Ithaca Blog

Thursday, July 27, 2006

TCAT and This Town

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.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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