ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca Carshare is set to resume service in early March 2024 after New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill Friday that effectively allows the non-profit to acquire insurance for its fleet of 30 rental cars.

Ithaca Carshare director Liz Field announced the news at a rally on the Commons Friday. Bill sponsors State Senator Lea Webb and Assemblymember Anna Kelles were also on hand, as well as Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis and local transit advocates.

The non-profit paused operations in May after its insurance carrier pulled out of the New York market. Field said she was unable to find a new insurer that could meet New York State requirements.

Car share fleets can often be insured only by specialized insurance providers called risk retention groups. Until now, state law had barred such groups from selling auto insurance unless they were domiciled in New York.

At a rally last month, one of the carshare’s roughly 1,500 users said they had to purchase a car since the closure in May.

The new law, which goes into effect on Mar. 1, paves the way for several other New York based car share organizations to resume operations, should they choose to do so.

Kelles said the bill benefits people who rely on other non-profit transportation services too, like Meals-On-Wheels and Gadabout, the bus service that provides transit for older and disabled residents.

“There are so many people who cannot afford to get around without [services like] carshare,” Kelles said.

Ithaca Carshare Director Liz Field said Hochul’s signature came at the eleventh hour for the carshare non-profit. 

“We were starting to sell off the fleet actually,” Field said. “[Last] Thursday, I had four cars towed to our office.”

That same evening, Field said Kelles’ and Webb’s staffers called to tell her they had reached an agreement with the governor’s office and that Hochul could sign the bill within the next few days. 

Webb and Kelles introduced the bill in March. It had been awaiting the governor’s signature since it passed the state legislature in June.

During a visit to Ithaca last month, Hochul was greeted by a crowd of Ithaca Carshare supporters, but she did not publicly commit to a timeline for the bill at that time.

“We had said September, the first of the month, we were gonna start shutting down,” Field said. 

Field said she had even started to call around to find someone who could uninstall the special hardware that once allowed patrons to remotely unlock and lock the cars.

“I mean, it’s such a turnaround,” Field laughed. “I was towing cars to the office, and being like, ‘How am I gonna get this frickin’ hardware removed? Nobody knows how to do it except this guy in Canada!’”

Field said she looks forward to reopening, albeit with a slightly smaller fleet—about 24 cars instead of 30—she said they will likely still need to sell a few cars to offset expenses. 

She said she plans to bring back furloughed workers as soon as possible so they can get the cars ready for service again—scheduling inspections, renewing registrations and of course, buying car insurance.

Megan Zerez is a general assignment reporter at the Ithaca Voice. Reach her via email or social media @meganzerez