**This is an official release from TCAT. Tompkins Weekly did not write this article.
A no-fare policy that went into effect last month to reduce any potential for coronavirus contagion between drivers and riders will be extended to Sat., May 23, which marks the end of TCAT’s spring service period.
The TCAT Board of Directors called a special remote conference today and voted unanimously to extend the policy, which went into effect March 20 and was set to expire this Thurs., April 9.
The policy eliminates the need for riders to put their hands on the farebox, as well as limits the amount of time they spend near drivers, who sit adjacent to the fare equipment. The measure also aims to provide financial relief to riders who are struggling to make ends meet during the crisis.
As another precaution, TCAT is asking people to ride the bus only if necessary; if they are essential workers or if they need to travel to pick up life-sustaining basics, such as food and medicine. To promote social distancing, each bus has a 20-rider limit and, while in transit, riders are asked to sit as far apart as possible.
“As this pandemic persists, it remains critical that we continue to do everything we can to protect not only our passengers, but also TCAT drivers and other front-line employees who are fulfilling an essential service, said TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool. “This is probably the first time in history that transit agencies all over the globe are asking their riders to stay home.’’
People are obviously obeying stay-at-home directives as transit ridership all over the country has dropped drastically. Since last month, TCAT’s ridership has fallen by more than 90 percent.
Cornell University, TCAT’s largest ridership base, Ithaca College and TC3 asked their students to finish out their spring semester remotely, while local businesses and organizations are asking their employees to work from home. In the meantime, restaurants are only offering take out, while gyms, theaters and other entertainment centers have closed.
Due to lower demand and to provide more flexible schedules for bus operators, TCAT adjusted its spring service twice last month to provide what is now about 65 percent of normal service. See details here. In early March, TCAT implemented precautions to include stepped up efforts at disinfecting buses and facilities used by employees and riders.
Click here for FAQs, which includes links to helpful resources regarding the pandemic.
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