Late last year, the City of Ithaca announced its intention to go all electric. In other words, its 6,000+ buildings will become decarbonized to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Organizations within the city are taking steps too. TCAT, Ithaca Carshare, and county offices are all working to electrify their fleets of vehicles as time goes on and resources allow.

Ithaca is in a unique place to take this step. Upstate New York’s electric grid is among the ‘cleanest’ (i.e. most renewably-sourced) in the country according to Guillermo Metz, energy team leader at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County, New York State is funding grants to develop this technology, and the higher education institutions in the heart of Ithaca too have taken steps to pledge sustainable initiatives themselves..

What steps can it take further?

Ithaca has a low home-ownership rate and therefore a high amount of renters. Given that most electric car charging happens in-home, there will need to be more public charging ports available. When I was in London last year, I saw an ingenious solution to this problem – make the street lights charging ports! In Kensington, all apartment residents had to do was park near one and plug in; quite convenient!

I also hope that Bike Walk Tompkins succeeds in its mission to bring back electric bike sharing to the area, as the loss of LimeBike made it much harder to get around on a whim without a car.

What can other places take inspiration from?

Partnerships between locally run and focused organizations is something I think Ithaca really strives in. My upcoming story for Ithaca Week showcases an event by the Cornell Cooperative Extension that featured efforts from public and private organizations like TCAT, Ithaca Carshare, and more pushing visions for electric transportation. They give much more of a push and relationship to a municipal body than say, Tesla.

Also, other municipalities like Ithaca need to focus not just on electrifying their personal transportation, but also improving their public transportation and city infrastructure so that you don’t need a car to get everywhere you need to go. There’s simply too much urban sprawl in a lot of places! Ithaca definitely needs some work in this area too, particularly as one travels down Route 13.

Yeah, so?

Maybe electrifying things seems far off or unrealistic. However, we are at a hinge point in a lot of ways where eyes can be opened to this new opportunity on the road and indoors. Gas prices continue to be high and grids are getting cleaner while renewables have become more cost-effective over time.

A brave new electric world is likely coming, and the City of Ithaca sees this. Time will tell how well that will fare and how well it will be implemented, but I will remain hopeful.

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