ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca officials are eyeing new locations for an intercity bus hub location, with hopes of building out a more stable infrastructure for both buses and passengers arriving and departing Ithaca.

The bus depot in the West End shut down in 2018, and the void hasn’t quite been filled since then. Recent meetings between Downtown Ithaca Alliance officials, Ithaca and Tompkins County representatives and other local interested parties have focused on where the next intercity bus hub should be established. While they work to do so, officials are also asking for the public to fill out a survey describing what they would like to see in the next transit center in Ithaca; particular emphasis is being placed on people who use intercity buses frequently.

Most buses stopping in downtown Ithaca now arrive at either the Seneca Street area near Starbucks and the parking garage, or Green Street near the Tompkins County Public Library. There’s not much infrastructure for intercity buses in either location, particularly after the Green Street Pharmacy closed down in 2021, and both places are a bit cluttered already as TCAT buses frequently stop there as well.

DIA Executive Director Gary Ferguson said that there is no consensus yet, but unsurprisingly one of the most popular locations discussed so far is the Seneca Street Parking Garage. Other options discussed included the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport and some discussion of another option less centrally located in downtown, including further west and outside of the massive SouthWorks project on South Aurora Street.

“This is still a project in the formative stages,” Ferguson said. “There’s interest on everybody’s part to try to see something happen.”

The catch with targeting the Seneca Street Parking Garage is that any work done there would likely come as part of a much larger project. The garage has long needed rehabilitation, with city officials floating the idea of a redevelopment project in a similar vein as the Green Street Garage redevelopment in 2019.

The Green Street Garage redevelopment, though currently cumbersome for downtown traffic, will almost undoubtedly transform that part of downtown with the addition of parking spots, a conference center and 200 or so units of affordable housing. 

“There’s a general sense, from most parties, that it should be in the urban core, somewhere that’s convenient to TCAT, convenient for people to walk to,” Ferguson said. “One of the parts of the survey is asking people how important these things are.”

Ferguson said the city is working with a consultant to determine some of the best spots for the bus hub to eventually land. That process has included looking at other facilities around the country in similar or slightly bigger cities to assess how many amenities such a hub should or could have. A hub could mean little more than a covered shelter for waiting passengers, or a small indoor facility with a bathroom where people can rest before or after their bus—something like Bangor, Maine’s bus hub, Ferguson said.

Other options include something more involved, like Boulder, Colorado’s bus hub that sits below a parking garage and has enough space to simultaneously hold 14 buses. Ithaca wouldn’t be in the market for something that large — Ferguson capped the number around 7 or 8 buses — but it could be an inspiration for the path Ithaca takes.

“It’s like designing a parking lot for a big box retailer,” Ferguson said. “They design it for the day before Christmas, when they expect 500 cars. Of course, the rest of the year they may only see 50 cars or 100 cars. Part of it is trying to understand what the actual needs are and how often that happens.”

Ferguson said officials are gathering a “list of particulars” that they would like to see at any future bus hub, and that the survey should help field a wide range of public input as well. As of Tuesday, Ferguson said the survey had yielded around 300 responses. 

One of the largest remaining questions is exactly how much rehabilitation does the Seneca Street parking garage need? That’s something that will loom large over the city’s next few years whether it is chosen as the spot for an intercity bus hub or not. 

“They tore down part of [Green Street Garage], they kept part of it and built over it,” Ferguson said. “So a lot depends on [the Seneca Street garage’s] condition, where it stands and what can be done or should be done with it. At this point, part of the consultant work is looking at that very question.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at