Dwight Mengel

Department of Social Services Chief Transportation Planner Dwight Mengel said last week that CityVan, a shared-ride pilot program for Newfield and Enfield residents, will end at year's end.

CityVan, a shared-ride service for outermost Newfield and Enfield residents, will end its run as of December 31.

    Department of Social Services Chief Transportation Planner Dwight Mengel said the $163,000 federal grant that funded the nearly two-year pilot program has run out.

     “We wanted to try out CityVan as an idea,” Mengel said. “And I’ll say now that it’s met our criteria for success.”

    That criteria for success, Mengel said, was to provide affordable and efficient transportation for the underserved.

    A partnership between DSS and Ithaca Dispatch, CityVan makes daily rounds from Newfield and Enfield into the Ithaca area, transporting rural residents to and from work, to doctors appointments, grocery stores or to the Commons to catch a TCAT bus.

    To ride CityVan, residents call Ithaca Dispatch a day in advance. Ithaca Dispatch then groups requests and draws up the next day’s route. At 7 a.m., the lone CityVan starts making its rounds.

    “It’s regrettable for the pilot to end,” Mengel said. “That’s why we’re making an extensive outreach to CityVan riders to assist them with the transition.”

    Those who’ve relied on the service are encouraged to seek out additional transportation options online at www.way2goinfo.org or by calling DSS Mobility Program Specialist Cynthia Kloppel at 607-274-5022.

    Beginning in March 2010, CityVan was bred out of a need for affordable transportation for Newfield and Enfield residents who lived beyond TCAT’s routes.

    “We sat down with taxi operators and other operators and talked about an idea for a service, an idea that came to be called CityVan,” Mengel said. “What we were looking for was to reduce the cost for rural riders. We wanted to have the cost per passenger be less than somebody would pay if using a taxi. That was our goal.”

    Mengel said a typical cab fare into Ithaca from the Enfield area is about $19, which isn’t exactly cheap for rural families on tight budgets.

    The more passengers, the cheaper the cost for each, Mengel said. With a CityVan at capacity (eight riders), the fare was a more reasonable $2 to $3 per rider.

    CityVan’s ridership has steadily grown since its inception, averaging around 300 riders per month. As of September 1, about 2,500 riders utilized the service in 2011. When it ends in late December, CityVan will have likely serviced more than 5,000 Newfield and Enfield residents during its entire 21-month run.

    Asked of the possibility of CityVan or a similar service returning to Tompkins County in the future, Mengel said he hopes so but economic uncertainty makes it difficult to speculate.

    “Right at this moment, almost everything is unsettled,” he said. “When there is clarity we’ll know what the environment is.”

    Mengel said a future ride-sharing service would need some logistical improvements – online reservations, for example, but the overall goal would remain the same.

    “Whatever types of services we put out there, we need to fill seats and meet the needs of residents,” he said. “We are very interested in helping volunteer driver programs, in helping to educate people to use ride-sharing services that make living in Tompkins County – especially in our rural communities -- so beneficial and mutually supportive.”

    While CityVan will enter long-term parking at year’s end, Cynthia Kloppel in the DSS offices said there is still another month or so to utilize the service. Newfield and Enfield residents may request CityVan on the weekdays by calling 277-7777.

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