THE BUS TERMINAL IS DEAD.
This is an obituary.
The transit center is dead.
The multi-million dollar bus station in downtown Rochester – stick a fork in it. The punks have killed it.
It was three months old.
Sure, buses will still run through it. It will limp along.
But its brand is established. Its fate is sealed. All that remains is the finger pointing.
And the impact on downtown development.
Because this was a test, and the city has failed it in astounding fashion. In a downtown in which unruly teens drove retail out of Midtown Plaza and office workers out of a handful of skyscrapers, much was riding on how well the city would prevent disorder in its new bus terminal.
And it turns out it hasn’t.
Opened on Black Friday, the terminal has been embroiled from its very birth in near-daily disruptions and fights. Though seldom mentioned by authorities, Twitter feeds and Facebook videos have given air to the dirty secret.
And a sad reputation has been built.
When you mention the new bus station, people want to talk about the fights. Not the comfort of the bus station, not any contribution to efficiency or profitability. Just the fights.
And that can be fatal to an enterprise.
Call it Irondequoit Mall disease.
When the public loses confidence in the safety of a facility, people vote with their feet. They shun it. And while many people who use public transportation don’t have alternatives, those who do will use them. And new customers will avoid the bus service because of what they’ve heard and seen about the fights at the terminal.
The police chief points to the school district. The mayor calls for community volunteers. The bus company says it’s not to blame. And videos keep getting posted that enrage and frighten people.
And we’re just about at the point of no return.
And that is completely the fault of the city of Rochester. The one thing everybody knew had to be accomplished – the maintenance of good order – has been absent.
Before the terminal opened, I asked the then top person on the bus-station project about public safety, and potential problems with unruly people. She responded adamantly that public order and safety were top concerns and that people should have no fears.
But she’s gone now, and so, apparently, is the bus company’s resolve.
Ditto for City Hall.
The mayor’s uncle was put in charge of bus terminal security – yeah, it’s that kind of town – and has come up completely empty. The job has not gotten done. Further, there is a police substation directly across the street – in downtown, where anti-disorder efforts have focused for years.
And still the trash is acting like trash.
If the rampage breaks out inside the terminal, the police say it’s on the bus company. If the rampage breaks out outside the terminal, the bus company says it’s on the police.
And nobody does a damn thing.
That’s not true.
The mayor has called for community volunteers to come down to the bus terminal to help the young people there successfully board their bus and act appropriately.
Because grannies from the suburbs carry so much more weight with rampaging teens than do armed and uniformed police officers.
The bottom line is this: We need solutions, not excuses.
And the solution is for the police to actually police. For the mayor and chief to allocate the resources necessary to get the job done. Somebody’s got to put their foot down, somebody’s got to bring law and order back to the loitering heart of our city.
Because it’s not happening now.
And a bus terminal built after years and years of lobbying and governmental expenditure is imperiled in its first months of life. Whatever the police department and the mayor’s uncle are doing now isn’t working.
And downtown is imperiled.
As developers are being solicited to invest, and high-priced condos are coming on the market, the ugly reality of downtown Rochester is being broadcast live. Neighbors of downtown bars have posted videos of fights at closing time, and now bus passengers are putting up their own videos.
And nobody wants to invest in or move to that cesspool.
The bus terminal is dead, and downtown is having chest pains.
Only City Hall can make a difference.
And it has chosen not to.
Don’t call for volunteers, Madame Mayor, send in the cops.
Until then, don’t expect anything but spreading gangrene.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2015