What can Cornell do about unreliable TCAT service?

Date: January 2023


Dear Deans,

I have taken the bus to get to campus for multiple years, but this past year TCAT services have been less reliable. Route cuts and service advisories have rendered buses during my commuting time (7:40-8:40 a.m.) quite sparse, despite this being a regular travel hour for many commuters. Additionally, the buses that do arrive tend to be off schedule, unpredictably both early and late.

I check the transit app daily. I refresh the TCAT webpage every morning to check for alerts. I monitor posted schedules at the bus stops. Still, I find myself running after buses or enduring lengthy and unexpected wait times on a weekly basis, resulting in late arrivals to meetings, classes, and work that would not occur if the buses arrived more predictably or frequently. I was hoping that these issues were just the temporary result of a tumultuous transition to a fall bus schedule. However, based on previous “Ask a Dean” questions, these problems have been occurring since September 2021.

Given that these service disruptions are rendering many student workers – who are obligated to be on campus for teaching and research duties and depend on the buses as their primary form of transportation – unable to reliably commute to work, how can Cornell utilize their partnership with TCAT to improve the transportation situation?


Bus Rider


Dear Bus Rider,

First, thank you so much for your email. You’re correct, as indicated in a previous Ask a Dean from September 2021, that TCAT has been experiencing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, like many other organizations all over the U.S. post-pandemic. In brief, there are not enough drivers to support the pre-pandemic system as it stands. As a result of these challenges, TCAT has needed to make difficult decisions resulting in reorganizing the bus routing system, which ultimately impacts the riders, including our Cornell community.  

It is important to note that while Cornell does not manage TCAT, we have a strong interest in its success as we understand that graduate students and others in the Cornell community depend on this service to get to Cornell and back. Fortunately, we have a relationship with TCAT and continue advocating for our needs. Our own Denise Thompson from Off-Campus Living is a board member (and chair this year) of TCAT, whom I consulted to write this message. 

While there was a process followed in August 2022 in determining service reductions that included gathering public input, the challenges associated with TCAT continue, and bus service is still not at pre-pandemic levels. I wish I had better news for you and hope to have more positive information in 2023-24, but for now, all I can offer is for graduate students to communicate their concerns. Here are some options: 

  1. You can voice your concerns by sending your comments to TCAT directly using the feedback form on their website. 
  2. You can contact Denise Thompson directly at denise.thompson@cornell.edu
  3. Finally, you can contact your Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) to see if additional support could be offered through that organization. I am happy to connect you directly with their leadership or you can send an email to the Executive Committee.  

It sounds like you have taken advantage of all the systems available to support you during this challenging time (i.e., using their app, looking for alerts, looking at posting schedules at bus stops), and I commend you for that. As this impacts your academic responsibilities, I would happily talk with you individually about navigating this. Please reach out if that sounds helpful to you. 



Janna Lamey
Senior Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life