For about three years, David Syracuse commuted the 31 minutes from his home in Cortland to his job at TST BOCES in Ithaca—sometimes with a passenger also going in the same direction -- thanks to an online ridesharing platform that is now available in Cortland County for all drivers and passengers.
David was with Zimride since its inception in Tompkins County in 2016—finding riders that were happy to share his electric Chevy Volt with him and his big, friendly boxer which he took to doggy daycare twice weekly. He was able to participate because TST BOCES is one of six academic institutions that host the platform. Cornell University, Binghamton University, Ithaca College, Wells College and Tompkins Cortland Community College are the others.
And now other community members in Cortland have that same chance.
“It’s been cool to meet some fun people I wouldn’t otherwise meet,” said David, who’s now moving to Ithaca and will continue to use Zimride to share his car with fellow riders for the much shorter commute of ten minutes.
Zimride is for riders who have a trip originating or ending in Cortland or Tompkins counties—they can sign up for free at fingerlakesrideshare.org, logging in as either a community member or a member of one of the partnering universities. Then the rider can do a search by zipcode, and connect to other people going in the same direction.
The city of Cortland made the platform available here last month, signing a memorandum of understanding with the Finger Lakes Rideshare Coalition, agreeing to be the local sponsor for Zimride. Seven Valleys Health Coalition pays the $600 fee for the service, funding which comes through a NYSDOT grant. The platform fits with Seven Valleys Health Coalition’s mission which is to pursue more sustainable and environmentally friendly modes of living.
“We are always trying to expand the options for transportation services in the county,” said Seven Valleys Health Coalition Executive Director Jackie Leaf. “And this ride sharing service is just one more option for people to use to get from Point A to Point B.”
City Mayor Brian Tobin said he was happy to support an initiative that reduces carbon emissions and helps people find alternative ways to get to their destinations.
The shared rides could save on wear and tear of your car and ultimately reduce carbon emissions by taking extra vehicles off the road, says Fernando de Aragón, Staff Director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council which helped launch the program.
About 80 percent of the approximately 15,000 commuters who come into Tompkins County daily drive alone—about 2,900 are Cortland residents commuting to Tompkins County, says de Aragon.
That means a lot of empty seats.
By accessing fingerlakesrideshare.org, people can sign up, create a profile, and find fellow riders- or rides. Some may ask for help paying for gas or other travel expenses while others, like David Syracuse, offer a free ride—the payment for him was being a small part of a larger change he’d like to see in the world.
“If I could take another gas vehicle off the road, why not?” he said.
(* All images provided by Fingerlakes Rideshare Coalition Facebook page)