TCAT boarding

With large scale projects such as Carpenter Business Park and City Harbor on the horizon for Ithaca’s West Side, Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) has been working with developers to ensure the residents of such developments have easy access to public transportation. 

For the riders of the Route 13 bus, things are going to get busier. Since this route will be adding stops once the Carpenter Business Park and City Harbor developments are completed, TCAT will be looking to someone to examine how to accommodate the new stops and new riders, according to Matthew Yarrow, TCAT’s assistant general manager.

“TCAT is issuing an RFP to find a consultant that can help us with a decennial route network planning process called the Transportation Development Plan (TDP),” Yarrow said. “The TDP will include public meetings and outreach. Several larger questions that TCAT needs to answer regarding how we will adjust routes and extend service to areas that have good demand for transit will be part of the TDP. This includes the question of how best to serve these waterfront development. By rolling it into the TDP process, we can ensure community input and we gain the outside perspective of a consultant.”

At this time it is unknown how many stops will be added to Rte. 13, though, Yarrow believes about four to six stops will be created. However, this could also mean some existing stops are moved or replaced entirely. One plan to keep service on the Rte. 13 bus running smoothly is to keep the buses off N. Meadow St. which can develop notoriously bad traffic. The City Harbor development will have buses drive through parking lots and loop around. Currently, buses just drive around the TCAT garage in the area. While these developments will affect one bus line, the growing landscape for development in Ithaca means the effects of large-scale developments on TCAT will be fluid for now. 

“I would like to be able to simply add service and adjust routes to accommodate developments whose residents or clientele will actively ride transit,” Yarrow said. “However, TCAT has very real constraints in terms of bus fleet, facility size, financial and human resources. So to a large extent, the question becomes: “can development more effectively support public transit through monetary investment/incentivization of residents to use public transportation?” I am working with a group of students from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs to look into how other cities in NY and beyond have dealt with this question. It is great to be able to get this kind of support with research that I personally don’t have time to do.” 

According to Yarrow, the answers to some of the questions proposed by new developments hinge on the ability for TCAT to adapt to the opportunities presented to them. For now, TCAT has made progress on getting the word out about some of the bus routes being changed. One element that remains to be explored, Yarrow said, is the ability of local municipalities to take the lead in the process of recommending or requiring certain transportation-related programs be a part of larger developments. 

Frameworks for this can be provided through programs such as a Transportation Management Association (TMA) will provide a framework for sustainable transportation programs or a Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Yarrow said. Aside from implementing these types of public-private partnerships, TCAT could directly negotiate with large developers. The primary challenge in taking this on is finding ways to cover higher operating costs TCAT will incur from taking this on. Along with TCAT, several other local organizations, such as the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) and the Center for Community Transportation (CCT), have been working to promote a TDM strategy for Ithaca. 

As development on the waterfront increases, this discussion will continue. Yarrow is confident that as the waterfront grows this could lead to getting more people to use sustainable transportation as opposed to keeping them in single-occupancy vehicles. He’s also confident this could lead to conversations relating to spending money on expanding parking in that area, or having a reasonable amount of parking and alternative modes of transportation including public transit. 

“People in nearby neighborhoods will have access to the medical facilities and other services associated with each development,” Yarrow said. “The waterfront will become more of a destination. However, those who travel the Meadow St. corridor know, local traffic is a concern. There is an opportunity now to build in a way that doesn’t create more traffic issues, but rather provides people with a range of options that help tie existing neighborhoods with the new residential developments on the other side of Meadow St. I hope the community at large can rise to this challenge so that this opportunity is realized.”

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