A message from TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool:
Rest assured, safety is TCAT’s top concern.
As the coronavirus pandemic persists, TCAT continues to follow strict preventative measures as advised by health and industry experts to help keep passengers and employees safe. If we are going to win this battle against Covid-19, we need to keep the momentum our community has gained in recent months.
The following is a list of questions and answers we compiled from the feedback we have been receiving from our riders and our community over the past several months regarding the pandemic. If your questions are not answered here, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.
1. Question: How is the coronavirus impacting service?
Answer: In response to a substantial drop in ridership due to stay-at-home directives, TCAT started scaling back service in March 2020. As ridership began recovering over the summer TCAT added back service. For the fall service period that started Aug. 30, most service is operating as normal or at about 90% compared to the same period last year. As of December, ridership is at about 25% of what it normally is this time of year. (Please note, winter service started Nov. 29 and will be in effect through Feb. 6.)
The crisis also prompted TCAT to cease accepting fares March 20 through Sept. 5 so that riders would not have to use the farebox, which is located next to the driver area. Now that driver barriers are installed (see photo left), TCAT is again able to collect fares. See fare and pass options here.
Finally, to prevent people from gathering in a confined space, TCAT shuttered its only indoor waiting area at its main hub, Green St. Station.
The pandemic is also causing delays for riders ordering new passes
Effective Dec. 4, TCAT’s customer service staff are working remotely. As such, customers who need to purchase new Tcards or fobs ˗ or who need to recharge their fare media over the phone ˗ should expect delays in receiving their passes.
Please note: Customers using the online store https://store.tcatbus.com/will still be able to add passes to their fare media that, in most cases, become effective immediately. (In rare cases, the recharging process could take up to 48 hours for the additional passes to post.)
Customer service representatives are usually able to send out new passes in the mail within the same day the order is received either by both phone or through the online store. And, with full staffing, they usually can recharge passes immediately over the phone with onsite software. With remote staffing, however, these processes may be delayed by two to three days.
As always, customer service representatives are able to take calls Mon.-Fri. from 8 a.m. to noon and then again from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at (607) 277-RIDE (7433). Riders can also email TCAT staff with concerns or questions at email@example.com and a representative will get back to you as soon as possible.
2. Question: Why are you running buses during a pandemic?
Answer: Public transit is considered essential; many people need to travel to buy food, medicine and to keep medical appointments. Some people are deemed essential workers who can’t work remotely. And keep in mind, we have riders who have no other means of transportation.
3. Question: What can I as a rider do to protect myself and others while riding the bus?
Answer: First and foremost please wear a mask or appropriate face covering when boarding and for the duration of your trip.
Riders must wear face coverings as do all people who are out in public and who cannot practice social distancing, according to a New York State Executive Order. Depending on supplies, TCAT bus operators may be able to supply riders with face masks, but please remember to bring your own if you can. Go to the CDC to learn how to make your own mask here.
Please note, bus drivers and other transit employees are also required to wear face coverings or masks when in contact with the public, but drivers, who are often on the road many hours a day, are allowed to remove their masks when they are alone on the bus.
Follow all other guidelines from health experts, practice good hygiene, wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, and please stay home if you are sick or experiencing symptoms of illness.
TCAT also asks that everyone riding the bus to practice social distancing by sitting as far apart as possible from fellow riders. We are also limiting each bus to 25 riders and will provide back-up buses for overflow.
These are unprecedented times that require understanding and patience from everyone.
4. Question: What is your action plan if your drivers and other essential employees are told by their doctor to stay home or quarantine?
Answer: TCAT has a finite number of personnel and we are dealing with unknowns and rapid changes each day and sometimes by the hour. If our drivers are off on sick leave or are advised by a physician to stay home to care for family members, significant others or domestic partners, we will attempt to use back-up drivers to continue to provide service to the best or our ability. If we fall short of drivers, we will cancel specific trips, starting with higher-frequency routes that will have shorter wait times between the canceled trip and the next bus.
And of course, we will follow all reporting guidelines and safety procedures as required by local and state officials and by working with the Tompkins County Department of Health.
5. Question: What is the best way to get information about any updates about TCAT service?
TCAT will do its best to update passengers as soon as possible here on its website at https;//www.tcatbus.com or on its Bus Tracker https://realtimetcatbus.availtec.com/InfoPoint/ Or check your MyStop or other apps. To download go to https://www.tcatbus.com/Apps
Our customer service representatives are available 8 a.m. to noon and then again 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. at (607)277-RIDE (7433). Again, please note, due to occasional high call volumes, we suggest you first go to the Bus Tracker or apps to look for updates if you can.
6. Question: What are TCAT’s sanitizing protocols?
Answer: TCAT implemented the following protocols in early March and is continuing to do so:
Bus Cleaning: TCAT procured a professional-grade germicidal electrostatic sprayer for bus handlers to disinfect bus interior surfaces every night at the end of the day’s service period to include stanchions, handrails and seats. This extra step is in addition to their daily routine of cleaning and sanitizing all buses to include the fleet operated by Gadabout Transportation Services, Inc., TCAT’s paratransit provider.
Facility Cleaning: custodians ̶ every morning before opening time ̶ use the electrostatic sprayer to sanitize surfaces inside Green Street Station (when it is re-opened.) TCAT’s major hub and indoor passenger waiting area. Custodians are also take extra steps in sanitizing employee and public areas within the Willow Avenue facility.
Hand Sanitizers: are to available to riders on all buses.
Rider Guidelines: posters with CDC information with COVID-19 prevention and personal hygiene guidelines, such as hand washing and self-isolating in the event of illness, are to be placed in buses and at key shelters.
Employee Guidelines: CDC guidelines, as listed above, along with other measures recommended by human resources experts, have been posted in all employee areas. All TCAT employees reporting for duty must first review and answer a list of questions to determine if they have symptoms of illness. They are also required to have their temperature taken by a supervisor to determine if they have a fever. Anyone reporting symptoms or whose temperature indicates a fever will be immediately told to go home and contact their physician to obtain medical attention. They must prove that they are cleared by physician of illness and are able to safely return to work.
Employee supplies: all employees are being supplied with hand sanitizers, as well as germicidal wipes with instructions on how to sanitize their personal space.
Question: Where can I get more information?
Answer: Just to name a few that are available, the following agencies are providing expert and up-to-date guidelines:
Need a ride to the Tompkins County COVID-19 drive-thru testing center located at The Shops at Ithaca Mall? First register for testing online at www.cayugahealth.org or by calling (607) 319-5708.
Then call 2-1-1 to schedule a safe and free ride with ASAP Cab Company. 2-1-1’s hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
* Tompkins is one of the healthiest counties in New York: NY Health Department Tracker.