Friday, February 24, 2006

No Ferry in Future Port Plans?

Sasaki Associates unveiled its preliminary concept for development at the Port of Rochester last night. For the most part, I think it looks good though it is still quite vague and frankly, I could have done this work in my spare time for a lot less money. Then again, I don't have a catchy name like 'Sasaki' or 'Varoujan Hagopian' so that would have been a tough sell. One thing that caught my eye however was the lack of space for vehicles to board a future ferry/hovercraft operation. The D&C notes, "Each option shows residential development on land south of the terminal, once a staging area for the ferry operation."

Granted, this development will take place over 15 years (if not longer), so there is plenty of time to make adjustments to the plan. But it makes sense to me to include a development scenario that would incorporate a ferry service to Toronto or elsewhere. We won't need as large a staging area as we have today because it's clear that a smaller ferry is the only viable option. Also, the proposed hovercraft service would only carry a fraction of the vehicles that the Spirit of Ontario carried, that is, if a hovercraft would carry vehicles at all.

It was nice to see that the concepts do not preclude light rail or bus rapid transit on the current CSX right-of-way. Personally, I would not live at the Port unless there was a convenient and reliable transit connection to downtown. The current Route 1/Lake Ave bus doesn't cut it. If development at the Port were to follow Sasaki's vision, with up to 850 units of new housing, a hotel, and a multitude of new shops and restaurants, and if a smaller ferry to Toronto were in operation, a dedicated modern transit line would be a successful component of the regional transportation system and could attract investment along its length. On the other hand, it could be a complete failure. But that's what real cities do - they try. It remains to be seen whether Rochester wants to be a real city in the 21st Century.