Transit Stories: Jenelle Harriff

Rochester, NY: Reconnect Rochester

I grew up in Webster, just outside Rochester, and started riding the bus when I was sixteen. My first job was as an intern at the Board of Elections, and I later attended Monroe Community College (MCC) downtown and in Henrietta. I lived in the Neighborhood of the Arts, so I always took the bus around town.

I went to my first year of college in NYC and was very independent because of the subways, buses, and ferries. That really empowered me as a disabled person. I have one good eye due to childhood cancer, but I have bad depth-perception, so transit is a safer option for me.  

I came back home in 2001 but trying to get around was an adjustment for me, especially after experiencing all of those years of independence and frequent transit service in NYC and Philadelphia. In 2012, I moved to the North Winton Village neighborhood which was serviced by RTS Routes #8, #9, #10, and previously, the #48.  

I was recently job hunting for months and had to eliminate several employers out on Bailey or W. Henrietta Roads because there was no bus service and the OnDemand service does not extend past Marketplace Mall. I had to reject an offer from a prestigious law firm in Linden Oaks, as well, because I would have had to risk my life walking almost a mile down Route 441 since there is no service to that office park.

The lack of service and safe sidewalks cut out so many prospective employers. It really compressed my job hunt and was so discouraging. I have several college degrees and a great job history, so the lack of public transit options really put a linchpin in everything.

Thankfully, I was able to find a consulting position in Canandaigua last fall and was recently promoted to COO! Even more incredibly, I was able to get there by bus! It took a while, but all the connections worked to RTS Ontario: I went from #9 to Blossom Loop, to the Eastview OnDemand, and connected to my next bus to Finger Lakes Gaming, and then the RTS Ontario bus to the West Avenue Hub. My new job is just one block away.

Ultimately, all the waiting for buses and transfers made it so I was pushed to relocate to Canandaigua. Now I can easily walk to work and bus a mile to my incredible doctors. I love supporting the wonderful local restaurants, shops, and farmer’s market, but it was discouraging to move. I loved my city neighborhood and finally had my home and gardens in perfect condition after 11 years of renovations.

I would like to see more and better service to suburban areas and surrounding towns because there are real travel gaps, especially in the evenings and on weekends. I know that if there is more support for transit operations, our Regional Transit Service can meet the needs of our community and help people like me thrive.

This story was originally published on the Reconnect Rochester website as part of a Voices of Transit series.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

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