Dwight Mengel & Ferando deAragon
Transportation is key to almost all activities that take place within a community. The ability of people to reach needed destinations impacts the viability of businesses, health and human services, economic development, local government, and more. We can “think globally, live locally and act regionally” for transportation. Together, we can choose to build up sustainable transportation in Tompkins County in 2014.
The topic of sustainable transportation is an all- inclusive subject, about how people, goods, and energy move in relation to patterns of human development. With transportation using 25% of the world’s energy, and growing, we come face-to-face with climate change. Sustainable transportation is also concerned about social equity and economic vitality. Job seekers, low wage workers, seniors, people with disabilities, rural residents, and youth face real barriers to mobility. Transportation equity means everyone can enjoy a basic level of mobility. Economic vitality requires people have affordable transportation choices to go to work. Another economic benefit is to avoid public costs of building future parking garages by reducing the number of cars driven by solo drivers to downtown. Together, environmental, social and economic impacts are used to measure progress on sustainable transportation.
Here are 5 ways you can benefit from and contribute to sustainable transportation this year.
1. Choose your housing location wisely. About 22% of county residents move to a new residence annually. Considering housing and transportation costs together to better know the total cost of living in a location. If you live along a TCAT route, you’ll have ready access to bus service. If you live near your job and other regular destinations you expand your transportation options to bicycling and walking.
2. Know your travel options. Call 2-1-1 or go online to Way2Go.org to learn about all mobility services in the county. 2-1-1 Information & Referral, of the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, and the Way2Go community mobility education program, of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, work together to provide this coordinated public service.
3. Learn and try new mobility services. A good source of information is Way2Go’s How-to videos at way2go.org or YouTube channel: Way2GoCCE. The are videos on carshare, rideshare, riding TCAT buses, and services for people with disabilities. Try out Ithaca Carshare and Zimride Tompkins (rideshare). If you commute more than 20 miles, look into vanpooling at vride.com. Many people walk and bike in the county. If you combine multiple mobility options, you may be able to replace owning a car, at a significant savings.
4. Be a driver, a volunteer or both. Do you drive solo to work? Then look into ridesharing at zimride.com/tompkins. There is an urgent need for more drivers to offer rides. There are volunteer opportunities ranging from driving paratransit buses for GADABOUT or driving your own car for Tompkins County FISH (fishoftc.org/ ) and the School Success Transportation service. Other volunteer opportunities include being a travel ambassador with Way2Go to help seniors learn to ride TCAT buses, serve on TCAT’s Community Advisory Board, or volunteer to help run Streets Alive! Ithaca, a biannual celebration of city streets closed to cars and open to people. If you have any questions contact Way2Go at 272-2292.
5. Contribute your knowledge in Transportation Planning. In 2014, there are important updates in transportation planning taking place. All efforts need diverse public input throughout the planning process. Agencies are updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Long Range Transportation Plan together. The County Planning Department is responsible for the Comprehensive Plan. The Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council will update the long range transportation plan. These planning efforts will provide direction for future work in transportation. More information can be found at tompkinscountyny.gov/itctc or contacting the ITCTC offices - 274-5570.
A related short term planning effort brings together public transit (TCAT), other mobility operators, County Departments of Social Services and Aging, advocacy and human services agencies to identify unmet transportation needs of persons with limited income, seniors, and people with disabilities and to coordinate to improve services to these populations and also to the general public. The Coordinated Transportation Committee meets monthly and is open to the public. Work on the Coordinated Transportation Plan is expected to conclude in October 2014. More information is at tccoordinatedplan.org.
Every person can contribute to achieving transportation sustainability in our community. Learn about mobility options available to you, then take action to diversify your transportation. You will find that it can be fun and can save you money. Participating in planning efforts directly contributes to setting community priorities and plans for future services. Contact Way2Go (272-2292) or any of the agencies listed in the article for more information.
Dwight Mengel is Chief Transportation Planner at the County Dept. of Social Services.
Fernando deAragon is Executive Director of I-TCTC.