What's in a name? The future of public transportation in Tompkins County, according to Barbara Blanchard, a member of the Tompkins County Board of Representatives and chair of the operations committee of the Ithaca-Tompkins Transit Center.
"We've been talking for several years about consolidating the city, county and university bus systems to provide a cost- effective public-transit system with better routes and schedules," Blanchard said. "Now we're ready to do it." Currently, Ithaca Transit, Tomtran and CU Transit are the three major players. In anticipation of a unified system by summer 1996, Blanchard said the community is being asked to help name the new system, which will operate under "one banner, one name."
Blanchard, who represents the city of Ithaca's 1st ward on the county board, said the new name should create an image for the future, one that is "easy to read, pronounce and remember, and that is upbeat and positive, creative and fun, and marketable." She added, "It should be a name that you would be proud to see splashed across the sides of very large vehicles."
Entry blanks will appear soon in the Ithaca Journal, Ithaca Times, Cornell Chronicle, Ithaca Pennysaver and the Suburban Shopper, as well as on buses and at other locations throughout Tompkins County. Entries can be submitted through Feb. 29, Leap Year Day.
A panel of distinguished local citizens will review entries, and the winner and the new name will be announced in early March, Blanchard said.
The winner will receive a one-year bus pass valid on the consolidated bus system, plus a $250 U.S. Savings Bond or tickets and charter transportation for two people to Toronto to see Phantom of the Opera. In addition, the first 50 entries will qualify for an Ithaca-Tompkins Transit Center mug.
"The name-that-bus contest is open to all. You don't have to be a current bus rider, but we encourage you to try public transit before you enter," Blanchard said.
More people in Tompkins County are riding buses than ever before, she said. According to the latest figures available, ridership has grown since 1992 by about 14 percent, with more than 2.3 million riders in 1995.
"This is a positive performance, but we know we can continue to improve, thus we need a name that not only creates an image for the future, but defines a new standard of high- quality customer service in a bus system that has one, new name," Blanchard said. "With consolidation, it's possible to improve service and be more cost effective at the same time."