ITHACA, N.Y. – Intercity buses have found a new spot to pick up and drop off passengers in Ithaca, at least for now. On Wednesday, Common Council agreed to move the city’s intercity bus stop to the 100 block of East Green Street for a six-month trial period.
Intercity buses — like Shortline/Coach USA and Greyhound — have long used a depot at 710 West State St. However, it was reported in July that the West End bus station would be shutting down due to the station operators’ retirement. As the city scrambled to find an alternative stop for the buses, the station operators extended the depot’s closing date to the end of August, and now to the end of September.
Given the short notice they had of the depot’s closing, Common Council members said Wednesday that they were proud of how stakeholders across the city worked together to quickly come up with a downtown alternative.
Seph Murtagh, chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, admitted to being skeptical at first that Green Street would be a suitable spot for the buses. In the end, he said he appreciated all the legwork that went into making the new location work.
“This was a surprising and challenging community problem, and I think the community stepped up and has done a good job getting us to this point,” Murtagh said.
Council members acknowledged concerns about how the stop would impact TCAT operations. The local bus service already runs several routes through its stop on Green Street in front of the Tompkins County Public Library. Patty Poist, communications and marketing manager for TCAT, said previously that Green Street is TCAT’s major hub with up to 300 buses in and out per day. TCAT has been involved in discussions throughout the process and does not expect any disruptions to its service.
Additional concerns include impacts on the Tompkins County Public Library and the Tompkins County Mental Health Services Department. Patrons of each use loading zones along the Green Street curb for pickups and drop-offs.
Annette Birdsall, TCPL’s director, said at the meeting that the library is working with TCAT and the city to make the new stop work. “The library has a great many concerns about the impact on our patrons,” she said, adding that “(library) patrons are vocal, and there will be a great deal of feedback the minute this is actually approved and people realize what’s happening.”
Nonetheless, Birdsall said the plan that Council approved was a workable compromise for the library. TCAT will continue to pick up passengers directly in front of the library on Green Street. Intercity buses will stop further down the block, in front of Urban Outfitters. Loading zone spaces on Cayuga Street will be set aside for TCPL patrons.
Mayor Svante Myrick recognized TCPL’s willingness to compromise to meet varied downtown needs.
“The library should be lauded for its civic-mindedness,” he said. Myrick also said the county agreed to the location of the new stop and does not expect major impacts on visitors to the Mental Health Department.
Speakers raised questions about how the intercity buses will be routed as they leave the stop, how engine idling will be regulated and how riders’ safety will be ensured.
Regional buses will most likely take the same route as TCAT buses between Green Street and Seneca Street, using Albany Street as a connector. Buses will be subject to New York state law with regards to idling. The law limits idling to three minutes, with the caveat that buses can idle longer in extremely hot or cold weather to keep passengers comfortable.
JoAnn Cornish, director of planning and development, said her department is already working with TCAT and the public works department to improve safety at the stop. New lighting will be added immediately. Looking ahead, the city will consider an offer from Greyhound to contribute funds for a covered bus shelter and will work with the Green Street garage site developer to create permanent bus facilities.
The Big Red Bullet already uses the Green Street stop, and will be joined at the end of September by Shortline/Coach USA, NY Trailways and Greyhound. Common Council and the PEDC will evaluate the new stop in April, after six months of data collection and public feedback, and will consider alternative proposals at that time.
Featured image: TCAT bus stopped at the Green Street Station in Ithaca. (Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice)