October 15, 2014

EDITORIAL: Moving Towards a More Sustainable Model for TCAT

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In a letter that was released to the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Board of Directors on Monday, President David Skorton announced that the University would increase its voluntary payments to TCAT by $1.125 million over the next three years. This announcement came after Skorton stated that the University would not increase its bulk share to TCAT in May, as well as the debate as to whether the University would fund free first-year bus passes. We at The Sun commend Skorton for taking responsibility for the University’s share of TCAT, and applaud the activism from both Cornell students and the community as a whole.

Last year, the TCAT Board of Directors passed a resolution that asked Cornell to increase its ridership subsidy from $.86 to $1 per ride made with a Cornell ID. The increase that TCAT was looking for would help minimize the $740,000 budget shortfall from the previous year. Skorton responded in May saying that he would keep the free bus passes for first-year students but that the University did not have the funds to increase the subsidy. We previously stated in an editorial in September, and still believe, that the University must pay TCAT in an equitable manner.

One of the caveats of the previous agreement between the University and TCAT is that it was not a written agreement. According to Frank Proto ’65, vice chairman of the TCAT Board of Directors, the agreement was not written in a memorandum of understanding, thus the University was not bound to it. Even though the University was not necessarily legally bound by a contract, we believe that increasing Cornell’s subsidy payment is right. We applaud the University for committing to signing a memorandum of understanding with TCAT, which will dictate its voluntary payments after 2018.

However, as we commend Skorton for creating a plan to pay TCAT fairly, we must also commend students for their activism that we have seen surrounding this issue. We applaud these students for joining together and sharing their opinions through appropriate channels. One specific incident of peaceful protest was the TCAT Teach-In hosted by the Save the Pass Coalition on Oct. 6. Approximately 50 participants attended, including students as well as representatives from the United Auto Workers Local 2300, who came together to place a roadblock with 500 signatures in front of Day Hall. The Teach-In was held to educate others about the cause, as well as raise support for fairer contracts with TCAT.

We believe that the University fulfilled its duty by finding the funds to increase its subsidy to TCAT. We also welcome the student activism around this issue that we have seen as of late and hope to see appropriate conversations surrounding similar controversial topics in the future.