September 11, 2001

Plans at TCAT Call for New Downtown Center

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Following suit with communities across the country, the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) board of directors has taken its first step toward establishing a local transportation hub downtown.

With the passage of a resolution this summer, the center is slated to begin a year-long construction project in approximately one year.

Tracy Farrell, chair of the TCAT board of directors, hopes it will facilitate easier transportation in and around Tompkins County.

The location of the future center, still in discussion, will be used by inter-city bus lines such as Trailways, Greyhound and Shortline, as well as TCAT buses to get people to and from downtown and destinations around Ithaca, according to Rod Ghearing, TCAT general manager.

The company has $3 million available in state and federal funds from the 2000 and 2001 budgets, aided by the efforts of Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-26th) who has worked with TCAT to secure the funds for the center.

The new facility will replace the current operation on West State St. and will provide easy access to schedules and ticket information, according to Farrell.

Currently 28 of TCAT’s 37 routes connect to downtown Ithaca, and the system sometimes leaves riders in a rush or simply unable to reach their destinations.

“I wanted to take a bus to Syracuse but recently had a problem getting to the west end facility because TCAT picked me up downtown on Green St. just as my Greyhound bus was leaving from West State St.,” said Alice Napierski, a regular TCAT user, who resides in Willseyville.

The “Cayuga Green at Six Mile Creek” project is the city’s plan to build four new structures downtown between Cayuga and Green Streets that will include residential, commercial and parking space. That project site is currently one of the possibilities being investigated for a future TCAT location, according to Farrell.

If selected, the space would be located behind the Tompkins County Public Library.

“The city council has asked the preferred developer, Monahan Development Company, to look at the Cayuga Green project with or without the transportation center,” Farrell said.

Farrell added that there may be other sites that are suitable and that the Cayuga Green project is simply one possibility that is being explored.

“We know that it will have to be centrally located downtown so people can travel back and forth from various places. We intend for it to be built a few blocks from The Commons,” Ghearing commented.

The proposed facility will be modern in the sense of resembling bright and open airport terminals.

“We are still very much at the idea level with no color or shape yet,” Ghearing said.

“Once a location has been determined, the next step will involve the actual planning, architecture and site design, paying particular attention to the space needed in addition to traffic flow patterns and other necessities,” he added.

Once the actual center is built, additional services including food and schedule information will be offered from one convenient location.

“If someone needs a taxi or the time for the next bus route, they will be able to get it very quickly at the new center,” Ghearing said.

Ghearing reported that there are currently 179,000 inter-city bus passengers per year.

“Organizations have said that all the basic functions should be downtown and that it needs to be active and alive. Naturally you want people changing buses from downtown,” said Joe Wetmore owner of Autumn Leaves Used Books on The Commons.

The company has the priority of improving the information people have access to and plans on working with tourism agencies to spur additional interest in the area, according to Ghearing.

“I have already spoken with a marketing representative from Shortline who reports that the Finger Lakes region [including us] is the second most popular area traveled to upstate behind Niagara Falls; we are looking to capitalize on that,” Ghearing said.

Archived article by Chris Westgate