Observations on the ....'new'..... bus system in Ithaca
Even from a purely "business" standpoint, the bus system in Ithaca should undergo the following changes:
1) Cut fares in half-- The busses are usually far less than half full, and would almost surely enjoy at least, and very likely considerably more than, double the current ridership, at half the current fare. That is, halving the fare is a totally sound "business decision". Add to this the positive social impacts of an affordable bus fare, and there is absolutely no excuse not to substantially reduce fares. Given the failure, due to skyrocketing fares, of the much-improved route/schedule plans to attract more ridership despite improved bicycle access and better new busses, reigning in fares is the only way to keep our transport system viable in the years to come!
2) Leak word of the new low fares to the media, and prepare to purchase more busses and expand the routes, not so much spacewise as timewise, of course. At least 2 runs per hour should be standard. If coupled with a public information and advocacy campaign, and including round-the clock operation of a few basic lines, this improved frequency of scheduling will cause ridership to take off. There may be some necessary outlays for some new equipment, but if this acquisition is done in the right sequence and with the right flexibility it will still be the optimal business decision as well as the correct decision from a social standpoint.
3) Seasonal passes should possibly be discounted even more than the single fares. They should offer far more savings than they do now. The considerable advantage that the passes give to the operation of the system should trickle down to the riders who buy the passes, too.
4) Several smaller "shorty" busses or vans should be flexibly utilized for low ridership times (such as 3a.m).; to have such times covered is of prime importance to make public transport a viable alternative to private automobiles.
5) "Alternative" lower pollution fuels should be considered to the greatest extent possible. (as long as cost is decreased in the long run or increased only slightly).
6) Some bus lines should be designated as allowing some larger items, such as skis or snowboards, or bulky merchandise purchased from the stores serviced by TCAT. Currently riders with such needs (And their fares!!) are totally left out. Actually, skis , especially if tied together or bagged, are small enough that there should be no prohibition at all, unless a bus is totally packed with standees or too many riders carrying large items. As with bicycles, a reasonable numerical limit could be posted.
7) It is good from an ecological as well as an economic standpoint, that schedules are now available in pdf form of the net. But non-computer users should not be left out. Schedules and routes with complete information should once again be displayed at the stops as well as available at prime locations (This may partially be the case now, but a more consolidated schedule (a "route map" including some times) would be nice, expecially for stops with service less than 3 times an hour.).
With hope for the future,
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