This weekend we spent some time in Rochester with my in-laws. I learned that my uncle in-law used to take the subway to get to high school. The subway! The subway was torn down and replaced with a highway called the I-490. The I-490 is the road that cuts east-west across the city.
Now if you look at the map for the subway, you can see how the I-490 was probably built on top of the blue line.
Now take a look at the map below — Indian trails are overlaid onto the City. The blue subway line/I-490 looks like it used to be an Indian trail. If also looks like the horrible “inner loop” (which is a big highway that chokes off the downtown from the rest of the city) was also an Indian trail.
The first time that I drove through Rochester, it was clear to me that this was a very car-oriented city. I figured that the great highway battles of the 60s and 70s that took place in Toronto and New York did not happen in Rochester (and if it did, those in favour of building highways won the day). I also assumed that the highways that crisscross the region must have been an invention of that era. And yet, the routes – circling the downtown and cutting east-west across the region clearly have a much longer history. While the technologies used to travel — by foot, by subway and by car — have changed over time, the actual pathways have remained remarkably consistent.