Ithaca was recently ranked the top car-free city in the “very small metro” category by CityLab.com, a digital publication specializing in city life.
The news that Ithaca topped the car-free charts was exciting to TCAT’s general manager Scot Vanderpool, who said the metro can attribute its ranking to accessible alternative transportation means: Ithaca Car-Share, the introduction of LimeBikes, the large number of Cornell students walking to and from classes and the TCAT.
“Cornell is very helpful,” Vanderpool told The Sun. “Our ratio of rides is the best.”
The introduction of LimeBikes has influenced more people to go car-less, according to Vanderpool and Fernando de Aragón, director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council. The successful launch and the large number of people that have been using the LimeBikes has granted people who don’t have cars transportation to many places, such as work and school.
“Bike-share has provided access to bikes, and convenience is a big part of it. It has addressed the barrier to bicycling, which is not owning a bike,” de Aragón said.
The increasing cost of cars has influenced people to go car-free in cities. Cars and gas can be pricey, and a high concentration of car-using people in cities creates congestion and traffic. Also, with the cost of living going up in cities, it has pushed more people out of the cities into more rural and suburban areas — where there are also difficulties.
“Once you get into the suburbs and the rural areas, it is a lot harder to live car-free out there,” de Aragón said. “We need to continue to work and provide more opportunities for people to consider a different way to move around.”
TCAT is working to bring transit into the county’s more rural areas, and many different organizations across Tompkins County are collaborating on a project to create a single platform that has all the different resources in one area.
The project is called Mobility as a Service, and would connect car-share, bike-sharing, transit, healthcare and more organizations in one platform. The team wants to use MAAS to connect people to the transit and transportation system using cell-phones and other devices, bringing in people of rural areas and other pockets.
“Transit works better in urban areas than rural areas,” said Fernando, but pointed out that “universities bring a lot of people together and promote efficiency.”
Moreover, using cars less frequently has a direct connection to the environment. The use of public transportation, biking and carpooling has decreased the amount of gas emissions, according to Vanderpool.
“Transportation is the highest producer of greenhouse gases,” said de Aragón. “The bulk of the emissions from transportation comes from SUVs and pick-up trucks.”
The ranking was determined by analyzing how easy it is to go without a car, CityLab’s website states, by developing a Metro Car-Free index and by classifying the metros into four size groups.
The metro classification’s size groups included large metros (with more than 1 million people), medium-sized metros (between 500,000 and 1 million people), small metros (250,000 to 500,000 people) and very small metros (population less than 250,000).
The index factored in four key variables: the share of households that don’t have access to their own vehicle, the share of commuters who take transit to work, the share of commuters who bike to work and the share of commuters who walk to work, according to City Lab.
In April, TCAT will introduce three new battery-powered electric buses, Vanderpool said, part of the company’s effort to decrease emissions. Vanderpool’s ultimate green solution? Get rid of the need for individually-owned cars.
“Everybody seems to be very excited about doing the right thing in this community,” Vanderpool said. “As far as being engaged and moving towards some sustainability efforts that are gonna really matter and make a difference.”