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2020 Census Impacts on Public Transportation

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2020 Census Impacts on Public Transportation

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

(Ithaca, NY) – The outcome of the 2020 Census will have broad implications for issues such as local redistricting and funding for vital public services. One area directly impacting Tompkins County residents is public transportation, whether they drive, carpool, take the bus, bike, or walk to get to where they need to go. 

Public spending on transportation infrastructure totaled nearly $300 billion in the United States in 2017. The Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council will receive approximately $34 million in federal highway funds and about $15 million in transit funds over the 2020-2024 five-year period. Those dollars, based on census figures, support Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT), paratransit provider Gadabout Transportation Services, Inc., bridge repairs, paving, recreational trails, pedestrian safety, and highway improvements. 

Census data helps determine how much federal transportation funding local governments and communities receive and to plan networks that are efficient and equitable. Planners at TCAT use census data along with other metrics to design bus routes to increase accessibility, reliability, and convenience. TCAT and Gadabout enable transit-dependent populations, including low-income residents, seniors, and persons with disabilities, to share in work and learning opportunities, to go to medical appointments, run errands and enjoy local recreation and entertainment venues. 

Public transit connects Tompkins County residents with Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College, as well as to cultural, economic, and social opportunities. The Cornell community constitutes about 70 percent of TCAT’s annual ridership of 4.2 million. TCAT’s route 11 serves Ithaca College, its route 43 serves Tompkins Cortland Community College, all three campuses provide initiatives for their students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of a public transit as an affordable and environmentally friendly transportation mode. 

Updates on the 2020 U.S. Census

Every household in the U.S. has been mailed a questionnaire and can complete the census online, by mail, or over the phone. Mailings and postcards to households include a unique Census ID to use while filling out the questionnaire online. 

To date, 58.1% of households in Tompkins County have taken the census according to the online census response rate tracker. The number is calculated relative to a Census bureau estimate based on the 2010 count, added housing stock data, and updated data from the American Community Survey. 

Census tract counts in Downtown Ithaca and surrounding Cornell University and Ithaca College continue to be low according to the online tracker, with Collegetown tracts still only having a 20-30% response rate. County officials are urging residents who live in these areas (or who are temporarily away due to COVID-19) to accurately complete the census.  

College students who have left Ithaca due to the coronavirus are encouraged to be counted as being in Tompkins County, as the Census counts people where they expected to reside on April 1st of 2020. This is to ensure that an accurate count of the number of people who live in an area are represented. 

An undercounted area or County could result in reduced federal funding for municipalities and nonprofits, implications for federal, state, and local representation by elected officials, access to public transportation, and inaccurate data for business and nonprofit planning. 

To take the U.S. Census, you can visit or call 1-844-330-2020.