January 22, 2013

TCAT Sees Record Ridership for Sixth Consecutive Year

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For the sixth consecutive year, the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus service has broken records in ridership, seeing more than 4 million trips in 2012.

According to TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte, this is a 4.7 percent increase from the 3.95 million trips of 2011. A trip is defined by a student ID swipe or when a bus fare is paid.

The record moves TCAT into the “medium sized category” of transportation services, by the American Public Transportation Association, an accomplishment for a county whose population is slightly over 100,00 individuals, said Turcotte. APTA uses these groupings to designate awards to successful transit systems.

“Increase of gas prices were a factor in the spike in trips over the year,” Matt Yarrow, service analyst for TCAT, stated in a press release.

In an interview with The Sun, Turcotte credited TCAT employees for making the increase in trips possible.

“It’s the dedication of the employees; [they] make TCAT safe, reliable and clean. It’s all in the service delivery that makes people use the service over and over,” Turcotte said.

However, the new record will not affect TCAT financially, as the federal government, New York State, Tompkins County and the fares the bus collects from users fund the service, according to Turcotte.

“[The record] definitely brings financial gain without funding,” he said. “Our budget is already set for 2013. It has been the same amount for the past five years, and we will only know of an increase [in the budget] in December.”

Though New York State has supported TCAT financially to keep its rates and wages the same without numerous budget cuts, the bus service still faces many problems, according to Turcotte.

“[Right now], we are actually leaving people at stops, and hopefully we can overcome that with more funding. Aging buses need to be replaced, we are outgrowing our TCAT facility, and our passengers are continually asking for better technologies to help them navigate the system,” Turcotte said in a press release.

Moreover, there are no plans to increase the bus fares as APTA statistics show a decrease in overall ridership when fares increase, according to Turcotte.

Turcotte suggested more buses as a solution to increase efficiency.

“Hopefully we can overcome leaving people at stops with more funding. The simple solution is to increase the fleet size. Creative scheduling for rush hours comes down to more buses,” Turcotte said.

But despite the difficulties TCAT faces with an increasing ridership, Cornell students have expressed their appreciation for the bus service. Mike Fox ’15 said that TCAT has served him well this year.

“It has saved my life since I’m taking Swahili in the Africana Center. I have no idea how I could make that trip on foot every day, especially in the snow. I’m a big fan,” Fox said.

Connie Potter ’16 emphasized the importance of a reliable bus service.

“Students need easy access to a consistently updated bus schedule, which lets us know if our route is taking longer than usual to complete,” Potter said. “We need to know if we can rely on TCAT to be timely, and if they’re having a bad day we need to know soon enough that we can arrange alternative travel plans.”

Original Author: Kevin Milian