Students who travel with OurBus in and out of Ithaca might no longer be able to do so after May 15, when OurBus’s permit to use the Green Street bus terminal will expire.
In late February, the City of Ithaca declined to renew OurBus’s permit to pick up and drop off passengers on Green Street, which is OurBus’s only stop in Ithaca. Following the shut down of the old Ithaca Bus Terminal in October, bus companies such as Greyhound and New York Trailways have moved their pick-up spot to East Green Street.
With the increase in buses operating from that location, the City required all bus companies to submit schedules up to a year in advance and pay a $5 fee per departure. This was to manage the volume of buses loading to a safe level, according to a statement by city attorney Aaron Lavine.
“We otherwise saw buses, including those from OurBus, double-parking in the travel lane, and even loading bags from the travel lane,” Lavine said in his statement.
According to the City, OurBus was denied a permit because of its irregular scheduling and because it was late to pay the required fees.
“OurBus dragged its feet,” Lavine said. “They have proved unable to consistently mesh their schedule with those of other bus companies in the tight space available on Green Street.”
OurBus sued the City on March 21 over the permit denial. It claims that the City acted unconstitutionally by favoring intrastate transportation over interstate transportation, and thereby violating the Commerce Clause. TCAT buses, unlike the interstate buses, do not have to obtain a permit or pay the $5 departure fee.
“The City is picking winners and losers, and acting arbitrarily, capriciously, and unreasonably,” the lawsuit claims.
OurBus also said that the city imposed excessive restrictions on the use of city streets for interstate buses, where buses could pick up and drop off passengers and how bus service could be scheduled.
However, having the flexibility to adjust schedules quickly based on customer demand was necessary to accommodate people’s needs, said Samantha Matuke grad, OurBus planning and operations assistant, in an email to The Sun.
Instead of using the Green Street space, the City has proposed that OurBus seek privately owned off-street locations and claims it is actively exploring those options as well. However, no such terminal exists, OurBus wrote in the lawsuit.
OurBus’s permit was originally scheduled to expire on April 1, after which the company would no longer be allowed to operate, but the city has since extended OurBus’s permit to May 15, allowing time to seek a resolution to the dispute.
“An adverse outcome for OurBus in this litigation could well result in the loss of our service to the area,” Matuke said.