Article From the Winter 2002 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
A few years back, Bernie Weis favored us with the donation of a set of scrapbooks he kept when he was a teenager growing up in Rochester. You may recall Bernie produced the nice article in our Fall issue about the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company’s centennial. He’s always had a fascination for anything with wheels on it, and that can be easily seen by browsing through these wonderful scrapbooks.
Bernie carefully cut and pasted articles from several local newspapers, plus national magazines when appropriate, whenever he came across something pertaining to transportation. True, most of this material is available on microfilm at the library, but in these scrapbooks, it’s all laid out in chronological order and you don’t have to hunt through all the other stuff!
We always enjoy searching for something in these scrapbooks, but we keep getting side tracked on interesting photos and articles. As an example, while we were looking through the July 1951 – February 1952 volume, we realized we were looking at clippings that were exactly half a century old. Hmm…anniversary time. One subject was a 1951 Christmas Eve traffic jam downtown that was declared "worst in the city’s history" by William A. Lang, Vice President of the Rochester Transit Corporation. Some buses ran close to an hour and a half late, when holiday shoppers "swarmed" the city’s central shopping district, according to the Rochester Times-Union article dated January 24, 1952.
Lang was quoted from a speech he gave to the Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Club, in which he expressed deep concern for the lack of strict enforcement of traffic regulations, citing problems such as parking in bus stops, commercial vehicles unloading in the central district, and motorists clogging intersections. He also called for an extension of the rush hour ban on left turns downtown.
Traffic congestion prevented RTC from efficiently providing service to its 180,000 daily bus riders, and the "all-time high" of 168,000 passenger and commercial vehicles in Monroe County meant things were only going to get worse. By the way, today’s RTS daily ridership is just over 30,000, while the count of passenger cars (not including commercial vehicles) in Monroe County is now over 500,000. Those cars aren’t clogging the streets downtown anymore, either.
Meanwhile, Sunday bus service was reduced, effective January 20, 1952. Intervals between buses were lengthened (from 10 minutes to 13, and from 12 minutes to 15 minutes) and Sunday evening service on some lines was sharply curtailed. According to a January 22 Democrat & Chronicle article, there were no rider complaints registered, and receipts from fares were about equal to the Sunday before the change. Not that running the bus company was without its rider complaints, however. An exchange of letters over a driver’s reluctance to make change for a dollar made for interesting reading in the Rochester papers that winter, fifty years ago.