rochester City Council candidates for seats representing Wards 4 and 6. They will be held starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and will be livestreamed through a link on the library’s website.