TCAT, Inc (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc.) is a not-for-profit corporation that provides public transportation throughout Ithaca and Tompkins County. In pre-pandemic 2019, TCAT provided more than 4 million annual trips covering a distance of 1.6 million miles. The fleet of approximately 55 buses currently includes hybrid-electric diesel buses. TCAT also contracts with Gadabout Transportation to provide ADA Complementary Paratransit service.

TCAT is located at 737 Willow Ave., Ithaca. Administrative offices, including the customer service front desk in the main lobby, are open from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The weather outside is frightful. How do I know if my bus will be delayed?

As soon as information becomes available, TCAT staff posts any service delays and detours on its website: under the alert section, on the right hand side of the home page. Every morning, at around 6 a.m., TCAT supervisors send a service status report to the following radio stations: WHCU; WYXL; WQNY; WNYY; and WIII. Several other local radio stations report on weather delays as well. TCAT also conveys information via As soon as information becomes available, phone messages are recorded at 277 RIDE (7433). Given that TCAT operates 32 routes, it is frequently difficult to convey specific route delays in a timely manner. As a rule of thumb, TCAT asks passengers to dress for the weather and to be at their bus stops on time.

Occasionally, TCAT buses need to detour due to construction or road closures. This information can also be found the same way.

Does TCAT operate on holidays?

TCAT operates 360 days a year and does not operate on January 1, Memorial Day (May), Independence Day (July), Thanksgiving Day (November) or Christmas Day (Dec. 25).

I tried to catch the bus as it was pulling away from the curb, but the operator wouldn’t stop for me. Why?

As soon as the bus is in motion, TCAT bus operators are prohibited from stopping for safety reasons. The bus operator’s attention is focused on merging into traffic and any distraction could pose a safety hazard.

Why do I see empty buses? Looks like a waste of money to me.

That empty bus you saw was likely on its way to becoming filled with passengers as the route progressed. In some cases, that empty bus is returning to the garage after a full and busy day in service. Most passengers do not ride the entire route, so buses tend to be fuller in the middle of the route and emptier at each end.

Why doesn’t TCAT use smaller buses? Wouldn’t they be cheaper?

Smaller buses can only be used on certain routes that have lower ridership. They are not cheaper to operate as the cost of labor, maintenance is the same. Fuel efficiency is slightly better, but the difference is negligible. The Federal Transit Administration doesn’t allow TCAT to have two separate sized fleets, so we size ours to meet rush hour demand.

Why do I have to stuff my belonging under the seat away from aisles and fold my baby stroller and/or grocery cart?

If a bus operator has to stop quickly, your item can turn into a projectile and injure someone. Also, the aisles need to be cleared so passengers can walk safely without the risk of tripping.

Can I bring pets on the bus?

Animals are allowed on the bus in an enclosed pet carrier. Service animals are allowed and must be under complete control of the owner. Dogs that serve as comfort or therapy dogs would not be accepted on the bus unless in an enclosed animal carrier.

What is a Service Animal?

 Service animals are animals that have been trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Passengers with disabilities may ride with their trained service animal. The operator may ask if the animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.

The service animal must be under the control of the owner at all times. If the animal is not under the control of the owner or if the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the operator may require the animal to leave the bus.

All TCAT buses are equipped with a wheelchair lift or ramp, which the driver will deploy upon request. If you are still unable to access the bus system, you may be eligible for ADA complementary paratransit.

Why shouldn’t I cross in front of a stopped bus after I get off?

For safety reasons. If you wait until the bus departs the stop before crossing you will be able to see traffic in both directions and motorists will be able to see you.

On your new buses, windows are locked. Why and what should I do if the air conditioning system breaks down?

This feature is now an industry standard. This so called “fixed” design will not enable passengers to open windows. Fixed windows mitigate costly repairs to the stream-lined heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems in TCAT’s newer buses. If a window was opened on a warm day, it could overwhelm the HVAC system and pose discomfort for everyone on the bus. Any HVAC issues are considered an “out-of-service” position, therefore, the bus would be pulled from service and we would not subject our riders to excessive heat or cold. In the event one of our new buses had a roadside failure; all are equipped with several emergency windows that will open, allowing ventilation.

I don’t have bus service in my neighborhood. How does TCAT determine where to operate its routes?

TCAT creates its routes based on based on travel patterns and magnitude of demand. In January 2010, TCAT implemented a new route system based on two years of expert consultation, field work and public outreach that netted 600 suggestions. With limited resources, TCAT strives to offer service that provides the most coverage to the majority of the community. TCAT is always willing to consider requests for service.

When does TCAT make service changes?

TCAT makes service changes and puts out new schedules 3 times per year. Winter service runs from mid-January until late May, summer service runs from late-May until late-August, and fall service runs from late-August until mid-January.

I went out on Sunday night and needed to catch a bus home at 1:00 AM on Monday morning. According to the trip planner, the route 90 should have been running but it never showed up. Was the trip planner incorrect?

Transit schedules often show a schedule for a “Service Day” rather than a calendar day. By “service day,” we mean that TCAT’s transit system starts up around 4:00 AM in the morning, continues throughout the day, and has its final trips around 2:30 AM the following day. This would mean that a Monday schedule actually encompasses the time period from 4:00 AM Monday morning until 2:30 AM Tuesday morning. Although trips that occur after midnight are technically on the next calendar day, they are still considered part of the previous day’s service schedule, especially since one individual bus trip might start at 11:30 PM Monday and finish at 12:30 AM Tuesday, having spanned the date change.

This may be where the confusion sets in. When you see on the schedule that there is a Route 90 leaving the Commons at 1:00 AM on “Mondays” (and every weekday), this means that the bus actually serves the stop at 1:00 AM, on the calendar days Tues-Sat. As there is no Route 90 service on the Sunday schedule, this means that there is also no service in the early morning hours of Monday.

It is difficult to display this information in a consistent fashion so that it is easily comprehendible to passengers. Eventually we hope to change over to Google transit which is equipped to handle and display this information.

Why were the lightbulbs in the TCAT buses were changed from fluorescent to pink?

The change in lighting was due to reduce glare on the bus windshields. While operating rural routes during nighttime hours, our operators were experiencing difficulties from the interior lights reflecting on the windshields, thus reducing visibility. Through a trial and error process, we determined that pink was the color that worked best. They are still the same fluorescent bulbs, only the plastic covers have been changed.

I am interested in advertising on the outside of your buses. How much does it cost?

Advertising on TCAT offers great visibility for your organization. All of the advertising on our buses is now handled by Cayuga Radio Group.
Visit:  for more information

How can I get more involved with TCAT?

The Riders’ Advisory and Accessibility Committee is comprised of riders and members of the TCAT team and meets once a month to discuss current issues, future projects, and how TCAT can improve service for older riders and riders with disabilities. If you are interested in joining, please contact Patty Poist at 277-9388 x 560 or by email at

I lost something on the bus. How do I get it back?

Bus operators and staff work hard to make sure items left on its buses or at its shelters are returned to their rightful owners.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, TCAT’s offices and main hub, Green St. Station, are closed. If you lost an item, please call (607) 277-7433 (RIDE). TCAT will make every attempt to return your lost item by arranging for you to meet one of our buses in our service area. We will provide bus operators with lost items so that they can meet you enroute and return your possessions to you  

Also, if you have lost something valuable that you urgently need, such as a wallet, purse, keys, or laptop, please call us right away, again at (607) 277-7433 and it may be possible for you to arrange to meet that bus in the opposite direction to retrieve your items.

It is helpful if you include the bus route, bus number (if possible) and what time you rode the bus. We also need a thorough description of your lost property.

Buses are cleaned every night when they return to the depot and articles left on the buses are put in safe keeping. All lost items are brought to TCAT supervisors, which is usually on the following day. On occasion items do get turned in on the same day they were lost.

 Please bring photo I.D. with you unless it is among your lost items. TCAT is not responsible for lost or stolen items. Unclaimed items will be disposed of after 30 days unless you make arrangements with us.

TCAT is not responsible for lost or stolen items, but will make every effort to return them to their rightful owners.