September 11, 2008

TCAT Buses Extend 50¢ Fare

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In a continuing effort to reduce Cornell’s carbon footprint and to increase ridership, TCAT busses has extended the $0.50 off-peak fare through Oct. 31.
The pilot program, reducing the off-peak price from $1.50 to $0.50, was approved by the TCAT Board of Directors and enacted at the beginning of July. According to Rich McDaniel, chair of TCAT Board of Directors, the pilot has already increased ridership during the off-peak hours by an average of 37 percent.
“TCAT is on track to carry well over 3 million riders in 2008,” said James Bratton, TCAT communications & marketing manager. [img_assist|nid=31600|title=Cheap ride|desc=TCAT decided to keep its $0.50 rates during off-peak hours until the end of October.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Off-peak hours are 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until each lines stops running Monday through Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday. According to McDaniel, the most common users at these times tend to be employees, students traveling from class to class and the families of employees and the elderly.
McDaniel explained that during these hours, mass transit tends to have excess capacity, meaning empty seats. Thus, one of the main goals of the off-peak fare reduction is to entice people to try the bus system and fill the empty seats to increase profit.
“The economic side of this is to introduce people to an excellent service. If you do that, even though you may end up losing some money on the specific ride, you increase ridership. You benefit the system as a whole,” McDaniel said.
However, encouraging the public to use the TCAT system is not solely to increase profits. Cornell’s ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and practice sustainability are the main reasons behind encouraging mass transit.
“This is the time, because of the high fuel cost and the concern of sustainability and environmental stewardship, that we ought to do as much as we can to use these kinds of services in the community,” McDaniel said.
The harsh increase in the price of fuel is also an incentive for greater use of mass transit and helps explain the increasing use of the TCAT busses.
“If had a car, I would still take the bus because of the gas prices,” said Jeanette Pineiro ’10.
TCAT also hopes to launch a van share program this fall, which would provide a vehicle to a driver that would pick up other people in the neighborhood going to similar destinations. A car share program currently exists where users can log onto Cornell’s Commuter and Parking Service’s website and find others with similar commutes.
At the end of October, TCAT plans to analyze the profits and volumes of the busses during the trial period and then decide whether or not the fare reduction should be continued.
“The key variable is whether or not [the fare reduction] changes peoples’ behavior so that people who use [the busses] during the off-peak hours … will use them in an ongoing way after the promotion is finished,” McDaniel said.
If TCAT decides to again extend the program, McDaniel said that there might be ways of funding the differential cost, such as local companies funding the program for promotional and advertising benefits.
TCAT is also free at all times for all new students, and after 6 p.m. and weekends for the rest of the student body. This program will have no effect on the price of peak rides or the yearly bus pass.