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September 25, 2019

TCAT Adds New 35 ft Buses to Handle Overcrowding and High Demand

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As the fall semester began, Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Inc. was faced with the task of helping to ease overcrowding on their buses — a challenge that comes with students frantically looking for a quick ride to class. As of Sept. 17, TCAT has added three new 35-foot buses to augment their fleet of 54 40-foot buses and ease the strain on their routes.

Unlike the rest of TCAT’s buses, the new additions are smaller than the average TCAT bus, each only seating 29 people. TCAT has also purchased five 40-foot buses — both additions totaling to a 55-bus fleet for this upcoming year. The five larger buses are currently housed at the TCAT garage awaiting equipment installation and inspections, but are expected to be on the road by late October, according to the TCAT website.

One of TCAT's three new 35-foot buses that were purchased to augment the already-existing fleet and help deal with issues of overcrowding.

Courtesy of Patty Poist

One of TCAT’s three new 35-foot buses that were purchased to augment the already-existing fleet and help deal with issues of overcrowding.

Of the 34 routes that TCAT provides, the 30 and 10 routes are the two busiest routes, in terms of passenger count, according to Patty Poist, communications and marketing manager for TCAT. Both are routes that service Cornell.

General Manager Scot Vanderpool said that TCAT’s “peak service in the summer is three or four buses less than it would be in the fall when Cornell and Ithaca College are in session.”

While 70 percent of riders are Cornell faculty and students, according to Vanderpool, many also come from surrounding towns and villages, contributing to the overcrowding.

Poist also told The Sun that as of now, the three new buses are driving through five different routes and being used as back-up buses.

“Our ultimate goal is to use them on an as-needed basis, but currently we need them to meet service,” said Mike Smith, assistant general manager for TCAT in a press release.

Aside from overcrowding and mechanical malfunctions, TCAT also faces another issue — although some of the new buses are running, they are not yet equipped with the technology necessary to carry out certain functions, including transferring real-time information to bus tracking apps, or checking ride or day balances. Instead, bus-riders are encouraged to check schedules online on the TCAT website.

The appropriate technologies are set to be installed by the end of October. Meanwhile, to facilitate collecting the fares of bus-riders, individuals will still have to show their student ID, staff ID or form of payment to the bus operator. The operator then logs this manually, “making sure everybody has the necessary requirement to get on the bus.”