TCAT Transit Network Redesign, Ithaca NY

individual independent project | 2017
created for use by Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit

Ithaca’s peculiar geography has limited TCAT’s ability to operate its network efficiently.

  • Central nodes and other destinations are separated and nonlinear; namely downtown, Tower Rd, North Campus, and West Campus.
  • Road networks deviate unhelpfully because of steep topography, making connections between nodes difficult; e.g. East Ithaca apartments and commercial, West Village Apartments, two Route 31 branches in Northeast Ithaca, and Ithaca College’s Tower Apartments

Additionally, transit lines serving suburbs and the entire region coalesce on Ithaca without creating simple, direct transit for the majority of users who move around central Ithaca near downtown, Cornell, and a few other key destinations.

  • Downtown Ithaca and Cornell’s campus have too many diverging routes through their cores, making it hard to remember and use the network at its most dense nodes
  • There is no trunk branding between major interior hubs like Ithaca and Cornell, making it hard to see high-frequency segments made from many less frequent, interlined routes

Current transit network

A series of five trunks through Ithaca Commons and Cornell Campus would funnel routes from outside these areas to create high frequency lines which can be easily remembered by riders in the core:

  • Red: Ithaca Commons through Collegetown to Cornell’s Tower Rd
  • Orange: Ithaca Commons through Collegetown and Cornell central campus to Cayuga Heights and Ithaca Mall
  • Yellow: Ithaca Commons through Collegetown to Cornell North Campus
  • Green: Cornell North Campus through Cornell’s Tower Rd to East Hill Plaza
  • Blue: Cornell’s Tower Rd to University Ave and Cornell West Campus

All trunks serve the intersection of East Rd and Tower Rd at the center of Cornell’s campus, creating a major transfer point within the job center. Two other main routes through the core do not pass this transfer point:

  • Purple: Ithaca College through Ithaca Commons to Fall Creek. This trunk is connects two routes which are less dependent on Cornell through a short downtown segment
  • Silver: Cornell North Campus through Thurston Rd and Cornell West Campus to Collegetown and East Hill Plaza. This route replaces the Green and Blue trunks at night and on weekends when residential areas are more important destinations than Tower Rd and when lower ridership justifies fewer revenue vehicle miles traveled

When the Silver trunk replaces the Green and Blue trunks on nights and weekends, it takes over the Green trunk’s suburban and rural branches. In addition, weekend branches of the Orange trunk would serve the Yellow trunk’s weekday branches after serving Ithaca Mall.

Proposed transit network with central trunks

Suburban and rural routes, instead of determining transit routings in the core, would extend trunk routes to their less influential outer destinations. Suburban branches would be labeled with the first letter of their trunk route’s color, for easy recognition, and a less important suburban number. Rural branches would be labeled with a suburban number and an X, for extension.

All five main trunk lines would receive service every 15 minutes all day weekdays and weekends. Scheduling would allow corridors with multiple trunks increased combined all-day frequencies:

  • Every 5 minutes: Red, Orange, and Yellow trunks between Ithaca Commons and Cornell
  • Every 5 minutes: Orange, Yellow, and Green trunks traveling north from campus
  • Every 7.5 minutes: Red, Green, and Blue trunks on Tower Rd

All corridors would receive the same or better frequencies as they have currently. If the rural routes with the lowest ridership were removed, this plan could be implemented with only 98% of TCAT’s 2017 operating budget.

However, trunk routes could be implemented with limited suburban route changes and no removal of service. In fact, rebranding existing services which share long segments could have large benefits.

Proposed route frequencies