Ithaca Blog

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Using public transportation in Ithaca

Check the Ithaca Community News (one of Ithaca Blog's links), and you can learn about the current controversy about putting a plaque at the site of the late Redbud Woods, the natural area Cornell tore down last year to build another parking lot for its West Campus.

However one might feel about such a plaque, and how it should be worded (conciliatory or combative? - sensitive or shaming? -), one thing is sure, a plaque isn't bringing back any trees, nor saving any. Only people can do that, with our choices and actions.

I recently spoke with someone who works for Tompkins County Area Transit (TCAT), our local bus system. See, I've been riding the bus lately, with a deceased automobile. In the course of the conversation, the question came up of the Redbud Woods plaque. And then the question: how many parking places do you require each day? Two? Three? Five? Ten?

How many did you use each day last year? Or, say, when you were in school? Think back. Probably a fraction of what you use now.

Factor in your family, and the friends and colleagues you meet with each day, and it starts to become a hard number to think about, in more ways than one. Because we can complain all we want about paving paradise for parking lots. But to the degree that we keep using parking, more and more, we're asking for it.

As I've been discovering (through necessity, not virtue), Ithaca has an expansive public transportation system that can help reduce our need for parking, and the problems of cars and traffic in general. Before now, now that I have to, I've never used it regularly. No one I know does, not even my greenest friends.

So, starting soon in Ithaca Blog, will be a continuing series about using the buses in Ithaca. Not statistics about how many buses there are, how long they've been running, the merging of the city and the county systems, press releases from our state assemblyperson about TCAT, or any of that dry jazz. It will be reports from the trenches - or the plexiglass shelters - of what it's actually like to ride the buses in Ithaca. Easy or hard? Pleasant or unpleasant? Expensive or not? Efficient or not?

Is it possible to shop at Target by bus (or, let's refine the standard a little - is it feasible? Or is it crazy?) To shop at Wegman's? To go to the movies? To the parks? To the high school? To Trumansburg? Newfield? East Hill Plaza? Cayuga Heights?

To tell you the truth, I'm getting a little tired even thinking about it. But we'll see how it goes over the coming days and weeks. Come along for the ride.

Stephen Burke

1 comment:

L. said...

I'm reading your post from Manhattan, a place where public transportation has trumped dealing with auto traffic and parking. So, like most New York citiers I don't have a car. When I think of going to places like Ithaca, public transportation is a poignant consideration. I like being in a place where I can walk or count on public transport. It's the style of transportation I'm used to. As we sprawl out, the only sustainable solution are communities that aren't dependent on cars. My friend from LA says that they are even making moves there to cluster community needs so people can walk and count on the public transport. Here's to the future communities that can live amongst the trees. I look forward to seeing how things work out.