Signs of Sustainability

Transportation for sustainability: move people, not cars

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Way2Go, a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, has a mission to provide information and education that connects people with transportation options and facilitates new community transportation solutions.

Way2Go partners on numerous transportation projects providing education and outreach on mobility challenges and solutions in Tompkins County and beyond. We also share information in person and online through the Way2Go website, which houses an online directory of every transportation service in Tompkins County for local and regional travel, how-to videos, tips and tools and ways to get involved in community initiatives.

Way2Go’s work is just one component of community-wide efforts involving transportation providers and organizations that we partner, collaborate and innovate with to make transportation both more accessible and more sustainable.

Actions toward a more sustainable approach to transportation is critical. In 2017, transportation claimed the top spot as the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and in New York state. According to the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan, 61% of Tompkins County’s workforce drives alone to work.

Ithaca’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality city-wide by 2030 through the city’s Green New Deal will necessarily involve solutions that involve transportation. However, in our rural county, residents often have no other option than to drive alone due to areas that are essentially transportation deserts.

Lack of access to transportation or reliable transportation in these same areas can stand in the way of residents accessing basic services, finding and keeping a job, as well as getting to the doctor, the grocery store or to our children’s school. Sustainability efforts like the Green New Deal seek to address economic inequality and racial injustice along with climate change.

Those involved in Tompkins County’s transportation sector are also focused on climate, access and equity and are engaging, in very practical ways that can help us achieve our goals.

TCAT, the Tompkins County transit provider, in collaboration with Gadabout, Way2Go and HyperCommute, is piloting TconnecT, a new mobility service that will be launched in the Dryden community in the spring of 2020. TconnecT will allow users to schedule a trip via app on a Gadabout minibus that will take them from their rural residence to an existing TCAT bus stop, increasing access to TCAT’s fixed route system and reducing the need to drive alone.

TCAT eliminated its Zone 2 fare in August 2019, creating one flat fee for rides going anywhere in the county. With increasing equity at its core, this move makes trips more affordable, in particular for rural residents traveling between Zone 1 and Zone 2. It also has the goal of increasing ridership by encouraging some residents to leave their cars at home and take the bus instead. TCAT will also be adding three electric busses to their fleet in the spring of 2020, moving towards their goal of an all-electric fleet.

Nine organizations in Tompkins County have volunteer drivers who help people get to medical appointments, the food bank, visits with family, events and meetings at their child’s school. Way2Go is partnering with these organizations to support them, bring them together to learn from each other and spearhead a coordinated effort to recruit additional volunteer drivers so that people who need a ride can get one.

The School Success Transportation Coalition works with the Ithaca City School District, community members and transportation service providers so that all students and their families can access transportation for getting to afterschool activities, meetings and conferences. The Coalition, of which Way2Go is a partner, has helped put in place transportation liaisons in all of the 12 ICSD schools and facilitates ridesharing and getting free TCAT bus passes to any student that needs it.

Bike Walk Tompkins has a goal of making Ithaca and Tompkins County a community where walking and biking are safe and convenient for people of all ages and abilities. It is developing strategies to double the number of bike trips in and around Ithaca by spearheading the Blueprint for Better Bicycling initiative.

Bike Walk Tompkins also runs bike skills classes for both adults and kids, organizes the Ithaca Bike Champions community outreach program, hosts films and organizes rides. Bike Walk Tompkins still organizes and puts on the twice-a-year signature program “Streets Alive! Ithaca,” sponsored in part by Way2Go, which brings community members of all backgrounds together for a celebratory day of walking, biking, rolling, dancing and playing in car-free streets. 

EV Tompkins works with public and private sector leaders, including Way2Go, to provide the necessary infrastructure, educational outreach, coordination to promote electric vehicle use. The project exceeded the goal of having 620 registered EVs on the road by the end of 2019. As of Nov. 2, there were 642 EVs registered in Tompkins County.

GO ITHACA, an initiative created by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, has the goal to help downtown Ithaca businesses, employees and residents find efficient and affordable ways to commute to and from work every day. Soon, it will launch a commuter benefit program that will facilitate easy and affordable access to all of Ithaca’s transportation options, including TCAT, Ithaca Carshare, carpooling, biking, walking and parking.

One of those benefits is the BackUp Ride Home program, created by the Center for Community Transportation, which benefits commuters that give up their car to instead ride the bus, carpool or Carshare. The BackUp Ride Home program covers the cost of your transportation if something unexpected happens in the middle of a work day that makes your original travel plan unfeasible.

In discussion for the future is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). MaaS is an emerging concept that prioritizes customer based transportation that utilizes multiple modes of transportation. App-based technology will assist in conveniently finding and purchasing a combination of transportation options.

The leadership in Tompkins County’s transportation sector is working to provide a sustainable and equitable transportation system. This collaborative environment is helping to advance the initiatives above, and others, that will serve to benefit the community in the long run.

This is the latest installment of the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. For more information about the organization, visit their website at SustainableTompkins.org.

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