Emma Hoarty/Sun File Photo

TCAT extended its suspension of two bus routes due to operator and bus shortages.

February 1, 2018

TCAT to Expand to Larger Facility, Says New Chairman of Board of Directors

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Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit hopes to improve the service it provides to Cornell and the Ithaca community by incorporating 11 new buses to its fleet this February. However, the organization still needs to build a space to house its newly modernised fleet.

Frank P. Proto, who took over as the new chairman of the TCAT Board of Directors last Thursday, believes the replacement buses will play an essential role in improving the quality of service that TCAT provides.

“These 11 new replacement buses will go a long way to help us provide on-time service and avoid missed trips,” he said. “If you can’t be there with the bus to pick up passengers then you don’t have quality service.”

TCAT’s current facility at 737 Willow Avenue is not large enough to accommodate these new buses, TCAT informed the county legislature’s Planning Committee. In the submitted proposal, TCAT cited a commissioned Facility Assessment and Planning Study that showed that the current facility is “completely maxedout [sic].”

“TCAT’s goals this year are to initiate a strategic plan that will give us a road map on how to go forward — for both the short-and long-term future,” Proto said.

To remedy the facility deficit, Proto said that they plan to find a new site for the TCAT facility in order to house the 11 new Gillig buses TCAT will be obtaining to replace some of its older buses.

“The Federal Transit Administration has established the useful life of a bus is 12 years,” he explained. “The average age of TCAT’s fleet of approximately 50 buses is nine years. We have some buses that have been in service in excess of 16 years.”

According to the study, it would cost over $3 million dollars to keep the current facility functioning. In comparison, the report says that it would cost approximately $50 million to build a new facility that allows for the acquisition of the new buses.

In terms of funding this massive project, Proto said that “Besides working with our local funders, we are staying abreast of the state government and what changes they are proposing through the Department of Transportation, and also with the federal transportation bill that the president has been talking about.”

“We are hoping that our elected representatives at all levels are going to recognize and support our needs because, once again, there is continuous clamor for expanded and quality service throughout the county,” he said.

Proto has been serving on the TCAT board and its previous operating committee since the 1990s, and even served as head of the board multiple times. He also has experience as a Tompkins County Legislator.

He is replacing former chairman David Howe, assistant dean of finance and administration at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Howe left the board at the end of last year, after over five years of dedicated service.

Proto anticipates that the biggest challenge he will face is “dealing with the state and federal governments with regards to transportation needs.”

“It is a major challenge to deliver quality service to our riders while we try to address geographic changes in our community,” he said.