TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Tompkins County, OurBus and other local transportation providers have teamed up to provide free transportation to the SUNY Binghamton Vaccination site in Johnson City, with service beginning Monday, March 8.

Bus service will run twice per day, leaving from the 130 East Seneca Street station in downtown Ithaca near the Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. Return trips from the SUNY Binghamton vaccination site are scheduled on those days at 12:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. As for Sundays, departures will be at 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. from Ithaca, and return from SUNY Binghamton at 2:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The bus trip is about one hour each way, and the vaccination site is “ready to accommodate bus travelers who need to wait for their return bus to Ithaca.” Bus occupancy is limited to 50 percent to adhere to social distancing, with masks required and enhanced cleaning measures.

“For many people, there is nothing more important than getting the COVID vaccine,” said Fernando de Aragón, the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council director. “Unfortunately, issues in distribution, technology and transportation have become barriers. Many in Tompkins County have been able to make vaccination appointments at out of county locations and transportation can be a challenge.”

Because OurBus currently has existing routes to Binghamton but not Syracuse, a similar program is not being established for vaccination appointments at the Syracuse site at this time. People can contact 2-1-1 for transportation needs to other sites, such as Syracuse or elsewhere, which can help them access other transportation resources. Those interested in scheduling a vaccine appointment and checking their eligibility through the state, can check the state’s Vaccination Eligibility page.

For booking purposes, directions are here from the program announcement: “While bus tickets are only available online, there is no need to have a smartphone or print a ticket. Passengers can board by providing the name or reservation code on their ticket to the driver when boarding. No-cost tickets can be purchased by contacting ‘GetThere’, a mobility management program of the Rural Health Network of South Central New York, at 855-373-4040. GetThere staff will verify that the caller has a vaccination registration number, and handles booking the seat on OurBus, including determining whether the optional, additional “door-to-door” service (within Tompkins County) is being requested by the rider.  GetThere will make the reservation including payment, and the rider will be provided what they need to board the bus.”

People can also book their own trips to the vaccination site through OurBus.com or via the company’s app, outside of the county’s partnership program, with tickets costing $22-$25.

If vaccination appointments are changed or canceled, tickets can be changed or canceled up to 30 minutes before departure without fees. People who require assistance should contact OurBus 48 hours before their trip for preparations, by emailing pr@ourbus.com or by calling 1 (844) 800-6828 for the helpline.

“We’re proud to work with partners in Tompkins County to support Tompkins County residents with their transportation needs. By adding the vaccination site as an intermediate stop for buses that were already running on the regular Ithaca-Binghamton-New York route, we were able to provide access to critical vaccine appointments for Tompkins residents with little if any cost or environmental impact,” commented OurBus Co-Founder Axel Hellman.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com