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Southern Tier of New York
Skyline of Binghamton
Skyline of Binghamton
     Core Southern Tier counties     Peripheral counties
     Core Southern Tier counties
     Peripheral counties
Country United States
State New York
Region Upstate New York
Counties Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Tioga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Delaware, Steuben
Cities Binghamton, Corning, Elmira, Hornell, Olean, Salamanca, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Vestal
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern Daylight Time)
Area code 607, 585 & 716

The Southern Tier is a geographic subregion of the broader Upstate New York region of New York State, consisting of counties west of the Catskill Mountains in Delaware County and geographically situated along or very near the northern border of Pennsylvania. Definitions of the region vary widely, but generally encompass localities in counties surrounding the Binghamton and Elmira-Corning metropolitan areas. This region is bordered to the south by the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and both these regions together are known as the Twin Tiers.

Constituent counties

The eight counties almost always included in the Southern Tier are:

Pop. 2010 County Major Cities and Villages
48,946 Allegany County Wellsville, Belmont, Alfred
200,600 Broome County Binghamton, Endicott, Endwell, Johnson City, Vestal
80,317 Cattaraugus County Olean, Salamanca, Ellicottville, Randolph, Little Valley
134,905 Chautauqua County Dunkirk, Jamestown.
88,830 Chemung County Elmira, Horseheads
47,980 Delaware County Delhi, Sidney, Hancock
98,990 Steuben County Corning, Bath, Hornell
51,125 Tioga County Owego, Waverly

Often but less frequently included in the "Southern Tier" designation are Schuyler County, Yates County (the regional sentiment is stronger throughout the southern portions of Yates county, such as the village of Dundee), Cortland County, Tompkins County, and (far more rarely, except for Chenango) Schoharie County, Chenango County, and Otsego County (the last three of these, along with Broome County, are also commonly considered part of the tourist designation "Central Leatherstocking Region"), however Schoharie County is also listed as part of the Capital District. At least one definition used by the state Department of Transportation includes Sullivan County, which usually isn't included in other definitions. The National Weather Service office in Buffalo occasionally includes Wyoming County and, more rarely, Southern Erie County in its definition.

The Encyclopedia of New York State lists only Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, and Steuben Counties as part of the Southern Tier, with anything east of that being considered Central New York. Other definitions define it as comprising the combined Corning-Elmira-Binghamton Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which includes Steuben, Chemung, Tioga and Broome Counties but not Chautauqua, Cattaraugus or Allegany, which are considered Western New York.

The New York State Division of Local Government Services presently classifies the following fourteen counties as members of the Southern Tier: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins. This definition corresponds to the same 14 counties in New York State that are members of the Appalachian Regional Commission formed in 1963.

In virtually all contexts, the Southern Tier is considered a part of the broader Upstate New York region.

Much of the Southern Tier is in area code 607, with the exception of Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties, which are in area code 716 or area code 585. As of 2013, the westernmost portion of the Southern Tier is located in New York's 23rd congressional district; the easternmost portion is composed mostly of the lower half of New York's 22nd congressional district along with a very small lower portion of New York's 24th congressional district The ZIP code prefixes 147 (Jamestown region), 148 - 149 (Elmira region), and 137 - 139 (Binghamton region) are set aside for the Southern Tier.


Allegany State Park Mt. Tuscarora 2007
Allegany State Park

The Southern Tier is generally hilly without being mountainous (with the exception of the Catskill mountains). This can range from low rolling hills to more steep and rugged cliffs and valleys. Both the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers flow through the Southern Tier in their upper reaches, as does the Allegheny River in the western Southern Tier.

The Southern Tier makes up the northernmost portion of Appalachia and lies on the Allegheny Plateau. It is defined on its western boundary by the Chautauqua Ridge in Chautauqua County, and including this ridge and extending eastward across the northern bounds of the region, the continental divide between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watersheds exists. The Eastern Continental Divide runs directly through the region, in Steuben County.


The Southern Tier has long been home to the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. There were major settlements along the Allegheny River in Cattaraugus County (which the Senecas acquired by defeating the Wenrohronon during the Beaver Wars in 1638), at Painted Post in Steuben County, at what is today the northeast side of Corning, New York. The Seneca Nation has a reservation today along the Allegheny River and a headquarters at Salamanca. There are also Indian lands (with no current Indian residents) on Cuba Lake in Allegany County.

The colonies that eventually became the states of New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania all laid claim to the Southern Tier at various points in the 17th and 18th Centuries, while not making any significant attempt to settle the territory.

The region was quickly settled by whites after the Revolutionary War, when settlers were again allowed west of the Appalachian divide. The Southern Tier shared in the economic growth of the early 19th century, but its hilly terrain made it less suitable to canal-building, and later, railroading, than the more level corridor to the north between Albany and Buffalo. There was an attempt at a Genesee Valley Canal in the western half, and in the eastern half, the Chemung and Chenango Canals did connect the Erie Canal to Elmira and Binghamton respectively. Beset by financial and technical difficulties, the latter two canals nonetheless were important catalysts for economic growth, and indeed for the construction of the railroads that would supplant them. Plans to connect these canals to the Pennsylvania Canal system, thus making them much more than feeders to the Erie Canal, never came to fruition.

Railroads did arrive and the Erie Railroad, which followed the water-level of the Allegheny, Susquehanna and Delaware watersheds accelerated industrial progress in the region about the time of the American Civil War. The railroad and available fuel from the region's dense forests attracted Corning Glass Works to Steuben County in 1868.

The region became home to prosperous farms and small factory towns (with the exception of larger Binghamton) during the first half of the 20th century. But declines in U.S. manufacturing hit the region hard and it suffered even more than other parts of upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania.

The region's addition to the Appalachian Regional Commission, often credited to the influence of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, provided economic stimulus over the last 40 years. Government funds built the Southern Tier Expressway, highway links to the New York State Thruway, encouraged the growth of state colleges at Wellsville, Alfred and Binghamton and sought with mixed success to attract business interests relocating from the New York Metropolitan Area and urban Western New York.

For two decades, the region has tried to remake itself as a tourist destination and relocation area for retirees from big Northeastern cities. Meanwhile, agriculture and manufacturing struggle to compete regionally and globally.


Southern Tier Expressway
Southern Tier Expressway route marker

The Southern Tier Expressway – Interstate 86 and New York State Route 17 – serves the Southern Tier. The highway is the region's major corridor and connects to U.S. Route 219 in Salamanca, Interstate 390 in Bath, Interstate 99 in Corning, U.S. Route 220 in Waverly, and Interstates 81 and 88 in Binghamton.

The region is served by three regional airports. Elmira-Corning Regional Airport has routes to Atlanta, Washington D.C., Detroit, and several destinations in Florida. The Greater Binghamton Airport offers Delta Airlines flights to Detroit. Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport connects to Pittsburgh via Essential Air Service.

Bus service is provided along the entire I-86/NY 17 corridor by Coach USA's Shortline/Erie services from Jamestown to New York City and Buffalo, and Trailways connects the Southern Tier with Buffalo, Dubois (at the western end in Salamanca), Sunbury/Lock Haven (at Elmira), and Syracuse, Albany and Harrisburg (at Binghamton). A somewhat-unorganized network of municipally-operated public transportation services operate local and limited intercity bus services between Salamanca and Elmira.

Until the demise of long-distance passenger rail service in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, the Erie Railroad operated passenger trains in the region, with Chicago, Illinois as the western terminus and Jersey City, New Jersey as the eastern terminus, with ferry connections to New York City. The last Erie Lackawanna passenger train, the "Lake Cities", ran on January 6, 1970.

Amtrak currently does not serve the area. Proposals for high-speed rail in New York have included a route from Binghamton to New York City through Scranton, Pennsylvania: a route that could at least partially be upgraded for high-speed rail. As of 2011, the highest priority for high-speed rail projects in New York is in the Empire Corridor, of which no part crosses the Southern Tier. The hilly terrain of the Southern Tier's I-86 corridor is not ideal for high-speed rail service, especially compared to the relatively-flat and straight land in the Empire Corridor.


Government services are the largest employer in the area. Of second and declining importance is manufacturing. The region's manufacturing economy has suffered for decades, but factories are found in the region's larger communities. Fortune 500 materials maker Corning Inc. is headquartered in Steuben County. Broome County has a large high-tech industry, and is the birthplace of IBM and flight simulation. In addition, other factories in the region make military aircraft, televisions, furniture, metal forgings and machine tools.

The area includes the northern extent of the Marcellus Formation and natural gas. Crude oil and oil sands continue to be extracted from Southern Tier wells as they have for over a century. There is significant debate about allowing hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale in the Southern Tier, which is currently banned in New York.

Cummins engine company has a large production facility located in Jamestown, NY. The Jamestown Engine Plant, established in 1974, is one of the top five heavy-duty diesel engine producers worldwide with production in recent years typically exceeding 100,000 engines annually. The JEP also remains one of the company's largest manufacturing facilities, as it accounts for 12 percent of Cummins' total engine production in 2012.

Agriculture is also a major part of the economy. Leading products are dairy, vegetables, orchard fruit and wine grapes (the last of which typically grows only on the fringes of the Southern Tier, as the inland areas tend to not have a long enough growing season to support it). In addition, two prominent microbreweries, the Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York and the Ellicottville Brewing Company in Ellicottville, operate in the western Southern Tier.

The western and northern edges of the Southern Tier are known as ski country, and the hilly terrain (that forms a continental divide known as the Chautauqua Ridge) is notorious for frequent and heavy lake effect snow. As a result, Ellicottville has become a "ski town" with both the Holimont and Holiday Valley resorts in the vicinity; the two resorts draw numerous tourists, particularly from Canada, for which U.S. Route 219 provides easy access. At its peak in the 1960s, over a dozen ski resorts resided in the Southern Tier, many in Cattaraugus County, before most of them closed due to various assorted causes by the 1980s.


Binghamton University (the State University of New York-Binghamton) is one of the SUNY system's four University Centers. Other 4-year and graduate institutions within the core counties include St. Bonaventure University, Alfred University, Elmira College, and Houghton College. Technical and community colleges include Alfred State College, Broome Community College, Corning Community College, and the State University of New York at Delhi. The region is also home to E.B.I. Career College, a vocational school.

Institutions of higher learning outside the core counties include Cornell University, Hartwick College, Ithaca College, SUNY Colleges in Cortland and Oneonta, Jamestown Community College, Fredonia, and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

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