Syracuse Center of Excellence Finds Untapped Potential for Sustainable Transit in Syracuse

Jun 23, 2017

An example of the sort of changes that could be made in Clinton Square and Armory Square to facilitate sustainable transit
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

When you have to get around Syracuse – to go to work, run an errand or go out to have fun – are you aware of the best ways to do it? A group of researchers at the Syracuse Center of Excellence has just finished a study looking at sustainable transportation methods. Syracuse University Assistant Professor of Architecture Tarek Rakha found that at least for two methods of transportation, Syracuse has good potential but isn’t taking full advantage.

 “So for example there is infrastructure that supports biking heavily and it is not very well used. There is information out there that can make your commute using public transit very efficient but it’s not very well used. For example, we find that more and more people don’t know that you can plan your routes and plan the use of buses in Syracuse using an app like Google Maps or the Centro app that will tell you accurately to the minute how you can plan your route.”

The idea of the study was to find if there are ways to increase alternatives to the car, whether human powered or mass transportation.  And to see if there could be better marketing, changes to city streets, policy alternatives, etc.  The study found the vast majority of people want their car over concern of having to need it at work in a hurry.

 “We actually found that most people drive because of that reason," Rakha said. "You might have an emergency or might have an errand. And then on average we also found by surveying everyone that they on average do only one trip per day. You’re planning your entire day and you’re spending all of that money maintaining your car, burning fossil fuels and actually buying the fuel and all of these things for one trip per day.”

An info-graphic breaking down by percentage the different methods that people are using to get to work.
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

The study suggests the sharing economy could help - that means things such as Uber and Lyft that are coming to Syracuse - but also bike sharing or car sharing.  Rakha says the study also took into account the possible changes of I-81, which he says could include planning to spend tax dollars on more sustainable transportation infrastructure.

 “So, if the public are not aware of what sustainable transportation means for their lives and their kids’ lives and their grandkids’ lives and for living in the United States in general then we might go in a path that is going to be favoring automobiles rather than people.”

Selling sustainable transportation, Rakha says, needs comparisons to successful U.S. cities, and also the health and environmental benefits.  More on the study can be found at

A plan showing two different viable ways through which South State Street and Harrison Street could be converted for more sustainable transportation
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News