Rochester’s Abandoned Rail Line Is a Charming Ruin

In Rochester, New York, the remains of a rapid transit system provide a canvas for graffiti artists

Rochester Subway
Rochester Subway Alex Tong

Sometimes, experiments in mass transit don’t pan out. The push out to the suburbs after World War II killed the dreams of many a city planner, and their legacy lies in (very photogenic) ruins. In Paris, the Petite Ceinture, an old steam line, is a favorite of urban explorers. In Cincinnati, the abandoned remains of a never-used subway system are opened once a year for tours. In Rochester, officials are still trying to figure out what to do with the the remains of a rapid transit system, built in 1927 and then abandoned within just thirty years.  

Right now, Rochester's abandoned rail system provides a canvas for graffiti artists and a gloomy backdrop for photographers:

<a href="">Alex Tong</a>

But some Rochester locals think it could be much more. From The Atlantic Cities:

The covered portion downtown can still easily be explored...For now, it serves as a popular destination for urban explorers and graffiti artists. As more cities find ways to reuse their above-ground railways, Rochester sits on a unique underground asset. "All I need to do is to take a walk along the Highline," says Governale, "and it becomes painfully clear to me that we're missing out on something."

New York City’s High Line is one of the most notable success stories in rehabilitating an abandoned transit line. The 1.45 mile long park snakes over the streets of Manhattan drawing both tourists and locals. And now it seems like every other city wants one—Chicago, London, Mexico City. Even New York wants another High Line–like success: one enterprising group is currently working to create the Lowline, an underground park that would be located in an old trolley terminal on New York’s Lower East Side.

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