Tag Archives: Centro

Buses That Don’t Go Downtown

In Syracuse, most major streets lead Downtown. Salina, James, Burnet, Erie, Genesee, Fayette, Onondaga—all of them are good for getting into and out of the city center.

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Most other major streets at least point towards Downtown, even if they don’t reach it. Midland, South Ave, Wolf, Court, and Butternut all end in neighborhoods outside of Downtown, but they all join up with a roughly parallel street that does reach the city center.

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When so many major streets—the ones lined with businesses, the ones running through close-knit neighborhoods—lead Downtown, it makes a lot of sense to run bus lines on all of them and to make all those lines intersect at one spot Downtown at regular intervals. It’s it’s the simplest way to connect all of those different neighborhood main streets, and it’s exactly what Centro does.

But there are plenty of major streets in Syracuse that don’t point towards Downtown at all. Brighton, Geddes, Park, Grant, Oak, Teall, and Westcott are all good streets to run a bus on, but none of them has its own line. Grant Boulevard runs from Eastwood to the train station and Mall, passing through heavily populated parts of the Northside where many people do not own cars. The 80 and 52 buses each run along Grant for a couple of blocks, but it’s impossible to get from one end of that street to the other by bus because Centro won’t run a bus line that doesn’t get its riders to the Downtown Hub.

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The result bad for bus riders in two ways. Buses like the 80 and 52 try to do two contradictory things (go Downtown and serve Grant Boulevard), and they end up doing neither very well. If you’re taking one of these buses to Downtown, then those zigs and zags that it makes on parts of Grant (and also Park Street) are a waste of your time.

The 52 and 80 buses zig and zag across the Northside

At the same time, riders can’t actually use these buses to get along a street like Grant. This makes it really inconvenient to get between two points on one side of town—between Eastwood and Westcott, say, or between Grant Village and the Mall—because you have to go all the way Downtown to make the transfer.

Centro could fix both problems with new bus lines that follow these streets without ever trying to get downtown. Taking Centro’s existing jogs and deviations as a starting point, here are some potential crosstown lines that never go Downtown.

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These bus lines (or ones like them) would make it much easier to get around town. That’s obviously true if you’re traveling along one of these lines (from Skunk City to the Mall, say), but it’s also true for people transferring between two lines. Imagine trying to get from the corner of Colvin and Salina to OCC. Currently, you’d have to ride more than a mile north (away from where you’re going) to connect with the South Ave bus that will take you to OCC. The full trip is 5.5 miles. If there were a bus running East-West on Brighton, though, you could walk ⅓ mile to catch it, ride west to South Ave, connect to the OCC bus there, and reach campus in less than 3.5 miles.

At the same time, these lines would make the Centro’s existing lines more useful by allowing them to run in straight lines. Some James Street buses take an extra 12 minutes to get Downtown because they detour along Teall. A bus running along Teall from Lyncourt to Westcott would eliminate the need for that detour and make Centro’s James Street service faster, more efficient, and more useful to people actually trying to get Downtown.

Right now, Centro is trying to “fill in service gaps” with some money that it just got from New York State. The most egregious gaps in Syracuse’s bus service are temporal—even the busiest lines have service gaps that last more than an hour during the middle of the day—and Centro needs to fill them first.

The next gaps that need filling are the ones on Brighton, Teall, Westcott, Geddes, Grant, Bellevue. Crosstown bus lines on those streets would make it easier, faster, and simpler to get around Syracuse by bus. Combined with the SMTC’s planned BRT service, these new lines would make it easy to live in Syracuse without a car.

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Centro and I81

At the March 22 hearing on public transportation in Syracuse, State officials asked Centro CEO Rick Lee why more people don’t ride the bus. Lee responded that Syracuse is a 20-minute city—overbuilt car-infrastructure and a spread-out population mean that there’s very little traffic, so people who can afford to own a car choose to drive. Magnarelli immediately interjected with “I hope it stays that way.” Rick Lee laughed kind of nervously and muttered ‘no comment.’

This exchange laid bare the absurdity of Centro’s public stance on I81. Centro has refused to take a position on the biggest transportation project that its service area has seen in 50 years, pretending that no matter what happens, Syracuse’s bus service will chug right along. That’s a nice thought, but it’s stupid. The viaduct is an impediment to bus service now, and replacing it with the Grid will make Centro more useful to more people.

Currently, the 30, 58, 62, 68, 76, and Connective Corridor buses all run in the area around the 81/690 interchange. That’s 40 acres of barren land where very few people (often no people at all) get on or off the bus.


Running a bus through the I81 dead zone is a lot like running a bus along an unpopulated stretch of rural road—it adds expense without making the bus more useful to anybody. Centro can’t avoid the I81 dead zone—like it could shorten a rural route—since people need to cross it to get between Downtown and the Eastside.

So the dead zone needs to disappear. That means making it into a place where people live and work—where people will get on and off of all those buses that already run on its streets.

The Grid is Syracuse’s best chance to get rid of the I81 dead zone. The Gifford Foundation envisions new housing, businesses, and institutions in that area, and the Allyn Foundation is working with City Hall on a project that could bring all of those things into that space. ReZone will help by allowing more homes and businesses on those blocks, but it needs to go further by eliminating parking requirements there (and, really, across the entire City).

All of that new building will allow more people to live and work in a part of the City that already has pretty good bus service (and could get even better service), so the bus will be a good option for more people in Onondaga County to get around. That’s how Centro can benefit from the I81 project, and that’s why Centro needs the Grid.

Ending the Spatial Mismatch in Syracuse

Syracuse needs better bus service that empowers all kinds of people to meet all their different daily needs. One of those daily needs is getting to work. In a recent hearing on the effectiveness of public transportation in Syracuse, Assemblymember Pam Hunter addressed that directly when she asked about how Centro could overcome the spatial mismatch—the fact that a lot of jobs are located in the suburbs, but her constituents in the City can’t get to them.

That’s usually how people talk about the spatial mismatch: Jobs are in the suburbs and people who need jobs are in the City, so the solution is to get those people transportation to the suburbs. But running more buses out to the suburbs is no solution because that will just take buses away from existing routes in the City—routes that serve more people more efficiently than a line in the suburbs could.

A better solution is to eliminate the spatial mismatch by encouraging employers to locate where people already live and where the buses already run.

Consider this exchange between Kevin Schwab of CenterState CEO and Senator Rachel May. Schwab told a story about how a business located on Taft Road is difficult to reach by bus and how one of its bus-riding employees has to walk two miles from the bus stop to get to work. Schwab used this anecdote as evidence that Centro should run a bus line along Taft Road. Senator May agreed that it’s difficult for bus riders to get to work in the suburbs, but she also suggested that this company, if it wanted to be able to hire people who don’t own a car, should have set up shop closer to a bus stop. Schwab responded that employers have a hard time finding suitable sites near existing bus lines.

Suitable means cheap. Centro’s best service is in the County’s urbanized center, but the land in the center costs more money, is divvied up into smaller parcels, and is more often polluted than land on the County’s edges.

For a lot of employers, these costs are just too high a price to pay for the benefit of being able to hire bus riders. 70 years of subsidies for private cars and disinvestment in public transportation has marginalized bus riders to the point that they’re too small a portion of the labor market to sway employers’ behavior. Car drivers, on the other hand, have no problem getting employers to take on the enormous costs required to provide free parking.

It’s a question of power. Car drivers have more power over where employers choose to locate than do bus riders. The result is the systematic exclusion of bus riders from employment opportunity. In this City, that’s systematic racial and economic exclusion, it causes poverty and segregation, it hurts the entire region’s economy, and it needs to end. 

In the short term, City Hall and Onondaga County can do their part by supplementing bus riders’ power with incentives for employers to locate on bus lines and/or within walking distance of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. There is plenty of empty land on the Lakefront, at the Inner Harbor, Downtown and along Erie Boulevard where Centro runs good service (and plans to run even better service), and many of these sites are already under SIDA or OCIDA control. Steering economic development to these sites should be a part of County Executive Ryan McMahon’s PIE agenda (poverty, infrastructure, economic development).

In the long term, bus riders will need structural changes to the region’s transportation system in order to gain power in the labor market. Centro needs new investment to provide all-day frequent service that covers enough of the City that many different people can meet all their daily needs. That will make life without a car more feasible for more people, grow Centro’s ridership, empower bus riders in the labor market, and force employers to respond to that newly empowered constituency’s needs. That means building out the two BRT lines that SMTC planned in its SMART1 study, and it means expanding on that study to develop the full BRT network described in the STSA.

There are too many people in Syracuse who can’t get work because the jobs that are available are out in the suburbs and out of reach for people who ride the bus. This travesty is called the Spatial Mismatch, and it’s a problem of power—bus riders don’t have the power to force employers to respond to their needs by locating in places accessible by bus. The solution is to build bus riders’ power. In the short term, this means using economic development to incentivize development on existing bus lines. In the long term, this means investing in Centro so that more people ride the bus as part of their daily lives, increasing bus riders power over employers’ decisions about where to locate.

What Are Buses For?

During a March 22 hearing on public transportation in Syracuse, local legislators asked over and over again why Centro isn’t doing more to get people to work. Assemblymember Pam Hunter asked how more frequent service would help her constituents if it didn’t give them access to jobs in the suburbs, State Senator Rachel May asked why Centro doesn’t use smaller vehicles to provide tailored service for specific employers, and Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli went so far as to suggest that employers should pay Centro directly to get better service for their employees. Through the entire hearing, these legislators assumed that the point of public transportation is to get workers to their jobs—an assumption that Rick Lee, Centro’s CEO, affirmed when he described public transportation as a series of routes that get people to and from work.

That’s an understandable assumption and an understandable focus. The issue at top of so many people’s minds is getting and keeping a job, and a lot of people need Centro in order to do that. One third of people living in Syracuse do not own a car, and two out of every three people who responded to SMTC’s 2018 survey ride the bus to get to work.

But that’s not all the bus is for. That same survey showed that one of every two people ride the bus to go shopping, one of every two use it to keep appointments, one of every four ride Centro to get to school, and one of every four ride the bus for ‘recreation.’

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People in Syracuse who commute by bus choose to do so because, for them, it is the best option—in many cases, the only real option—for traveling any kind of distance in the City. People who ride the bus to work also ride the bus to get around the City to do the various things they do every day, and Centro needs to meet all those needs.

That survey also showed that one third of people who ride the bus do not use it to get to work at all. These might be people who walk, bike, or carpool to work. It might be people who are retired or who are too young to have a job. It might be people who work from home or who do necessary work in the home even if nobody pays them for it. It doesn’t matter why they’re not commuting by bus, what matters is that the bus is still an important part of their daily lives, those lives have value, and Centro needs to meet their needs too.

It’s never a bad thing to ask about how any government service can fight poverty in Syracuse. People in the City need paying jobs, and they need to be able to get to those jobs. But that narrow focus on commuting misses the full and necessary role that Centro plays in so many people’s daily lives.

Buses need to run where people will ride them—sometimes for work, but also for school, for groceries, for appointments, for church, or whatever else it is that some person needs to get done in their day. When Centro provides reliable frequent service to those neighborhoods, then businesses and people seriously concerned about bus access will choose to locate in them. Buses-for-commuting will be the same as buses-for-shopping and buses-for-visiting-family, because the bus will be a viable means to living daily life. After all, that’s what buses are for.

Bus Rapid Transit for the Eastside

ReZone—City Hall’s complete rewrite of its zoning ordinance—assumes that Centro will run some kind of Bus Rapid Transit service in the future. The current draft ordinance includes special zoning around public “transportation terminals,” and the project’s guiding document refers to a “TOD overlay” within .25 miles of BRT stations. SMTC and Centro have planned two potential BRT lines already—and ReZone needs to account for those plans—but Centro needs to get a move on and finish planning the rest of its BRT network before City Hall adopts ReZone as law. Otherwise, Syracuse runs the risk that its new high quality bus service serves neighborhoods where restrictive zoning will limit its success.

The 2014 Syracuse Transit System Analysis identified four other potential BRT corridors, and Mayor Walsh’s transition team identified half of one of those (Downtown to Dewitt) as a priority for his administration.

transition team

BRT service running on Erie Boulevard out to Shoppingtown Mall would pass within walking distance of all the new housing along Genesee Street on the Near Eastside, it would run through other older Eastside neighborhoods, and it would connect those residential areas to major employment centers Downtown and along Erie Boulevard.

This map shows the potential BRT route in red, and it shows Jobs and Persons Per Square Mile—a measure that indicates how many people might use public transportation in an area—in shades of blue. Areas that are not shaded do not have enough people and jobs to support BRT service.

Lots of people already ride the existing 168 bus along Erie Boulevard, so that’s a good route to upgrade with shorter headways and faster runtimes. The Mayor’s transition team probably also chose to single out that route because a new BRT service could run in fully separated bus lanes in Erie Boulevard’s wide median.

But there are problems running BRT service on Erie Boulevard. There is no housing on any of the enormous parcels that line the street from Beech Street all the way out to DeWitt. All that land is zoned for commercial use only—no housing is allowed. Erie Boulevard runs down the middle of a deep valley, so anybody living in the housing that is nearby has to walk up a steep hill just to get home from the bus stop. Shoppingtown Mall—the line’s eastern anchor—is dying, and there are no concrete plans to turn it around. It might not even be possible to put bus lanes in the Erie Boulevard Median because of the State’s plans to use that space for the Canalway Trail.

Given all that, the City’s Eastside might be better off if that BRT service ran on Fayette Street instead. That would bring better bus service to neighborhoods where a lot of people don’t own cars. It would also connect LeMoyne College to the rest of Centro’s BRT network. Ending the line at LeMoyne instead of at Shoppingtown would also shorten the route by 35%, allowing Centro to run more buses more frequently for less money.


Centro could also split the difference between these two options by running the line along Fayette to LeMoyne and then continuing it out to DeWitt along Erie Boulevard, say, or by turning onto Erie at Seeley or Columbus Avenue (like the existing 168 bus does). Those are decisions for actual transportation planners to make in consultation with Centro, the City, and the public, but let’s get them made.

Choose where the bus will go and where it will stop. Then, the ReZone team can make the changes it needs to—like lifting the ban on housing along Erie, or allowing more mixed-use development in Salt Springs—if that BRT service is going to succeed. The clock on ReZone is ticking, and Syracuse needs better bus service now.

Smart City, SMART Buses

City Hall plans to buy all of Syracuse’s streetlights. That will save about $2 million every year, so it’s a no-brainer for a city government staring down bankruptcy. But City Hall will get more than just savings—it will also get control of a network of electrical outlets and poles that stretches across the entire City. City Hall can use this new resource to install a smart city technology called ‘signal priority’ that will improve Centro’s bus service. 

Signal priority lets a traffic light know when a bus is coming. Then, the traffic light can respond to that real-time information by making a minor adjustment to its cycle—staying green a few seconds longer, say, so that the bus can make it through the intersection—so that buses spend less time stuck at red lights.

This means a bus can get across town faster. Minneapolis started using signal priority, and its buses increased their average speed by 4-15%. In Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles the buses got 8-10% faster. That allows riders to spend less time sitting on the bus and more time doing whatever it is they’re on their way to do.

Faster buses are also more frequent buses. Take the 168 bus. Its first run leaves Shoppingtown at 6:02 am and arrives at the Hub at 6:35 am before continuing on as the 364 bus. That’s a 33 minute trip, but with signal priority it might only take 30 minutes. Then, that same bus and driver can leave the Hub three minutes earlier to start the 364 run. If that run is 10% faster too, then the driver can turn around and come back to the Hub even earlier to start a new 168 run.

All that saved time means that the driver and bus are free to make more runs in a single shift. Since the biggest cost of any run is the driver’s pay, that means Centro can run more buses without spending hardly any extra money.

This isn’t to say that Centro should have to pay for all of its service improvements by scrimping and saving the money it’s already got. It—and every other public transportation authority in New York State—needs better dedicated funding in order to offer people the freedom to live without a car, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and to build stronger communities.

But that’s up to New York State and the federal government. Transit signal priority is something that City Hall can do on its own to improve life in Syracuse now. It’s an innovative use of this new municipal resource, and it should be one of the very first acts that this new smart city takes.

Writing ReZone for Better Bus Service

Buses work best where there are lots of people, businesses, and institutions all within walking distance of each other. Zoning laws that allow a mix of people, businesses, and institutions work best in places with good bus service. Transportation planning and land use planning go hand in hand.

In Syracuse, the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing. Take ReZone, City Hall’s once-in-a-generation rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance. It grants a 30% reduction in off-street parking requirements for lots within .25 miles of a public ‘transportation terminal,’ but it doesn’t define what a transportation terminal is. The 2012 Land Use & Development Plan—upon which ReZone is based—suggests that ReZone is talking about stations on a Bus Rapid Transit network:

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The 2014 Syracuse Transit System Analysis identified six “major transportation corridors” for improved bus service, but it did not identify any “fixed stations” along them. The Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council’s SMART1 report does identify station locations, but only for two BRT lines.


It’s anyone’s guess, though, when and if Centro will actually run that BRT service. The fixed stations identified in the SMART1 report don’t actually exist yet, and if the Common Council turned ReZone into law tomorrow, there would be no clear ‘transportation terminals’ in the City to trigger the ordinance’s 30% parking requirement reduction.


In the meantime, City Hall’s very reluctance to zone for transit is affecting Centro’s ability to offer the service. Centro is going to need money from the Federal Transportation Administration in order to build out this BRT network, and the FTA takes a city’s land use policies into account when it decides whether or not to fund a project there. According to the STSA, Syracuse’s current zoning policies hurt its chances of getting funding from the FTA.

Even worse, City Hall keeps revising ReZone in ways that will make Centro’s life harder. One glaring example is the area around the Regional Transportation Center. The RTC is supposed to be the last stop on one of SMART1’s BRT lines. The first ReZone draft would have allowed housing and businesses on all of the parking lots around there, but the current draft actually bans new housing in the area—how’s that for TOD?

Less obviously, each new draft of ReZone has reduced housing opportunity along the corridors that the STSA picked out for BRT service. Around N Salina, Solar, W Fayette, and W Genesee Streets, City Hall has amended its zoning map to either ban or minimize residential development in the very areas where SMTC and Centro are planning to provide better bus service.


The idea of a TOD-overlay makes sense, but it’s impossible to implement while planning for that BRT service is independent from the ReZone project—the overlay won’t come into effect until the BRT service starts running, and the BRT service is difficult to plan until the overlay comes into effect. It’s a catch-22.

City Hall, Centro, and SMTC can fix this with a little cooperation. All three organizations need to get together and narrow the STSA’s transportation corridors to specific streets. City Hall has already said that it wants the eastern half of the Camillus-Fayetteville corridor to run along Erie Boulevard. It shouldn’t be so hard to make similar decisions for the rest of the corridors—will that line’s western half run on Fayette or W Genesee? Will the Northside-Western Lights line run on Gifford or Onondaga? Where will the buses stop?

Once they’ve agreed on specific streets where BRT service would run, the ReZone project team will have enough information to write transit-supportive zoning policies into the new ordinance without relying on an unnecessarily complicated mechanism like the ‘proximity to transit’ parking reduction. That means making all lots within .25 miles of the planned BRT stations MX-4 or R-4—zoning classifications that allow enough housing to mix with businesses and institutions so that people can meet their daily needs on foot.

The project team should also eliminate all minimum parking requirements from ReZone.

These changes won’t cost a penny, they will make land more valuable, and they will lay the groundwork for better bus service in the future.

New York State Needs to Stand Up for Public Transportation

Since Democrats took full control of the state government in Albany on January 9, they have been working overtime, already passing the Reproductive Health Act, GENDA, and voting reform. All of these major pieces of progressive legislation are necessary to push back against the regressive policies coming out of the federal government. They’re part of an agenda that will make New York State a progressive beacon for the nation, and that agenda needs to include better support for public transportation across the State.

In more normal times, the federal government gives money to local transit agencies for capital improvements like new buses, shelters, and bus lanes. When the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council recommended that Centro run a new Bus Rapid Transit service, it picked out Small Starts—a Federal Transportation Administration program designed exactly for this kind of project—as the best place to get the money to build it.



Of course, these aren’t normal times. The current FTA is acting in bad faith, holding back money that it had already promised to local transit agencies:

“FTA’s position for next year’s budget is that the pipeline of transit projects should grind to a halt completely, leaving cities and communities on their own to raise yet more local funding than they already have to complete their projects.”

Because public transportation empowers poor people, because it’s most useful in cities, because it’s environmentally responsible, regressive federal politicians are defunding it in cities across the country.

Clearly, Centro isn’t going to be able to work with this administration’s FTA to provide the kind of bus service that Syracuse really needs—multiple high-frequency routes connecting the City’s most populous neighborhoods to its centers of employment, signal priority at stop lights, new shelters that tell riders when the next bus is coming, dedicated bus lanes.

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And so the same logic that has made it necessary for New York State to pass a law like the Reproductive Health Act also makes it necessary for New York State to increase its support for public transportation. Good bus service is necessary for a progressive society, it’s under attack from a regressive federal government, and New York State has the power and the responsibility to protect and advance it.

Stuck at the Airport

On November 1, elected officials descended on Hancock Airport to announce the end of its 2-year $62.4 million renovation. They gave out quotes about how the bigger terminal and updated exterior would bring “economic growth” and “bolster tourism.” They talked about how airports are “gateways” and “the first impression that many visitors have of our city and our region.”

A bigger airport serving more passengers is also an opportunity to diversify Syracuse’s transportation network. Anyone arriving at the Syracuse airport on a plane has to find some other mode of transportation to reach their final destination. Fly into other cities, and you’ll see signs directing travelers to options like buses, trains, and cars.

We’re missing that opportunity. People flying into Syracuse are limited to using some kind of car, whether it’s a taxi, a rental, a Lyft, or a ride from a friend. Talk about first impressions–someone coming to Syracuse for the first time might leave the airport thinking that this City is too small to even have a public bus system. (Trailways does run extremely limited private bus service between the airport and the RTC).

There are challenges to providing bus service at the airport. Here’s a summary of them from the Syracuse Transit System Analysis:

“Challenges to providing transit service to the airport include the ample, convenient, low-cost parking located directly across from the terminal, and relatively low passenger volume. The lower passenger volumes and varying arrival and departure schedules would also make it difficult to provide a service that is convenient for all airport users. The location of the airport terminal would require too much time off-route for the airport to be a regular stop on one of the trunk routes. Finally, Airport employees work under a variety of shift schedules, making mass transit service expensive and ineffective.”
STSA pg 63

The airport is too far away from anything else to be a stop regular stop on an existing bus line, and it doesn’t generate enough regular traffic on its own to support a new dedicated bus service.

Those are real challenges, but they’re not insurmountable. The STSA suggests one option: running a shuttle service between the airport and the RTC. A more regional approach to public transportation could also make bus or rail service to the airport more feasible. Any new service would cost money, but we already know that New York State is willing to spend money on the airport–why not finish the job and truly connect it to the City.

TOD at the RTC

Centro is looking at running a Bus Rapid Transit line between Syracuse University and the Regional Transportation Center. To the south, that line’s last stop will be in the middle of a neighborhood with lots of jobs, lots of people, and little parking. That all makes University Hill a place that where good bus service will work. To the north, the line will end in the middle of a bunch of parking lots and vacant land. That’s the kind of place where bus service will fail.

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City Hall knows this, and it intended to fix the problem. The Land Use & Development Plan, written in 2012, says:

“Once major transportation corridors, to be served by bus rapid transit or some other regional public transportation mode, and fixed stations are identified… [City Hall should] designate the area immediately surrounding these stations as appropriate for pedestrian-friendly, high-density, mixed-use development”
LUP pg 31

The Plan doubles down on that when it designates the area as an “Industrial Legacy” and then says:

“New development and infill construction should be tightly focused within and around Neighborhood Centers (neighborhood business districts), Urban Core, Industrial Legacy, and Adapted Mansion character areas… Any new residential development in these areas will increase their density, support the economic base of these neighborhood centers, promote walkable development patterns, and support public transit service.”
Pg 38 of LUP

And the Plan gets very specific about what needs to happen in the area when it says:

“the area surrounding the Central New York Regional Market, Alliance Bank Stadium, and the Regional Transportation Center includes large areas of surface parking and vacant or underutilized property. When the Regional Transportation Center is connected to the Empire Corridor High Speed Rail this area will present a will-situated opportunity for high-density, transit-oriented development (TOD)… Zoning amendments should be made now to encourage TOD and prevent inappropriate industrial infill that might discourage this kind of development”
LUP pg 53

The Land Use & Development Plan talks over and over about how the area around the RTC has the potential to be a neighborhood where people don’t need to own a car, but that can only happen if enough people move to the area to support things like good bus service and small business. That’s why the Land Use & Development Plan recommended rezoning the area around the RTC to allow a lot more housing.

When City Hall put out its first draft of the new zoning map in February 2017, it followed the Land Use & Development Plan’s recommendation and made that area MX-3. Land zoned MX-3 can be used for all kinds of things including 1- and 2-family houses, apartment buildings, boarding houses, bars, microbreweries, restaurants, and office space. When City Hall released its second draft map in June 2017, though, it had made that area Light Industrial, and when the most recent map came out in March 2018, that area was just zoned Industrial.


An Industrial property can have a lot of the same commercial uses as a property zoned MX-3–it can have bars and microbreweries and restaurants and office space–but Industrial land cannot have any residences at all–no apartment buildings, no 1- or 2-family houses, nothing. It’s pretty clear, then, that if this area is zoned for Industry, then it cannot be the sort of “mixed-use” or “transit oriented” neighborhood that City Hall’s own Land Use & Development Plan says it needs to be.

It doesn’t have to be that way. City Hall should implement its own recommendations and rezone the area around the RTC to allow for both commercial and residential buildings. That will allow for the kind of neighborhood where Centro’s new BRT service will be most useful, the kind of neighborhood where there are lots of jobs and lots of people, the kind of neighborhood that will make this corner of Syracuse a good place to live.