Record ridership for TCAT in 2010

For the fourth year in a row, TCAT broke records with 3.58 million rides in 2010, a 6.3 percent increase from 2009 when TCAT reported a little more than 3.35 million rides.“We knew we would likely increase our ridership, but I have to say we were surprised by the large percentage,” said TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte.“This is great news, particularly in an era when public transit agencies across the state and nation are grappling with budget shortfalls, route cuts and fare hikes. Fortunately we didn’t have to take any of those measures, which have resulted in reduced ridership for less‑fortunate transit agencies.”Turcotte attributed the jump in ridership to TCAT’s implementation of more efficient and streamlined routes that went into effect one year ago. In addition, TCAT launched a new fare collection system, called RideLogic, featuring the rechargeable Tcard. The new system, created by Ithaca‑based Black Box Computer Consulting, enables TCAT to better track ridership and adjust routes based on demand.Turcotte also said TCAT’s highly trained bus operators and maintenance crew are key to TCAT’s reputation of being one of the best public transportation systems of its size in the country.Turcotte predicts that with increasing gas prices, TCAT will continue to gain ridership in 2011.“Public transportation is key to economic development in making sure people have an affordable way to get to their jobs, their schools and to shopping or wherever they need to go,’’ Turcotte said. “In a strained economy, more and more people – and the economy as a whole – become dependent on a sound public transit system,”TCAT’s Service and Operations Analyst Doug Swarts also said he believes the new route system, based on a comprehensive Transportation Development Plan (TDP) and a broad spectrum of public input, has captured more ridership. In addition, Swarts said, the new electronic fare collection system provides for a much more accurate accounting of rides that may have been missed by the former paper pass system.“This is all very exciting,” Swarts said of the new ridership numbers. “We now have tangible proof that our new route system is an overwhelming success. In addition, our ability to track and study real-time data with RideLogic enables us to continuously take the pulse of our passengers and make adjustments as needed.” Turcotte said TCAT’s goal is to constantly look for ways to improve service and listen to what passengers want and need. With fiscal austerity being the mantra, particularly with the new administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the challenge for TCAT will be to operate as efficiently as possible.Unlike other transit agencies, TCAT so far has resisted raising fares or cutting service , both of which have a negative effect on ridership numbers. (TCAT was forced to stop service to Schuyler County after Jan. 14, but that decision was based solely on the Schuyler County Legislature’s vote to eliminate funding for the service). To be sure, 2011 will be a challenge for TCAT.“We have done everything we can to keep our fare structure as low as possible and we will have to invade our fund balance significantly in 2011 to meet our expenses,” said TCAT’s incoming Board Chairman Henrik “Hank” Dullea, in an earlier news release.“New York State is TCAT’s largest source of funding; if the state’s fiscal crisis results in reductions of transit operating support, TCAT’s service will be severely impacted,” Dullea said. “TCAT has a strong board and a terrific team of managers, bus operators and mechanics who together will bring us through these difficult fiscal times.”To that end Turcotte recently challenged his staff to brainstorm for ways to curb costs in any way possible. “We are already a lean organization, but we will strive to find creative ways to cut down on expenses wherever we can.” TCAT’s historical ridership data and percentage year‑to‑year increases: 2006 3,065,309 -0.9%2007 3,106,215 1.3%2008 3,317,716 6.8%2009 3,351,817 1.0%2010 3,577,579 6.3%

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