Two previous entries here on Ithaca Blog explored the reasons why TCAT (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, the public bus system) could and should be a tremendous community asset.
Starting today, entries will report on actual experiences: TCAT's production, not just potential.
TCAT has a lot of routes: about 40. Wherever you're going, chances are they go.
The next question is when. One of the drawbacks of the system is a shortage of night service.
But that's maybe its only weakness. It is primarily a commutation system, and the morning service is exceptional.
My first trip was from Cayuga Heights to downtown. I wanted to leave Cayuga Heights around 8 a.m., but I thought probably I would have to wait until 9:00 for service to start.
Wrong. I logged onto the TCAT website and found that the Route 30 bus leaves Pyramid Mall at 6:30 a.m. It travels through Cayuga Heights via Triphammer Road, Upland Road, and the Parkway, and will pick up passengers anywhere along the way. It goes through Cornell, to downtown.
I actually didn't believe service would start that early. I thought I must have misread the site. So I called TCAT, at 277-RIDE, for verification. The very helpful and personable operator told me, you read right.
The next morning, I met that bus. Right on time. It was a sunny morning, but there's a plexiglass shelter there for inclemency. (I actually caught the bus not at Pyramid Mall itself, but at a roadway exit from the Mall, near Tops.)
The fare is $1.50. I can't tell you if exact fare is required, as I had it exact, like a trained city guy. My guess is, it is.
A lot of factors determine whether a fare is fair. The first, I guess, is whether you have it. I imagine for a minimum wage worker, $3.00 a day to commute is a significant expense. But it probably doesn't exceed the expense of a car.
This ride seemed to me to be the work commute for most people on the bus. It also seemed to me that I was the only one who paid cash. So if you are using the bus regularly, and smartly, you are using a pass that lowers your cost.
The condition of the bus certainly warranted the fare. Clean; air-conditioned; comfortable. The ride was pleasant and quick.
Route 30 is among the buses that run the latest, as well as earliest. You'd think that people in Cayuga Heights wouldn't want a bus riding through the quiet, private, somewhat mysterious neighborhood all day long. Knowing that it does is the first of my corrected notions about TCAT and this town.
Next installment: the trip to Trumansburg.
for Ithaca Blog