Mobility Management in Tompkins County, NY:
A Formal Responsibility and a Shared Role with Many Partners
“Mobility management” is a recognized public responsibility and a shared role throughout Tompkins County and Ithaca, NY. Since the late 1970’s, a variety of organizational partners have planned, developed, funded, operated and overseen an integrated series of bus services, paratransit services, volunteer driver, car sharing, ridesharing incentives and related programs. Generally, partnering agencies adopted a wide-ranging ‘holistic’ view of residents travel needs and a tradition of consensus-based collaborative action in meeting them.
Basic fixed route transit service and rural demand responsive services in Tompkins County are operated by Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) which was born out of the consolidation of three separate local systems in the 1990s and reorganized as a private non-profit transportation corporation in 2005. The Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC), the area MPO, serves as the hub of mobility management activity and innovation, as well as providing a collaborative forum where substantive mobility issues and solutions are addressed while minimizing typical political distractions. Since 1988, Cornell University, the county’s largest employer, has operated a successful Travel Demand Management (TDM) program which boosted transit ridership and ridesharing; resulting in 2,600 fewer cars registered on campus than in 1990. Other major partners in managing mobility include Ithaca College, Tompkins County Community College, the Tompkins County Department of Social Services, private paratransit, taxi and other service providers as well as other public and private sector interests and organizations.
The Tompkins County Department of Social Services (DSS) also plays a key role in managing mobility by virtue of its broader responsibility for county-wide human service client needs and its knowledge of and familiarity with the wider range of funding sources available to the county. DSS manages the county’s Coordinated Public Transit – Human Service Transportation process jointly with ITCTC, involving over 30 agencies and organizations. In addition, DSS and ITCTC split or share project management and contract management responsibilities for new initiatives, projects and programs, as appropriate. It is through the DSS’ Transportation Planning Program, begun in 2006, that all available federal and state transportation and human service program grant support is managed and coordinated for use across the county’s systems and services.
Aside from a long-standing commitment to interagency collaboration and the joint leadership provided by ITCTC and DSS, three core strategies have been at the heart of the effort to manage mobility across the Tompkins County:
- A willingness to establish joint ‘coalitions’ to assess and address evolving, unmet transportation needs or “mobility deficits,” as they are recognized;
- The creation of non-profit organizations to guide specific services and solutions arising out of coalition planning efforts directed by boards, typically with wide-ranging public, institutional and private sector participation; and
- The knowledge, ability and willingness to share and coordinate all available funding sources to support the full range of mobility initiatives and delivery schemes.
Among the services, programs and initiatives currently underway are:
- Regular TCAT fixed route bus and rural demand response (DR) services;
- Contracted paratransit services for ADA and non-ADA eligible users (“Gadabout” service);
- Contracted “CityVan” subsidized taxi services;
- Contracted ridesharing services through ZimRide, overseen by the Tompkins Rideshare Consortium;
- Ithaca Car-share, a locally owned and operated non-profit car sharing organization;
- FISH Volunteer Driver Support Program;
- Women’s Opportunity Center Taxi Voucher program;
- DSS “Wheels for Work” car loan program;
- Cornell University Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs; and
- The “Way2Go” coordinated travel training and education program serving users as well as county and provider staff, operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.
In addition to these programs, current efforts are aimed at implementing:
- A vanpool program under TCAT;
- An “ITN Everywhere” system; and
- Regional transportation planning
In Tompkins County, NY, “mobility management” is a well-recognized function and responsibility that is guided jointly and cooperatively by the county Department of Social Services and the MPO, integrating a wide variety of service providers under an equally wide variety of institutional arrangements to fill the county’s mobility gaps.
Mr. Dwight Mengel
Chief Transportation Planner
Tompkins County Department of Social Services
320 W. State Street
Ithaca, NY 14850