ITHACA, N.Y.—In front of a group of about 30 people Sunday afternoon on the Commons, a fleet of local elected officials called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill that would allow the Ithaca Carshare service to continue operating, attempting to boost urgency around the issue that has lingered for months despite legislative progress.

Carshare leaders said at the press conference, led by New York State Senator Lea Webb and State Assemblymember Anna Kelles, that if the delay drags on much longer, they will be forced to close permanently. The carshare is also considering selling off part or all of its fleet in order to keep the organization afloat during the pause.

The carshare officially paused operations on May 19, the result of a New York State rule interpretation that forbids insurance companies not based in the state from providing insurance to organizations in the state.

Ithaca Carshare’s former insurance company, Philadelphia Insurance, notified the non-profit last year that it would not be renewing the organization’s insurance policy, and the carshare has had difficulty navigating the market since—the organization is too small for insurance companies to make much of a profit off of the coverage, and automobile insurance is inherently considered high-risk, even though carshare officials have insisted their incidents have been minimal in the 15 years it has existed in Ithaca.

A bill changing the law has passed both the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, championed in both houses by Webb and Kelles. Yet to the dismay of carshare leadership, Hochul has yet to sign the bill, which carries with it a six-month delay until the changes would take effect. That delay has intensified the calls for the bill to be signed.

“Ithaca Carshare provides critical access to transportation for my constituents, many of whom can’t afford to buy a car or choose to not to in order to cut down on their carbon footprint,” Webb said. “I urge Governor Hochul to act swiftly and sign the Ithaca Carshare bill.”

State Senator Lea Webb addresses the crowd Sunday. Credit: Matt Butler / The Ithaca Voice

Jennifer Dotson and Liz Field, of the Center for Community Transportation and Ithaca Carshare respectively, said that each passing day increases the likelihood that Ithaca Carshare will be unable to return at all after the pause.

“Every day that passes without her signature is another day our staff are furloughed and members who rely on carshare can’t meet their transportation needs,” said Field, the organization’s executive director. The carshare’s five other employees have been furloughed. “We don’t understand what the hold-up is at this point.”

Both Dotson and Field spoke at Sunday’s press conference, reiterating their concerns about the carshare’s perilous position. They were joined by Kelles, Webb, Ithaca Common Council members Robert Cantelmo and Ducson Nguyen, Tompkins County Legislator Anne Koreman and Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council Director Fernando de Aragón. Two users of Carshare also came forward to speak about the burden the organization’s pause has put on them—including one person who said they had to purchase a car in the wake of the pause, highlighting the significant impacts of the abrupt and increasingly prolonged shutdown.

“We are here today calling on the governor to stand with us, not opposed to us,” Kelles said.

Speaker after speaker recounted the myriad benefits carshare brought to the community, particularly in light of statewide and local efforts to reduce carbon emissions. They also directly addressed Hochul, urging her to sign the bill without any modifications—which both Webb and Kelles said the governor is considering, to the point that the resulting bill “would not be a viable solution,” according to Kelles. Hochul’s office has yet to comment on questions regarding the reason for the delay.

“Every day we are not able to operate because we don’t have insurance is a loss to our budget, it’s multiple people furloughed without jobs, it’s people without transportation, unable to get to medical appointments, unable to move their kids when they need to, unable to get around,” Dotson said.

de Aragón detailed how agencies like the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council elsewhere in the state routinely include carshare services as part of their future alternative transportation strategies. With similar non-profit carshare services in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany watching the progress of the bill as well, the state has a chance to jumpstart even larger carshare services than the one in Ithaca, which has 1,500 current members and about 500 regularly active drivers, according to Field.

Fernando de Aragon speaks to the crowd Sunday, advocating for the Ithaca Carshare’s community sustainability benefits. Credit: Matt Butler / The Ithaca Voice

“We have a huge challenge, we have multiple state agencies that have identified solutions, and in this particular case we’ve identified a solution that has been proven with 15 years of experience in Tompkins County with carshare,” de Aragón said. “It’s been great. We’ve answered every question we need to answer, except insurance. This bill will take care of that.”

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at