May 10, 2013


Cornell bus run cut under proposed route changes

Staff Reporter

Proposed changes like eliminating the Cornell run and streamlined routes at the First Transit bus service in Cortland County are aimed at ensuring the buses arrive at their destinations on time. All fares will remain the same.
Cortland County Mobility Manager Jan Dempsey announced the proposed changes Thursday at the county Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee meeting. The committee endorsed the proposal and the Legislature will consider the idea May 23.
If the Legislature approves the changes there would be two public hearings on the proposal in June and a 30-day public notice would be given before implementation.
Among the most significant of the changes are eliminating the service to Cornell University, currently Route 7 and increasing the time of Routes 1 and 2 to 45 minutes from 30-minutes.
There will be 15-minute segments for these routes, stopping at the County Office Building to increase rider transfers.
Dempsey said the panel comprised of Planning Department Director Dan Dineen, SUNY Cortland and Seven Valleys Health Coalition, among other agencies that use First Transit, started studying ways to restructure the routes last December.
A $95,000 technical assistance grant the county obtained in 2011 allowed the county to use the consultant firm Community Transportation Association of America.
The panel of local officials concerned with the county’s transportation needs met about twice weekly for five months.
“We were trying to come up with a plan that is both economically feasible and our goal really is to ... make sure that we can get these routes back on time,” Dempsey said.
The fact that buses often arrive late is a constant complaint that riders have so Dempsey said to attract riders they need to address this problem.
The buses are often so late that they are mistaken for the next scheduled bus arriving early, she said.
Dempsey hopes the changes will increase the system’s efficiency. For example, by streamlining Route 4, which goes to Walmart and has the most problems with tardiness, Dempsey hopes riders will not be inconvenienced by late arrivals.
The route will remain a 30-minute run, but the section that detours through Squires and Huntington streets will instead be diverted to Route 2 so Route 4 becomes a more direct route.
Eliminating Route 7 will inconvenience the approximately 30 commuters who take that bus to Cornell but Dempsey hopes the changes will improve service for a larger population.
Commuters will instead be directed to Tompkins Cortland Community College, where they can transfer to the Tompkins County buses.
This will be done by adding three additional runs to Route 6.
Dineen said this will actually increase opportunities for getting to Ithaca by connecting riders to the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus service.
Dineen praised the proposed changes.
“We looked at the existing routes and ridership and we tried to tailor the routes to the riders that are out there and existing businesses so that people will be able to get to more places on the public transportation system,” Dineen said.
Route 6 will also service Route 13 south of Walmart, including the proposed Byrne Dairy agritourism center and other businesses that locate along that corridor.
“We don’t have any additional funding in order to add routes so we’re trying to maximize what we already have and trying to make it better within the economic constrictions we are all facing,” Dempsey said.
First Transit was not available by press time to provide ridership numbers.


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