ITHACA, N.Y.—Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, or TCAT, held an informational meeting Thursday night to gather input from the public regarding what types of transportation might best serve the needs of the community.

The event was hosted in-person at Coltivare as well as on a Zoom call, led respectively by Gary Ferguson of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and Jane Bowman Brady and TCAT project manager Megan Pulver.

Acting Town of Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis introduced New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is currently hosting an electric mobility challenge with the goal of improving public transportation and reducing the impact of climate change on a community with a prize of $7 million to use for improved transportation.

TCAT is currently a state-wide finalist and needs community input to move forward with its application.

After introducing the challenge, the in-person and Zoom attendees split off for discussion questions regarding how to enhance transportation needs, where and community members traveled (or needed to travel) most frequently and what services might be most helpful to the community.

Ideas for additional methods of transport within TCAT’s proposal included eBikeshare, eOn Demand Bus, an affordable electric car loan program, improvements to walking and bike paths around town and a call center for transportation services.

Identified areas in need of better transportation services included West Hill, downtown Ithaca and surrounding towns and villages.

Sullymar Peña Vásquez, one of the Zoom participants, said that she lives on West Hill and that she knows the Floral Avenue Extension road is one where friends and family struggle with transportation, especially in the winter, and she believes that creating an additional bus route down Floral Avenue would greatly benefit the populations who live there.

Another attendee, Sabrina Leddy, asked if a single person would be able to request service for the eOn Demand Bus and voiced concern for minimizing energy consumption in this event.

Pulver answered that the on-demand services would utilize vehicles smaller than the regular TCAT size, more similar to a Sprinter van. She also said that TCAT will work with New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) to ensure energy efficiency, though they don’t anticipate the electric transportation services impacting the energy grid significantly.

Another public commenter suggested that adding a one-way service may help with getting groceries home, and another said that he would utilize his electric bike more frequently if there were adequate trails or paths to use to get around town.

TCAT will be utilizing all the feedback gathered from both formats of the event for its proposal which is due in June. If chosen, an award notice will be given later this year with a potential project start date of 2023.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...