Transportation issues are identified as a problem for Tompkins' aging population. Above, a TCAT bus.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Cornell will increase its annual contribution to the TCAT bus system so by 2018 it is paying $500,000 more annually, a letter from President David Skorton says.

TCAT had fallen into a $740,000 deficit, $500,000 of which it attributed to increases in ridership from Cornell students not being offset by higher payments from the university, according to Alderperson Seph Murtagh.

TCAT board members had asked Cornell to step up its subsidy. Skorton’s decision to agree to do so, outlined in the letter made public on Monday, was thus celebrated by city officials.

“I think it’s great news. … I commend the Cornell leadership for agreeing to do this,” said Murtagh, who is on the TCAT executive board. “It’s a big deal.”

Skorton’s decision marks a reversal from this May, when — according to the Cornell Daily Sun — he said, “I cannot at this time find a way to subsidize TCAT beyond what we are already paying.”

The university already pays TCAT an annual total of $3.43 million, University Spokesperson John Carberry told The Sun.

Skorton’s letter to Murtagh calls for the university and TCAT to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the expectations for Cornell’s payments to the bus system.

“I do not believe, however,” Skorton followed, “that long-term sustainability of the system will be achieved solely through an increased Cornell payment. It will require a comprehensive review by TCAT of its own business model and a full assessment of all other potential sources of funding.”

Here’s what Skorton’s letter called for:

— An increase by $250,000 in Fiscal Year 2016.

— An additional increase by $125,000 in Fiscal Year 2017

— An increase of another $125,000 in Fiscal Year 2018.

This would bring the annual payout from Cornell to Ithaca up $500,000 by the end of the third year.

“I appreciate our ongoing relationship with the City and the County in paying for this vital transportation resource and look forward to continuing to work with the TCAT board on these critical financial considerations over the coming months,” Skorton said.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.