Cover of the TENA pdf document summary, with icons of people and the document title.

See the link below for the full report.

Tompkins County Transportation Equity Needs Assessment Results Released

Tompkins County Transportation Equity Needs Assessment Results Released

ITHACA, NY – Tompkins County’s Transportation Equity Coalition has released the results of a county-wide Transportation Equity Needs Assessment (TENA). The Coalition formed in 2020 to understand and address factors that affect access to safe, efficient transportation for Tompkins County residents, especially those from underserved communities. In order to identify strengths and weaknesses of the current transportation network, the Coalition and a planning group of community members who faced their own transportation barriers conducted focus groups in 2022 and a county-wide survey in 2023.

Online focus groups included 35 local residents responding to questions about their transportation options — including walking, biking, taking public transit, sharing a ride or using a single-person automobile — as well as barriers and solutions. The Coalition and Planning Group then developed a survey based on these responses, releasing it in three languages in print and online and distributed widely by Coalition members and partners. In total, 2,146 survey responses were collected. 83.3% of respondents self-identifying as underserved.

Key findings included:

  • Unsurprisingly, personal vehicles are the most common mode of transportation; and most did not find it hard to get around Tompkins County.
  • Importantly, over 20% of the low-income underserved said getting around the County is “hard” or “very hard.”
  • Underserved low-income individuals are more likely to use TCAT buses.
  • “No buses when needed” is the most common barrier reported by almost all, but more so for those who are both underserved and low-income.
  • Those identifying as low income spend 11-20% of their income on transportation, compared to 0-10% for the not low-income.
  • “Stress” was a significant response for all surveyed when asked about the effects of these barriers. “Limited autonomy” (43%) and “late/missed appointments" were common responses for underserved groups.
  • When asked about what would make it easier to travel around Tompkins County, better bus service was the most common response across all groups.

The survey results, as compiled and presented by the consultants Yasamin Miller Group and Leslie Reynolds, includes potential solutions to barriers. The number one solution across all groups surveyed was better bus service, followed by 24-hour transportation services, dedicated/safe space for bikes, manage vehicles to reduce traffic, make transportation services cheaper/free, safe/dedicated space for walking and more transportation services near housing.

The Transportation Equity Coalition hosted a workshop on March 5 titled Creating Equitable Solutions in Transportation in order to develop recommendations based upon the priority solutions. The 45 participants in the workshop included members of the TENA planning group, human service professionals, transportation service providers and policy decision makers at the local, county and state level. The solutions and related recommendations identified in this session will help shape local programs, funding and policy decisions going forward.

Key recommendations include investment in/support for bus drivers as well as more frequent and later buses; additional transportation services with a focus on vanpool and on-demand shuttle services, particularly for rural areas; improved walking infrastructure for safety including signals, raised crossings and beacons; and a bike lane network with improved road quality; low and extremely low income assistance programs for any transportation mode and free TCAT.

“These results give transportation policymakers, educators, schools and other leaders the community input and well-researched information to move forward with plans that improve the local transportation landscape,” said Meloney McMurry, leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County’s Way2Go transportation information hub.

“The Transportation Equity Needs Assessment is an important resource for decision makers in our community to help prioritize projects and initiatives,” said Fernando de Aragón, Director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council. “The report supports other data that indicates low-income households are dependent on a variety of modes – walking, transit, bicycling – to help meet their transportation needs.”

The Transportation Equity Coalition will follow up on the release of this report by presenting relevant results to decision makers for use in budgeting, planning and policy development; making the report available to transportation providers for use in budgeting, grant writing and programming; and conducting outreach to the community around specific recommendations and implementation. A six-month progress report to the community is expected this fall.

The Transportation Equity Coalition is currently made up of representatives from TCAT, Gadabout, the Center for Community Transportation (including Ithaca Bikeshare, Ithaca Carshare and Bike Walk Tompkins), Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County’s Way2Go program, GO ITHACA, Tompkins County Planning Department and the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC).

The full report from the Yasamin Miller Group and Leslie Reynolds can be found at


A fact sheet for the Transportation Equity Needs Assessment was presented to the Tompkins County Legislature.

Last updated April 25, 2024