December 5, 2004

Possible park-and-ride near NYSEG

On Tuesday, I went to a subcommittee meeting of the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Committee (ITCTC) that discussed the possibility of building park-and-rides around the county to reduce the number of cars driving into Cornell University every day. They discussed three main possible locations: Pyramid Mall, the Southwest area of Ithaca, and the intersection of Routes 13 and 366 near the NYSEG building. They also talked about the possiblility of one near the Bethel Grove Bible Church.

Examining maps of trafficsheds
Examining maps of trafficsheds at the ITCTC meeting.

Dryden was well-represented in the room, with County Legislator Martha Robertson, Environmental Planner Debbie Gross, Jim Skaley from the Varna Community Association, and myself all there. Fernando de Aragon, Executive Director of the ITCTC led the meeting, and there were also three pepole from Cornelll and Dwight Mengel of TCAT.

Andrew Eastlick of Cornell had some amazing maps to show of where Cornell employees live, ranging from a map that included New York from roughly Utica to Rochester to Corning to Binghamton down to a map of central Tompkins County. He'd managed to map all but around 300 of Cornell's 10,000 employee addresses. He was using that map data to calculate "trafficsheds", which are kind of like watersheds but have cars instead of water.

Eastlick outlines the trafficshed coming in through Varna
Andrew Eastlick outlines the trafficshed coming into Cornell on Route 366.

Eastlick had analyzed permit holders from Cornell's free A lot and low-cost B lot to see which trafficsheds they fell into, reasoning that permit holders at these lots, Cornell's least convenient parking, would be most likely to take up a park-and-ride that would bring them in by bus. 540 permit holders (306 A, 234 B) are in the 366 trafficshed, while 394 of them pass Pyramid Mall, 533 pass the Southwest area, and 175 pass Bethel Grove.

There was a lot of discussion of bus routes, noting that they move much more quickly on the off-campus sections and slow down greatly on campus. TCAT's Dwight Mengel was happy that Cornell had ways to contact the drivers along these routes, as they might be able to get a clear idea of who would ride the proposed routes instead of having to experiment.

One issue that came up was the question of supporting development for a park and ride. While there are lots that are just lots in the middle of nowhere which do well, in general it's much easier to make this work if the location has some appeal of its own - childcare, coffee shops, etc. The Southwest and Pyramid Mall locations have some of this. There isn't currently much of this kind of business around the 13/366 location, though there's certainly room for commercial development. (I'm hoping the revived Plantation Inn is a good sign for development there.)

The committee will be meeting again in January, and will be assembling a survey to give to current parking permit holders. This is all preliminary, and there is a lot of organization to go and a lot of hurdles to be passed before it becomes reality, but it seems possible that Varna might have less rush-hour traffic at some point in the future.

Posted by simon at December 5, 2004 9:50 AM in , , ,
Note on photos