March 24, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 36°F


Cornell agrees to 5% increase in underwriter funding for TCAT

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) had requested an 8% increase from its three underwriters — the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and Cornell University — to address issues like rising inflation and decreasing staff numbers. TCAT and Cornell University negotiated down to a 5% increase in contributions, and reached an agreement Jan. 20, according to an article in the Cornell Daily Sun.

Joel Malina, Cornell University’s vice president of university relations, told the Ithaca Times that TCAT did not justify the financial contribution increase of 8% and said TCAT already has enough funding, so the university would not comply with the larger increase. 

According to Malina, TCAT has $15 million in grant funding in addition to its $16 million in reserve. Part of the grant funding is from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant for $8.7 million. This money is meant to fund 10 electric buses for TCAT, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. 

The remaining $7 million in grant funding comes from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, and the intention of the grant is not indicated.

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the reserve money was necessary during the pandemic, when ridership decreased and revenue dipped. The reserve money would be used if needed to keep TCAT in business.

The City of Ithaca and Tompkins County had both already agreed to the 8% increase. The three underwriters had signed a contract in 1991 promising that any one underwriter would contribute the same amount of finances as any other underwriter each year. This means all three will increase their contributions by Cornell’s agreed-upon 5%.

This comes amid negotiations between TCAT and its drivers’ union, United Auto Workers 2300 Local. According to The Ithaca Voice, Scot Vanderpool, TCAT general manager, said the two parties reached a tentative agreement Jan. 26, but the proposed contract still needs to be voted on.

Vanderpool said in the Sun article that the requested increase from underwriters does not have any direct relation to FreeCAT, a campaign started by Ithaca’s Democratic Socialists of America chapter calling for fare-free public transportation.