September 9, 2014

Subsidy Amount Between TCAT and Cornell Not in Writing, TCAT Says

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Cornell’s agreement with the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit to pay the bus service $1 per ride for bulk fare was never formally written down, according to Frank Proto ’65, vice chairman of the TCAT Board of Directors.

“This agreement was not memorialized in a written Memorandum of Understanding, but Cornell made its payments pursuant to that agreement [on $1 per ride],” Proto said.

The $1 per ride number was first calculated from how much it would cost a non-Cornellian with a monthly pass to ride the bus, according to TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte.

“[With a $45 monthly pass], if you take approximately 22 to 23 work days in a month and you travel to and from work via TCAT, then the average cost is $1 per ride,” he said.

While the University paid this figure from 2006 to 2010, it steadily began paying less per rider in the following years. Cornell paid 84 cents per rider in 2013, according to Alderperson Seph Murtagh (D-2nd Ward), who is also TCAT’s secretary and treasurer.

“After large increases in Cornell riders under the program occurred … Cornell asked the Board for a different methodology to increase its payments annually so it could have more predictability in its budgeting,” Proto said.

As a result, Cornell and the TCAT Board agreed that Cornell’s bulk fare payments — which is currently at $2.6 million — would increase by the same percentage as the contract payments that the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and Cornell make. Currently, each of the three organizations pay $829,432.

According to Proto, the contract payments did not increase for “various reasons.” As a result, Cornell’s bulk fare payment did not either.

The University currently pays TCAT an annual total of $3.43 million — $829,432 as part of an agreement with City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and TCAT and $2.6 million as a bulk fare for all Cornell ridership — according to University Spokesperson John Carberry.

Cornell’s payments accounted for approximately 26 percent of TCAT’s revenue in 2014, according to Patty Poist, communications and marketing manager for the TCAT.

However, approximately 71 percent of TCAT ridership comes from Cornellians, she said.

On Aug. 28, the TCAT Board of Directors passed a resolution asking the University to try to restore its payment to $1 per ride by 2015. This resolution came in response to President David Skorton’s decision earlier this year to not increase what the University pays for its bulk fares, which it already pays at a discounted volume price.