ITHACA, N.Y. — After the longtime bus station on West Seneca Street closed in September, the city has been testing out Green Street as an alternative stop for intercity buses. With the six-month pilot set to end in March, city officials shared some feedback Wednesday on how it’s been going so far. Though there are some needed changes to keep the stop there, feedback was generally positive.
As the former bus station at 701 W. Seneca St. is now just part of Ithaca history — it received local landmark status in January — the city is now working out how to juggle intercity buses like Greyhound, Trailways and Coach USA with TCAT buses on Green Street and determine whether they want to continue having the stop there long-term.
At the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting on Wednesday, senior planner Jennifer Kusznir said, for the most part, things have worked well — it’s been a boost for foot traffic to local businesses, it’s a convenient location to transfer to other forms of transportation and it’s more convenient for visitors and residents. But there is also a long list of issues that need to be addressed — better snow removal is needed, the buses encroach on the bike lane, during high-demand days and holidays with extra buses there isn’t enough space. The pull-out in front of the Mental Health building is also heavily used by Gadabout and taxis, and they have asked that it not be used for buses during regular business hours. There is also no room for bus companies to expand.
Two memos were filed ahead of the PEDC meeting evaluating the trial period, one from the department of planning and development and the other from the city’s engineering office.
The engineering office also acknowledged that there has been positive feedback, but said if Green Street is going to continue to be used for intercity buses, the city will need to provide more funding to improve the space and limit the number of bus companies that can stop there. Traffic engineer Eric Hathaway said buses that do not require ticketing like Big Red Bullet and OurBus need to relocate. The engineering office also recommended designating the space in front of the mental health building as drop-off only with no intercity buses weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Read more of the recommendations in city documents here.
Estimated costs to improve the space aren’t cheap. Aside from additional staffing, infrastructure changes could cost up to $350,000, annual maintenance would cost $15,000 and snow removal would cost $15,000. An additional community service officer would be needed as well and cost about $62,000. With the current agreement with the city, intercity buses contribute a combined annual fee of $51,220.
Committee members asked about other locations and asked whether the new Green Street Garage development could be an option on the first floor. Mayor Svante Myrick also noted that Seneca Street may also be an option to consider. The city is planning to issue a Request for Expressions of Interest in the near future for ideas to redevelop the garage, which opened in 1973 and has started to show signs of structural issues.
The city will likely look to extend the pilot period past March.
Other items of note from the meeting:
- The committee voted to circulate the Southside Community Plan, which has been drafted over the past two years. The Ithaca Voice covered the draft of the plan released in September but an updated version to that draft is available here.
- The committee voted 4-1 to acquire the former Immaculate Conception School Gymnasium at 320 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca. If approved by Common Council, the city would acquire the 9,100 square-foot gym. Read more about initial immaculate conception plans here.
- After studying about 20 locations in the city, the engineering office thinks it would be a good idea to reduce the speed limits on most of Ithaca’s roads to 25 miles per hour, and to 20 mph for some locations. It won’t be an easy task to reduce speed limits, however. New York does not allow communities to establish city-wide speed limits under 30 miles per hour and prohibits establishing any speed limit under 25 mph except for school zones, so Ithaca — and possibly other interested communities — will have to press for change at the state level.
- Along the theme of safer roadways, the city is considering adopting a “Vision Zero” strategy, which is a “methodology to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries occurring on the roadway network,” according to a memo to PEDC. It’s essentially a comprehensive plan with a goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries by a certain date. Between 2008 and 2017, the City of Ithaca had a total of 182 serious injury crashes, including five fatalities, according to the memo.
- The backyard chicken discussion is clucking along. Discussion Wednesday centered on making the pilot chicken ordinance permanent. Some changes that may be added to a permanent resolution including upping the number of hens to six and removing the 3,000 square-foot lot requirement.