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Transportation Committee Continues Review of Ride-Hailing Services, Discusses Intercity Transit

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Transportation Committee Continues Review of Ride-Hailing Services, Discusses Intercity Transit

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Legislature’s special Transportation Committee heard comments from the ride-hailing service Lyft, as it continued its review of ride-hailing services in Tompkins County, one year after New York State authorized upstate operation of such ride-hailing services.  The committee heard from local taxi cab operators last month.

Expanding upon a statement from its Director of Public Policy, Lyft representative Jennifer Tuttle told the committee that hundreds of people locally drive part-time as independent contractors with Lyft, 93% of them driving fewer than 20 hours per week.  Calling the service “an invaluable transportation option for Tompkins County passengers,” Tuttle identified Lyft’s five top local passenger destinations as Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, Sage Hall, Ithaca College, Cornell’s Statler Hotel, and the Ithaca Marriott Downtown, with over 82% of those local Lyft rides arriving in less than ten minutes. 

Legislator Shawna Black remarked that she has been very happy to see the services Lyft and Uber in the area, and that she would like Lyft to increase its number of local drivers.  The committee’s review of the ride-hailing service issue will continue.

The committee also discussed the impending closing of the Ithaca Bus Terminal, since the long-time service providers are retiring.  It was noted that the service model for intercity bus service has now changed, with passengers purchasing their tickets online instead of from a terminal agent; this makes feasible curbside stops, as many bus companies now use.  Committee chair Michael Lane noted that a substantial number of local people use buses for intercity transportation, with ten buses per day stopping here.  Chair Lane asked Airport Director Mike Hall (who has long advocated the idea of Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport as a multi-modal transportation facility) how that concept might figure into the current intercity transit situation.  Hall responded that, as it prepares to proceed with its terminal expansion project, the Airport is “ready, willing and able to accommodate a multi-modal transportation center” and to partner with whomever is taking the lead in the effort.  Such a facility would not preclude easy passenger access to buses in the downtown area, he noted.

Regarding the terminal expansion, Mr. Hall reported that the many coordinated elements of the $24 million dollar project are moving forward, including those related to the associated move of the NYS Department of Transportation maintenance facility to property currently owned by the Airport.  As part of the terminal expansion project, he said, there will be a project groundbreaking this fall.

Ithaca -Tompkins County Transportation Council director Fernando de Aragon briefed the committee on the new Backup Ride Home program, now offered by The Center for Community Transportation (which includes such organizations as Ithaca Carshare and Bike Walk Tompkins).  He said the program offers peace of mind for commuters who travel to work without a personal vehicle, providing free alternate transportation home for enrolled participants if unexpected developments, such as emergencies, happen during the day that interfere with original travel plans.  More information on the Backup Ride Home program can be found at www.ithacacarshare.org/backup-ride-home.