Mayor Lovely Warren has called on the Regional Transit Service (RTS), and the Rochester City School District (RCSD), to stop transferring students downtown, following an April 15 incident in which an innocent bystander was injured during an altercation between students at the RTS Transit Center.
“Years of experience is showing us that, when large numbers of students from different schools congregate at a single transfer point – whether it is the transit center, Liberty Pole Plaza or the old Midtown Plaza — violence is the inevitable result,” Mayor Warren wrote in a letter to William Carpenter, chief executive officer of RTS, and Bolgen Vargas, RCSD superintendent.
In addition, the Rochester Police Department has charged 16-year-old Ezekiel Panton with felony assault due to the altercation, and, two days prior to the event, officials said another teenager was stabbed during a fight inside the center, and had been transported to Strong Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.
As a result, the city said it will begin increased police patrols at the center, but Warren still stressed the need for RCSD and RTS to formulate their own permanent plan for transporting students; one that will take students directly from schools to their neighborhoods, and back, bypassing downtown.
Last month, RTS and RCSD announced that a new transportation plan would reduce the number of the 1,600 students who transfer at the center daily by half, beginning in May.
However, Warren said, that’s not enough.
“Logic dictates that you should stop creating those congregations, and no longer bus students through downtown Rochester,” she wrote. “If that solution increases the cost of providing transportation for city school students, so be it. You must put safety ahead of cost.”
Warren did not indicate how much re-routing the students would cost, but she did mention monitoring the students in the center should not be the responsibility of the RPD.
“These patrols represent an unfair imposition on city taxpayers, and deprive other areas of the city with the police resources they deserve,” the mayor wrote. “I am calling on you … to take your responsibilities for students and riders seriously, by taking action once and for all to fix this situation.”
As a result, RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas released the following statement regarding the matter:
“Even complete elimination of downtown bus routes for students will not guarantee an end to youth violence, at the transit center or elsewhere in our city. I have long said that the Rochester City School District cannot do it alone. Mayor Warren echoed this position yesterday when she said that we cannot do it alone as a city, and the police department can’t do it alone. I agree with Mayor Warren that we need to hold young people accountable when they act out, and we need to engage their parents in requiring proper behavior.”
In addition, RTS released the following additional statement, saying:
“This morning’s unfortunate event was the direct result of deliberate, violent behavior that was aimed at another person. Our staff provided immediate care to our customer, and the assailant was apprehended immediately. The two incidents that occurred this week at the RTS Transit Center are disheartening, frustrating, and unacceptable. The unfortunate reality is that they resemble other incidents that are becoming increasingly common in our community.”
“This is not a situation RTS can solve on its own. We continue our collaborative work with Mayor Warren, and the RPD, to insure that appropriate security is in place at all times. The next step in the rerouting plan we developed with the Rochester City School District, and launched on March 19, goes into effect on May 4. The total number of students transferring at the transit center will be reduced by approximately 2,000, nearly 60 percent fewer. The safety of our customers – especially the four million customers who have been served at the transit center since it opened – and our employees remains our highest priority. ”