Hannah Rosenberg/Sun File Photo

TCAT routes 14S and 83 have been suspended since October 2023 due to bus and driver shortages.

April 21, 2024

TCAT to Vote on Continuing Route 14S, 83 Suspensions Evoking Accessibility Concerns

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Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit routes 14S and 83 were temporarily suspended in October 2023 due to bus and driver shortages. But with continued driver retention challenges, suspensions may persist if the Board of Directors votes in favor of continuing route closures at its meeting on Thursday, April 25. 

Route suspensions have been met with disappointment from local riders, who cited accessibility concerns for elders and individuals who cannot drive due to disabilities. 

Route 14S commuted between West Hill and the southwest retail district, which includes Wegmans and Walmart, while route 83 commuted between Cornell’s West Campus and Central Campus and the residential area of Highland Avenue. 

The suspensions led to a 20 percent decrease in the bus miles of the geographical areas that routes 14S and 83 serve — West Hill and the residential areas of Highland Avenue, respectively. With this substantiating a “major service reduction,” TCAT policy allows for temporary major service cuts of less than 180 days but necessitates a public comment period and a vote by the Board of Directors for a longer suspension.  

TCAT General Manager Matthew Rosenbloom-Jones told The Sun that a shortage in drivers stretched the operating capacity of TCAT so thin that it was forced to suspend 14S and 83, which had very low ridership.

Rosenbloom-Jones said that TCAT is in the process of hiring new operators, who must have a commercial driver’s license. However, retaining drivers can be difficult due to competition with other employers who also seek drivers with CDLs.

“Transit has notoriously difficult work hours. It’s not the job for everyone,” Rosenbloom-Jones said. “We try to do everything we can to retain the drivers but ultimately, once you get that CDL it’s just a very competitive job market.” 

TCAT also cited bus shortages for contributing to the suspension of both routes. This follows an announcement by TCAT that all seven of their Proterra electric buses have been taken out of service out of precaution after one of the electric buses was discovered with its axle separated from its frame.

On Wednesday, April 17, TCAT hosted a public hearing for those who wished to express their concerns with proposed continued route reductions.

Former route 14S rider Patricia Frazier said that alternative routes can be unreliable and unsafe.

TCAT currently recommends that those who once used route 14S now use route 14 to travel downtown and then transfer to route 15 to travel to the southwest shopping areas. For route 83, TCAT recommends that riders now use routes 10 and 31. 

Frazier, a Cayuga Meadows resident, said that with a 10-minute walk between where route 14 drops off and where route 15 picks up, riders sometimes miss bus 15 if bus 14 is late. She also noted that because many of the residents of Cayuga Meadows are over 55 years old, the walk can be hazardous with rain or snow.   

Margaret McCasland M.S. ’88 said a permanent suspension of route 14S would be a “disaster” and a “disservice” to many local individuals who rely on public transport and are unable to drive, due to conditions like epilepsy or visual impairments.  

McCasland also said that Cornell should more extensively finance TCAT to make it easier to hire and retain bus drivers and bring back suspended routes, noting TCAT’s benefits to the Cornell community.

In October 2023, Cornell and TCAT agreed to a four-year payment plan with Cornell to pay TCAT over $3.3 million per year through 2027. 

“[Cornell] should be kicking in so much more, McCasland said. “I’m really hoping with the 14S that [TCAT brings] it back as soon as [they] possibly can. Yell and scream at Cornell to help make that easier to do.”

Rosenbloom-Jones emphasized that though the board will vote on the proposal to extend the temporary closure of routes 14S and 83, TCAT is working to bring the routes back as soon as possible. 

“Even though our intent is to restore the service as quickly as possible, we do have to go through this mandated process,” Rosenbloom-Jones said. “We’re just looking to get these two routes back right as soon as we have the resources to do so.”