A TCAT bus leaves the Uris Hall bus stop on March 19, 2020. TCAT announced on Thursday that they will temporarily waive fares and limit bus capacity in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A TCAT bus leaves the Uris Hall bus stop on March 19, 2020. TCAT announced on Thursday that they will temporarily waive fares and limit bus capacity in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 19, 2020

TCAT Temporarily Waives Bus Fares and Curbs Ridership

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Cornellians who remain in Ithaca won’t pay for their bus rides to Wegmans for the next three weeks.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit will temporarily waive fares and limit bus capacity to reduce in-person contact between riders and bus drivers, as the region responds to the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a Thursday press release.

The $1.50 bus fares consist of only about 20 percent of the company’s revenues, Scot Vanderpool, general manager of TCAT, told The Sun. Ridership has also plummeted — meaning this policy change will not cause a significant dent in revenues, Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool added that the decision was made to relieve riders who are “struggling to make ends meet” as unemployment is expected to drastically rise. On Monday, the New York State Department of Labor website crashed as a flood of newly laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits.

“We don’t want any of our community members to suffer from transportation barriers when they need to pick up their day-to-day essentials such as food and medicine,” Vanderpool said in the release.

After April 9, a decision to extend fare waiving may depend on “circumstances that are way beyond [their] control,” Vanderpool said.

To encourage social distancing, the company is also implementing a rider capacity until further notice. TCAT will allow 20 riders on each bus, sitting dispersed around the vehicle. The company plans to have “backup buses” on standby at Green Street Station, available for routes that generally attract more riders than this capacity.

TCAT slashed late night bus service on Monday and further reduced service on Thursday as the company’s largest pool of riders — Cornellians — vacates Ithaca.