One month has passed since intercity buses were moved to Green Street, and since then the transition has had a few bumps, though it is slowly being refined. However, in order to ensure some of these bumps are smoothed out, the City of Ithaca Common Council voted at their latest meeting to instill a bus permit fee.
The city wants to use the money for infrastructure changes to Green Street to accommodate more buses as well as alter the sidewalks. Originally the fee was set to be $15 but was amended down to $5 per departure at the behest of the bus companies, Mayor Svante Myrick said, which balked at the initial price but had communicated that they would be amenable to a $5 charge.
Myrick, and most council members, agreed that it made economic sense to pull some money from the bus companies due to the cost of the infrastructure updates necessary to handle the increased bus traffic, which Myrick said the city believes will cost around $200,000. The move to Green Street was forced by the retirement of the operators of the West End Bus Station that had run for many years.
Myrick also said they would want some cooperation from the bus companies to ensure there aren't too many buses on Green Street at one time, as well as foresight from the companies when busy days are coming up, such as when students are heading home from the local colleges.
Axel Hellman, a founder of OurBus, spoke as the leader of a smaller bus company that is just one of many affected by the fee. He found the reduction in the fee a relief, despite some of the burdens it still creates.
"The City originally proposed a fee of $20 per departure, and then $15, so it is a relief that the fee was reduced to $5 per departure,” Hellman said. “Though smaller, the cost is still significant when multiplied across all arrivals and departures through the year. What affects our business more is that we may have to fix our schedules up to one year in advance, which would hinder our ability to make timetable adjustments that our customers request, or add new routes. [...] What I hope to do is to work with the city on our schedules to prevent too many buses from being in the same place at the same time, but on a more frequent basis than once a year."
During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Hellman discussed how this fee shouldn’t be allowed based on a small part of New York State law. This part of the Vehicle and Traffic Law stipulates the additional traffic regulations allowed for cities having a population in excess of one million, which includes, “the charging of tolls, taxes, fees, licenses or permits for the use of the highway or any of its parts, where the imposition thereof is authorized by law.” The law, though, does not say anything about cities that have populations less than one million.