September 6, 2007

TCAT Adjusts Routes, Revamps Website

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It is 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Do you know where your TCAT bus is? If you’re new to Cornell, there is a chance that you do not. Whether it was a trip to the Commons or a quick run to the mall, some students have had unfortunate experiences with the bus service that frequents the Ithaca area.
Although many students find TCAT bus service generally acceptable, they share a few common complaints, most notably in the confusing website and infrequent service.
TCAT promises several new improvements, however.
“We should be having a new website in a couple to three weeks. It will be more interactive. I hope people will find it more user-friendly,” said James Bratton, marketing and communications manager of TCAT.
TCAT plans to use newer technologies beyond the confines of computers to enable easier access to bus schedules and encourage less dependency on the company’s website.
“[The schedule] will also be made available on mobile or cell phones,” said Bratton.
Although the current TCAT website features a “Trip Planner” that enables passengers to search for “the fastest route” between two locations in a specific time period, some students do not find this as helpful as TCAT officials intended.
“It’s good to have the schedule on the web … [but] the web is not so clear,” said Martin Kuusangnayir grad, who took his first TCAT bus on Tuesday morning. “I want to go back home, and I don’t know where to get on the bus.”
“It is difficult to find the appropriate bus from one place to another,” said Ki Hyoung Cho ’08.
He also suggested that an interactive map would be more helpful than the current drop-lists of locations.
At the moment, the company’s website is the main source of schedule information, especially since not all bus stops display a comprehensive schedule. However, as TCAT is now “in the process of revamping the stops,” the situation should improve in the near future.
Bratton also said that a summary of schedules is displayed on the new Seneca Bus Shelter in the Commons, which opened a few weeks ago.
Apart from confusion caused by the current website, students also expressed dissatisfaction on the buses’ frequency and consistency.
“[There is only] one bus per hour, so if I miss it, it’ll screw up everything,” Cho said. “[The service] should be more frequent.”
Remus Radu grad shared a similar opinion. “There’re a lot of buses, but not as many as I would like to.”
However, he expressed more concern on the buses’ punctuality.
“I don’t like how it is usually late for … up to five minutes. But it’s only five minutes, so it’s bearable.”
Bratton said that TCAT has recently performed a process to ensure that buses arrive on time.
“We’ve just redone some of our major routes … we identify routes where we think the times might be off, take buses out and see what time they get to different stops. Then we adjust the times to make sure the times to get to the stop is the same time on schedule.”
He added, “Normally we’re a few minutes within the time, [but] sometimes [there will be] circumstances beyond our control, like traffic congestion and construction work.”
Regarding the frequency of the service, Bratton invites students to share their opinion with the company.
“If students are feeling a need for service on a particulate route and destination … let us know exactly what it is and we’ll see what we can do. We’ve changed and do change schedules to meet demands. We’ve added Wegmans on one of the stops, and that’s a direct request from students. Anyone who has a suggestion or a request should call us or email us. We’re more than happy to look into that.”