For local transit buses this fall, the road through the COVID-19 pandemic is paved with safety.
Protecting passengers and drivers is the top priority for Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) for the upcoming fall service schedule, which starts Aug. 30 and runs through Thanksgiving. TCAT will resume charging fares Sept. 6.
The bus system will continue to follow state COVID-19 safety guidelines. Masks are required to board and ride the bus. To allow for physical distancing, the system’s 40-foot buses will be limited to 20 passengers that can normally accommodate 66 riders, and TCAT will add backup buses to higher-volume routes.
TCAT also is installing plastic barriers between drivers and passengers and hand sanitizer dispensers on every bus.
Every night TCAT cleans each of the system’s buses, which includes cleaning procedures that follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Professional-grade germicidal electrostatic sprayers are used to disinfect bus interior surfaces, stanchions, handrails and seats.
“We’ve worked hard to provide safety measures for our passengers and drivers, and we want to emphasize the use of face coverings in this closed environment,” said Scot Vanderpool, general manager of TCAT, who also stressed, “And if you’re sick, don’t ride the bus.”
Vanderpool noted passengers soon will be educated about staying safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19 through on-bus advertising, part of Cornell’s public health campaign. “The marketing push will be helpful,” he said.
Bridgette Brady, chair of the TCAT board of directors and senior director of
transportation and delivery services at Cornell, said that upon the onset of the pandemic last spring, TCAT took early and swift action to address safety impacts.
“My expectations,” she said, “are that we will continue to sustain the many measures that TCAT has enacted and activated to address safety of passengers and drivers.”
Matt Yarrow, TCAT’s assistant general manager and chief route planner, has been working to configure safe and efficient fall routes based on students returning to Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College. This fall the schedule will look a little different:
Route 84 is a new circulator bus that runs every 15 minutes on a Cornell campus-to-Collegetown loop, according to Yarrow. It stops at Sage Hall on East Avenue, the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on College Avenue and the Breazzano Center on Dryden Road. The bus proceeds to Hoy, Campus, Garden and Tower roads, then back on to East Avenue.
Route 82 has been split into two new campus routes. Route 81 (10-minute intervals) will become the A Lot, North Campus, Hasbrouck, Central Campus and Tower Road circulator. The route started Aug. 17. “That’s where we saw that we needed the biggest capacity to make sure that students were able to travel back and forth from North Campus,” Yarrow said. In its new configuration, Route 82 (15-minute intervals) will serve Maplewood Avenue, East Hill Plaza, East Hill Office Building and Tower Road on campus.
Routes 30 is a heavy ridership route with service every 15 minutes. During rush hours, the system will aim to have backup buses. This fall, service will go later into the evening.
Route 10, the campus-to-Downtown Ithaca circulator bus, returns for fall service. After stops on East Avenue, it will run down College Avenue, through Collegetown, on its way downtown. Going uphill, the bus goes to University Avenue, Millstein Hall and back to East Avenue.
Route 90 will offer nightly service from North Campus, East Avenue, Collegetown, Mitchell Street and East State Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Street to downtown Ithaca, at 40-minute intervals.
Routes 92 and 93 have been reconfigured to accommodate Collegetown construction. The nighttime service Route 92 (40-minute intervals) will drive through North Campus, West Avenue near Libe Slope, Collegetown, Dryden Road, Maple Avenue, Pine Tree Road, and Tower Road. Route 92 will also operate all day on weekends. (8:40 a.m. to midnight on Saturday; and 8:40 a.m. to 10:40 p.m. on Sunday.) Route 93 (45-minute intervals) will stop at Sage Hall, Collegetown, Dryden Road, the East Hill Plaza, Honness Lane and Eastern Heights. Both routes will end weeknight service by midnight.
Rural Routes 20, 21, 37, 40, 52, 65 and 67 will serve West Campus at Stewart Avenue and University Avenue in the uphill direction; and at Baker Flagpole (Libe Slope side) in the downhill direction. Route 83 will not run during the fall service period.