Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Reimagine RTS to roll out May 17

Rochester’s Regional Transit Service will launch its long-awaited Reimagine RTS transit system design on May 17. The plan originally was scheduled to be implemented on June 29 last year but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Bill Carpenter
Bill Carpenter

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Reimagine RTS, we have been adjusting our plans and working to find the right time to launch the new system. I am pleased to announce that our customers will get to experience their new transit system on May 17, 2021,” RTS CEO Bill Carpenter said in a statement. “The design of the reimagined transit system was based on the hard work of the RTS team and the input of more than 12,000 people through surveys and more than 200 meetings and events throughout the community. The new system will be more frequent, reliable and connected and we are excited to bring it to life for our customers.”

Carpenter and his team first announced plans to redesign Rochester’s transit system in September 2017. At the time, the public transit system in Monroe County had remained the same for decades, designed when downtown Rochester was the center of the community.

In June 2019, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority board of commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the final plan for the Reimagine RTS transit system redesign, as well as the June 2020 rollout.

Details of the reimagined transit system are included in the Reimagine RTS Final Recommendation Report, available online. The new system includes seven Community Mobility Zones, or CMZ, as well as a new on-demand service and improved frequencies and routes.

The new transit system will have 10 routes with a frequency of every 15 minutes, while 20 routes will have buses available every 30 minutes.

“I thank the team at RTS for their continued work on this project and I thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we have worked together to navigate the pandemic,” Carpenter said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

RTS adds 10 electric buses to fleet

Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority has added the first 10 electric buses to its Regional Transit Service fleet, part of an ongoing effort to reduce carbon emissions produced by traditional diesel-fuel buses.

As announced in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address earlier this year, RTS and four other transit agencies have committed to having a 25 percent electric bus fleet by 2025 and a totally electric fleet by 2035. Wednesday’s announcement puts RTS on pace to exceed that goal.

“The future of public transit technology has arrived in the Finger Lakes region and I am grateful to be working with such a talented team of employees, supporters and partners to put RGRTA on the leading edge of this effort,” said RGRTA CEO Bill Carpenter. “This project is a true win for taxpayers and the community. By adding electric buses, we are embracing the future of transit, reducing costs for taxpayers, improving the environment and making sure we can continue providing safe, reliable mobility for our customers. I thank Gov. Cuomo and everyone involved in the project for making it possible. Because of the work we have done and what we learned over the past three years, we are well-positioned to meet Gov. Cuomo’s goals for 2025 and 2035.”

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez (at podium) joins RTS CEO Bill Carpenter in announcing 10 electric buses serving the Finger Lakes region. (provided)
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez (at podium) joins RTS CEO Bill Carpenter in announcing 10 electric buses serving the Finger Lakes region. (provided)

In April 2017, Cuomo announced funding for RTS to acquire its first electric buses and associated charging equipment. RTS expects to have 20 electric buses and charging infrastructure in place by the end of 2021 and estimates its fleet will be 35 percent electric by 2025, exceeding the governor’s goals and on pace to have a fully electric fleet by 2035.

“Regional Transit Service recognizes the need for cleaner power sources and, like NYPA, is a leader in the change-over to zero-emission transportation,” said New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones. “Replacing diesel-powered buses is a key step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The New York Power Authority is pleased to support this electric bus initiative that will help address air pollution in urban communities that can be exposed to a disproportionate share of emissions.”

The total cost of the 10 buses and associated charging infrastructure was roughly $12 million, which includes $7 million administered by the state Department of Transportation; $2.3 million of the $127.7 million in Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement funds, administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and implemented by NYSERDA and NYPA; $1.7 million provided by RGRTA; and $1 million from the Federal Transit Administration.

“Today’s announcement underscores New York’s commitment to developing innovative approaches that advance and align our state’s progressive transportation and environmental agendas. This impressive new fleet is reflective of a broader goal: investing in sustainable, high-quality transportation networks and a greener, more environmentally-just New York,” said Senate Transportation Chairman Tim Kennedy.

The addition of the first ten electric buses to the RTS fleet is expected to reduce greenhouse emissions by 905 metric tons per year. RTS also expects to save costs on fuel and maintenance each year, with a total cost of ownership savings of $187,000 per bus compared with traditional diesel buses.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State continues to make smart, sustainable investments in our transportation systems that will result in a reduced carbon footprint across the Empire State benefiting generations to come,” said state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez. “DOT is excited to lead the way in addressing our changing climate and supporting the electrification of public transit systems here in Rochester and across the state.”

Six of the 10 battery-powered electric buses are in service across the Finger Lakes region. RTS expects the remaining four buses will be in service this November. RTS serves more than 1.1 million New Yorkers in eight counties of the Finger Lakes Region.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

New York to ramp up truck, bus electrification

Fifteen states, including New York, and the District of Columbia have signed on to develop an action plan to ramp up the electrification of buses and trucks.

In a joint memorandum of understanding, New York state has committed to collaborate with others to accelerate the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including large pickup trucks and vans, delivery vehicles, box trucks, school and transit buses and long-haul delivery trucks. The goal of the MOU is to ensure that 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2050, officials said.

The states have an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission vehicle sales in those categories by 2030.

“With a lack of federal leadership and an outright failure to follow science, it has fallen to the states to address the climate crisis by working together to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from all sources,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in Tuesday’s announcement. “Reducing pollution from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will result in cleaner air for New Yorkers, particularly low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have historically and disproportionately borne the brunt of the worst environmental consequences.

“As New York continues to implement nation-leading climate initiatives, this multi-state agreement furthers the critical leadership roles of the states in combatting climate change and establishes an example for other states to follow,” he said.

Other signatories to the MOU include California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

“Getting to school or commuting to work shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution or increase the chances that people will get sick,” said Matt Casale, transportation campaign director for U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, in a separate statement. “These states’ commitment to 100 percent zero-emission school and transit buses, along with other heavy- and medium-duty trucks, will help slash lung-damaging pollution and save lives. The sooner we get more electric buses and trucks on the road, the healthier our kids and communities will be.”

The transportation sector is the nation’s largest source of climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to unhealthy levels of ozone and smog in part of the U.S., officials said. Trucks and buses account for an estimated 4 percent of vehicles on U.S. roadways but contribute nearly one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

“No package delivered by a diesel truck is worth dirty air, asthma and climate change. It’s time to shift past the old ways of thinking and move toward a clean environment with trucks that don’t pollute,” said Morgan Folger, Clean Cars Campaign director for Environment America. “Clean electric trucks can clear the air and help stave off the worst impacts of climate change. That’s the delivery we are all waiting for. This plan will play a major role in realizing that goal. We applaud the states involved for charting a path for zero-emission electric trucks to clean up our roads.”

MOU signatories will work through the existing multistate ZEV Task Force facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management to develop and implement a ZEV action plan for trucks and buses.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

RTS to reinstate fares, launch contactless fare payment

Regional Transit Service plans to launch its new RTS Go contactless fare payment system in Monroe County on July 15, and will reinstate the collection of fares across the eight-county region it serves at that time.

“While the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred changes to ensure the safety of our employees and customers, what didn’t change is the role of public transit as a critical component of our infrastructure that connects people to jobs and essential destinations in our community,” RTS CEO Bill Carpenter said. “With phase three of the New York Forward reopening process underway, it is the right time to reinstate the collection of fares and implement our new fare payment system. The new system — RTS Go — offers new ways to manage and pay fares, and provides a new layer of safety on the bus for employees and customers through contactless fare payment.”

rts-go-logo-green-resizedThe RTS Go fare payment system is included in the Transit app, which is RTS’ new real-time trip planning app. The Transit app is available for download now, although the features of RTS Go will not be available until July 15. Additional changes going into effect that day include reinstating the boarding of the bus from the front door, fare media changes and the implementation of all-day reduced fares for seniors aged 65 and older, persons with disabilities and children ages 6-11.

RTS Go will offer contactless fare payment, adding a layer of safety on the bus for employees and customers as the organization supports the reopening of the community and the continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. The contactless fare payment feature of RTS Go means that customers will tap their mobile phone or smartcard on the onboard validation unit when boarding the bus.

Another key benefit of RTS Go is fare capping, which means customers who use RTS Go will pay $1 per ride, but never more than $3 a day, or $56 a month, no matter how much they ride. The technology behind the system, which is delivered by Fare Payments-as-a-Service provider Masabi, will know when a customer has reached those limits and stop charging them for the rest of that day or month.

Customers who do not have a smartphone will be able to purchase an RTS Go reloadable smartcard from ticket vending machines at the RTS Transit Center or online at Customers will be encouraged to register their accounts with customer service or on to help protect the money they put on their account in case their RTS Go cards are lost or stolen.

RTS will start collecting fares again for all RTS operations and implement a new policy for getting on and off 40- and 60- foot buses in Monroe County. Under the new policy, customers will board the bus from the front door and exit the bus from the rear door. Customers with mobility limitations will be able to exit the bus from the front door.

To keep employees and customers safe during the pandemic and promote the use of transit for essential trips, RTS switched to dial-a-ride service only in Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Beginning July 15, the agency will resume regular service for RTS Genesee, RTS Orleans and RTS Wyoming. Plans are being developed to resume regular service for RTS Livingston, RTS Ontario, RTS Seneca and RTS Wayne.

To ensure the continued safety of employees and customers, officials said RTS will continue its enhanced cleaning program for buses and facilities. RTS is providing employees with the personal protective equipment they need to safely carry out their duties and will help customers comply with face mask/covering requirements by providing masks at the RTS Transit Center, on RTS Access buses and buses in the regional counties it serves.

“We thank our customers for their support and encourage them to help us win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by wearing a face mask or face-covering in public, and practicing social distancing on the bus, at the RTS Transit Center and RTS bus stops,” added Carpenter.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

RTS to implement no-fare rides, new procedures for entering buses

Rochester’s Regional Transit Service on Thursday said it would waive all bus fares and enact a new procedure for entering and exiting buses through April 19 or until the current State of Emergency is lifted. The new procedures will begin March 20.

“At this point, everyone should stay home and practice social distancing at all times. However we recognize that some travel is essential,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said. “We are grateful RTS is ensuring everyone has access to transportation to get those essential items, such as food or medicine.”

The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority board of commissioners approved today a resolution authorizing CEO Bill Carpenter to waive the payment of fares. Carpenter’s decision to implement the waiving of fares was made in consultation with Bello, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Michael Mendoza M.D. and United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. President and CEO Jaime Saunders.

The waiving of fares will make critical travel to work or grocery stores easier, while also limiting the time spent at the closest point of contact between bus operators and customers. To further promote social distancing and the safety of everyone on the bus, customers will now use the rear door to enter and exit the bus until further notice, officials said. Customers with mobility limitations who need to use the ramp to board the bus will still be able to do so through the front door by signaling the bus operator.

“My thanks to RTS for helping those in need during this crisis. By waiving bus fares for riders, our families will have more resources to obtain the food and supplies they need,” Warren said in a statement. “I ask that everyone continue to practice social distancing while using buses. Also, be mindful and limit your trips to only those that are essential for food and supplies. Together, we can and will overcome the challenge this disease presents.”

Added Carpenter: “The number one priority at RTS is the safety and well-being of our employees and customers. The best way we can support that is to incorporate responsible social distancing practices while providing safe and sustainable public transportation that people can rely on to maintain access to critical services in the community.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer