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Cornell's response to the rising number of Coronavirus confirmed cases, cancelling in-person classes, TCAT reels for drop in revenue.

March 11, 2020

TCAT Braces for Drastically Reduced Ridership in Wake of Cancellation of On-Campus Classes

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With the cancellation of in-person classes, Scot Vanderpool, general manager of TCAT, anticipated the bus company’s ridership and revenue would take big hits.

According to Vanderpool, around 70 percent of TCAT’s ridership is affiliated with Cornell.

Vanderpool said that no TCAT employees will be laid off, but that to adjust to the reduced ridership, the company will reduce the number of buses on the road — which is currently at around 42 — and will likely cut overtime hours.

“We really don’t have any choice,” Vanderpool said. “We don’t want buses running empty.”

One of TCAT’s most significant sources of funding is the State Transportation Operating Assistance, a program through the New York State Department of Transportation that subsidizes TCAT in proportion with the amount of riders the system carries.

“Communication is going to be really important for us not only to the Cornell community but also to the entire town,” Vanderpool said. “I think as long as people know what the schedule is and buses are dependable we’re in good shape, we just have to communicate it.”

Vanderpool said that he anticipated reducing bus service around March 29, after Cornell’s spring break begins.

In a silver lining, the reduction in number of buses running on a daily basis will allow TCAT to catch up on bus maintenance — a rare opportunity, Vanderpool said.

Speaking only two hours after Cornell’s announcement, Vanderpool said that he had yet to gather his team and fully assess the situation. But he felt that the closure might help calm the nerves of people around town.

“It’s going to help everybody in this community in some ways,” he said. “There will be less crowding on buses, I really think it’s going to ease some folks’ minds.”

Vanderpool said that a service change of this magnitude is unprecedented in TCAT’s history, but also felt that the timing — only seven weeks until the end of the semester — lightens the blow, saying that there are still residents in suburban and rural areas who need transportation in and around Ithaca.

TCAT has already taken precautions against COVID-19, such as spraying buses with disinfectant, but Vanderpool anticipated spending the next few days firming up a game plan for the following weeks.

Kathryn Stamm ’22 contributed reporting.