TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. – TCAT’s number one priority is to address persistent bus shortages that have forced the agency to cut a number of peak time trips over the past several weeks.
An aging fleet, maintenance staff turnover, more stringent NYSDOT regulations, all combined, have thwarted efforts at keeping TCAT’s full fleet of buses in service.
To mitigate inconvenience to passengers, TCAT dispatchers have been strategically canceling trips on high-frequency routes, such as routes 10, 30 and 82, knowing that riders can catch the next scheduled buses in a shorter period of time compared to lower-frequency rural routes. Nonetheless, TCAT apologizes to passengers who are encountering service disruptions.
What TCAT is doing to remedy the shortages?
- Contracting with third-party diesel garages to fulfill routine maintenance requirements on buses, as well making necessary repairs and upgrades on recently purchased used buses. Last month, TCAT acquired five used buses at auction to address shortages, but the buses need to be rehabilitated and pass stringent safety requirements. “The used buses we bought at auction are in good condition, but they need to be overhauled and inspected from top to bottom to ensure they are road worthy,” said General Manager Scot Vanderpool. “Safety is paramount above everything else.”
- Finalizing plans to lease or borrow buses from other transportation companies to fill in gaps until May 26, when TCAT begins its summer service period with fewer service demands.
- Additionally, TCAT recently restructured its maintenance department to place more focus on getting more buses on the road while adhering to what has become increasingly stricter DOT regulations.
TCAT will take possession of nine new replacement buses in September. Bus shortages are exacerbated by the lengthy 12 to 18 month period of time between ordering new buses and actually taking possession of them. Also, the process of securing federal dollars for buses and other capital needs is often unpredictable, which makes it difficult to plan ahead and purchase buses in a timely manner or before they age out of the fleet.
Again, TCAT apologizes to all passengers who are affected by missed trips and asks for patience while staff work to bring the fleet back to its optimal level in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, riders are urged to continue checking TCAT’s Bus Tracker or MyStop app for service alerts to remain abreast of any service disruptions or cancellations
Featured image: A TCAT bus in the garage. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)