Now, there are several ideas about what the study should address. One idea is for an expansion of transit service across the region. This could culminate in the creation of a regional transit authority in the Southern Tier.
It is my opinion the purpose of a regional study would be to increase, and better manage, mobility alternatives for intercounty travel, primarily commuters. In other words, it should be a regional mobility plan.
A regional approach to mobility management would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of existing mobility services, develop and market new mobility choices to the public, and enable coordination among counties to reduce costs of public program transportation (for example, Medicaid trips from Ithaca and Cortland to Syracuse). An effective regional mobility program may reduce the volume, or growth rate, of commuter traffic on the state highway network.
Currently, intercounty commuter bus service (transit) is the most visible alternative to driving alone. Transit is also the most expensive mode and is primarily used for commuter bus service from neighboring counties to and from Ithaca (primarily Cornell University). A plan would inventory existing services and present ideas to coordinate and develop commuter bus service for markets that can support the high cost. Further, new potential commuter bus markets need to be evaluated including: between Dryden and Cortland (with new commercial and research development on Route 13); to Greek Peak's new resort in Virgil, NY; and to create new rural park & ride service to Ithaca. In addition, intercity bus carriers need to be included in a regional mobility plan since they provide access to major employers (for example SUNY Cortland) and to regional transportation centers (in Syracuse and Binghamton).
The regional travel market is greatly underserved with cost-effective mobility services: vanpooling, centralized transportation information (example, Way2Go), rideshare, guaranteed ride programs, volunteer driver programs and carshare. These programs are either in their infancy or unimplemented ideas. Further, regional human service travel demand needs to be evaluated to identify opportunities for coordination. Tompkins-Cortland Community College expressed its interest in regional mobility because the great majority of its facility and staff are unserved by transit and need realistic cost-effective alternatives for employment and access to education.
In summary, a regional mobility plan would be comprehensive by including all alternatives to reduce solo automobile trips and to provide realistic options persons who are unable to or choose not to drive. Bus transportation includes commuter bus and intercity bus services. In addition to bus, there are a multitude of mobility programs which could be eficiently deployed region-wide. Further, human service agencies have intercounty travel needs which can be coordinated to reduce costs of public programs and provide access to needed services. The regional mobility plan should be developed as a regional mobility management plan to cost-effectively increase intercounty mobility services.