Back in 2017 when the community was still seriously debating the merits of Consensus’ plan to merge the City of Syracuse with Onondaga County, Centerstate CEO Rob Simpson liked to talk about how a combined city-county would be the second biggest city in New York State. That wasn’t really a very compelling argument since it compared apples to oranges, but it did get at something important: communities with larger populations enjoy political and economic benefits over those with smaller populations, and cities like Syracuse, Cortland, and Ithaca suffer both politically and economically because they each have so many fewer people than other communities in New York State.
An intercity transit service connecting Syracuse, Cortland, and Ithaca would fix this problem by uniting those three cities and their metropolitan areas into a single region large enough to give its residents political and economic advantages that they do not currently enjoy.
Uniting these communities will benefit both businesses and workers. Easier commutes between cities will enable workers from any community in the region to work for businesses in any other community. This will create a single regional labor market that can support growing local businesses and that can also attract large businesses to move into the region. The other side of this coin is that workers will be able to apply for jobs outside of their individual communities, increasing economic opportunity for people living in each community.
That economic integration will also make the region stronger politically. It will mean that good things happening in one community are good for people living in communities across the region, allowing residents and elected officials to advocate with a single voice in State politics. So if Syracuse needs the State legislature to amend its charter to deal with the City’s impending fiscal crisis, Bill Magnarelli and Pam Hunter will be able to count on support from Al Stirpe, Barbara Lifton, and Gary Finch in the State Assembly to make that happen. If we go through something like the Upstate Revitalization Initiative again, the Central New York and Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Councils can work together to submit bids that will benefit the entire region.
By making daily travel between Syracuse, Cortland, and Ithaca easy and routine, an intercity transit service would unite those cities and their metropolitan areas as a single region with a single labor market and a unified political voice. This kind of transformation won’t happen overnight, and it will require cooperation between regional transportation authorities, county governments, other municipalities, and private institutions, but the potential benefits are worth the effort.
This is part of a series about a potential transit service serving Syracuse, Cortland and Ithaca. Here are links to the rest of the series:
Transit Service Between the Airport, Syracuse, Cortland, and Ithaca
Learning from OnTrack
University Students and Public Transportation