The following is a republished press release from a community organization or member and NOT written by the Ithaca Voice … click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or contact me at msmith@ithacavoice.com.

ITHACA, NY – TCAT’s summer service will be in effect Sun., May 22, through Sat., Aug. 20, with several changes and service reductions from last year’s summer service period. Reductions and adjustments were needed to address bus operator shortages.

The changes include trimming trips or making adjustments to 20 of TCAT’s 33 routes to include Routes: 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 31, 32, 36, 37, 51 (weekend only), 52, 65, 72, 81, 82, 90 and 93.  Route 92, which typically does not run in the summer, will be in service to replace Route 93 service, which will be eliminated for the summer period. Click here for changes: http://www.tcatbus.com/content/uploads/2016/05/Summer-2016-_-adjustments-and-cuts-for-summer-period-May-22-through-Aug-20.pdf

The comprehensive TCAT Schedules & Service Guide/ Summer 2016 will be distributed system‑wide this week key shelters, to include Green St. Station and Seneca St. Station. The ride guide is available by clicking here:http://www.tcatbus.com/summer-service-schedules/ Those who want a printed ride guide and/ or individual schedules can pick them in the coming days at TCAT, 737 Willow Ave. Passengers can also call TCAT at (607) 277‑7433 and schedules will be sent to you via the U.S. Postal Service.

Although the reductions and changes to service were needed to level with bus operator shortages, TCAT’s operations and service development teams were able to make adjustments in response to comments from passengers gathered at four public information sessions and from feedback through other sources.

Riders using East Hill Plaza bus stops were worried about a proposal to move all East Hill Plaza stops to Pine Tree Rd. at East Hill (Route 51), particularly for seniors living in the area. In response, TCAT restored stops to East Hill Plaza. To address customer concerns about eliminating the 5:23 p.m. (Route 21) outbound commuter trip from Cornell to Trumansburg, TCAT combined the 5:03 p.m. and 5:23 p.m. trips and replaced it with a 5:13 p.m. trip to give Cornell employees leaving work at 5 p.m. time to catch their bus without having to wait an hour for the next bus.

In addition, TCAT decided not to make any changes to its hybrid fixed/ demand-and-response Route 41 service. TCAT’s service development and operations teams had previously proposed extending the fixed route portion to the Lab of Ornithology, but determined that change would cause inefficiency.

TCAT normally reduces service in the summer as most college students, many of whom are TCAT riders, leave the area for summer break. Nonetheless, TCAT was forced to make further reductions. Despite intensive recruitment efforts,TCAT is short about 10 bus operators to meet demand. The other option would have been to continue using contract drivers, which costs TCAT about $33,000 a week. “TCAT cannot continue to incur these contract costs on a long-term basis,” according to the resolution approved by the TCAT Board of Directors in a special meeting April 11, when it voted in favor of the summer adjustments.

The cuts are deemed emergency/temporary changes, thus not requiring public hearings under Federal Transit Administration guidelines. Still, TCAT held four public information sessions in early April and sought comments and suggestion via email and a special phone line set up for feedback. More than 30 people attended the public information sessions and TCAT received an additional 25 comments via email, letters and phone calls.

“We seriously considered all public feedback, and though we couldn’t resolve every concern, we were able to restore or adjust service on what we were proposing for routes 21 and 51,” said TCAT Service Analyst Matt Yarrow. “Out of all of the feedback we received, passengers were particularly worried about those two routes and we are pleased that we could respond accordingly.”

TCAT is greatly appreciative to its passengers for their feedback and apologizes for inconvenience service cuts or adjustments will create. Meantime, recruitment and hiring efforts continue in earnest to remedy bus operator shortages to enable TCAT to rebuild service.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.