March 1, 2002

C.U. Commuters Adapting To New, Larger TCAT Buses

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A little cleaner, a little leaner, and a little lower than the previous ones, eight new TCAT buses hit the Ithaca streets in early January.

Each new bus cost approximately $250,000, according to Dwight Mengel, the TCAT (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit) service development manager.

“TCAT paid ten percent of the cost, New York State paid another ten percent and 80 percent came from the federal government,” Mengel said.

The result of this joint effort is newly-designed buses.

“The new buses have more comfortable seats. This bus is 40 feet. The other buses are 35. The new buses hold more standees, and more handicapped riders. It’s good for the senior citizens because they don’t have to walk up the stairs, and I think the students appreciate that too,” said driver Marie Bethea as she operated her new bus, Route 30 which serves Cornell, the Pyramid Mall, and the Commons.

“The new buses are low-floor buses, which means you can walk right on instead of climbing steps. We can also lower the front of the bus to be ten inches off the ground, so if we pull up to a curb the passengers only have to step up three or four inches. There’s a ramp at the front of the bus, so people with mobility aids find it very easy to get on and off,” Mengel said.

“I think [the new buses] are nicer than the old ones, but that may be because they were easier for me to use when I was on crutches,” said Laura Karlin ’05.

TCAT decided to buy new buses because “the planned life of a high-density transit bus is 12 years, and the average age of our fleet was 11.5 years. We still have 14 buses that we need to replace, that are not wheelchair accessible,” Mengel said.

However, the new buses are by no means perfect, according to Bethea.

“They’re pretty good as far as driving goes. The steering is not as easy as some of the other buses. Also, I think people get disoriented at night because these buses are so bright on the inside,” Bethea said.

Others seemed concerned by the motion-sensitive doors in the back of the bus.

“People don’t know how to use the hand-waving door things and so I have to do it for people. Otherwise they’ll just stand there and not be able to get off the bus,” said Erin McNellis ’04.

Mengel had reservations.

“We’ll see how the air-conditioning works in the summer,” he said.

How much of an impact the new buses have had on the Cornell community is questionable, according to some students.

“There are new buses?” asked Brett Murphy, ’04.

Others were less enthusiastic about the new design.

“I don’t ride on any of the new buses,” said Lauren Saunders ’05,

Mengel is, however, optimistic about the future of the new buses.

“It’s a really wonderful bus and our passengers have been very positive,” he said.

Bethea’s riders were equally satisfied.

“I like these buses more. They’re cleaners, they’re bigger. Some of the other buses are nasty in general. These just look cleaner and smell cleaner,” said Kate Thorton ’02.

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