As TCAT, the bus service of Tompkins County, prepares for the return of nearly 30,000 Cornell and Ithaca College students, it’s preparing to help them navigate bus routes and travel plans with a new app.
Roughly 75 percent of the bus company’s ridership stems from campuses, Patty Poist, communications and marketing manager for TCAT, told The Sun, so the influx of tens of thousands of students is a significant factor in the company’s summer and fall plans.
This year, TCAT is unveiling myStop, an app that provides real-time bus locations to passengers, many of whom will likely be using the bus service for the first time. TCAT officials hope the app will inform customers and keep them from getting confused or, even worse, hopping on the wrong bus.
Students will be able to “just put in the trip they want to take and they’ll see information on the most efficient way to take that trip with TCAT,” said Matt Yarrow, TCAT’s service development manager. “That’s a huge benefit for our ridership.”
TCAT will also release a trip planning system through Google Transit, according to the fall 2017 Ride Guide. The influx of new students often results in route changes and technological innovations within the organization, officials said.
“People are trying to get to different places on campus — they have different class schedules, there’s a lot of [construction] going on in the community … so these are things that we try to keep tabs on in terms of service planning,” Yarrow said.
Yarrow said that TCAT’s exploration of new technology will allow the buses to better accommodate the new students with different interface options, avoiding frustrations from route changes and unexpected delays.
TCAT is also upgrading some back-end IT services, allowing it to manage data, create driver schedules and more at a faster rate.
In addition to those IT upgrades, supported by the company’s new Intelligent Transport System, TCAT is aiming to post bus stop signs at all designated stops and improve customer service.
“The new students are a very big part of our job as we welcome the opportunity to provide service for them,” said Frank Howells, a driver for TCAT. He said getting all of the freshmen to their desired location is an especially difficult task as they are just learning the geography of the campus.
“I sent a notice to all the drivers that basically said that we want to make a good first impression,” General Manager Scot Vanderpool said, adding that he requested drivers to be especially “patient with the students and answer all the questions that are asked of them.”
“I think it’s going to help us for the rest of the semester if students know that we’re here to help,” Vanderpool said.