An amended bill passed by the House of Representatives would slash funding to the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit by thousands of dollars, jeopardizing the public transit system in our community. Overall, mass transit organizations across New York State would lose hundreds of millions of dollars, with TCAT losing $207,000 each year. To ensure TCAT continues to serve the Ithaca and Cornell communities well, the amendment must be removed from the final federal highway bill.
The House of Representatives bill calls for the defunding of the 5340 Program, also known as the High Density States program, which provides funding for transit systems in states with large populations. According to the New York Public Transit Association, TCAT would need to increase the cost of the service for riders and decrease service to cope with the decreased funding. With TCAT facing budgetary concerns in the past, such cuts would jeopardize the service and would negatively affect ties between Cornellians and much of Ithaca. Students regularly rely on TCAT to not only traverse campus, but to also engage with the community downtown. Without a well-funded public transit option for students, faculty and staff, local businesses will suffer as a result of less foot traffic and decreased economic activity.
A robust public transit system is integral to maintaining a well-connected community. Currently, the a version of the highway bill passed by the Senate would keep the density program in tact, preventing the cuts to transit organizations across the east coast. As the bill is finalized, it is imperative that funding to public transportation in Tompkins County and at large is maintained.