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Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey, the new chairperson of the TCAT Board of Directors, will preside over the board's 2012 reorganizational meeting 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26.
Mackesey said her biggest priority for 2012 will be for the
board to continue tackling persistent budget shortfalls confronting TCAT as
well as numerous other transit agencies all across the country. TCAT was forced
to raise rural fares and cut service, effective Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, and
Mackesey warned across‑the‑board fare increases and service reductions are
possible next year.
In 2011, TCAT broke record ridership for the fifth year in a row with nearly 4 million annual trips. (More complete data will be released later this month). In addition, TCAT was named No. 1 transit agency of its size in North America 2011 by the Washington, D.C.‑based American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
"In 2012, we must redouble our efforts to make sure that this gem of a transportation system not only survives, but thrives and grows," Mackesey said. "TCAT has developed a solid organization with excellent employees who know how to get the job done.''
Mackesey replaces 2011 Chairperson Henrik "Hank" Dullea, Cornell University's Director of University Relations Emeritus, who will now serve as immediate past chairperson.
"We are very thankful for Hank's leadership in 2011 in which he contributed hundreds of volunteer hours to TCAT by assisting with labor negotiations, weighty budget issues, strategic planning and many other matters impacting TCAT," said TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte. "The kind of high‑level talent, consultation and expertise generously donated by Hank - as well as by all members of the TCAT board- is an invaluable asset to TCAT."
In reflecting on 2011, Dullea also pointed out TCAT's successes with record ridership and national recognition all in the wake of budget shortfalls. He noted that thankfully TCAT's funding partners - Cornell University, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County- were able to maintain their support despite their own continuing fiscal pressures.
State aid, TCAT's largest single source of financial support, has been significantly reduced in 2011 for a third year in a row and there is every indication there will be additional cuts in state and federal assistance this year and in 2013, Dullea said.
"With expenses once again exceeding our annual revenues, we dipped into our fund balance to maintain service in 2011 and authorized modest fare increases, service reductions and other forms of belt-tightening for 2012," Dullea noted. "Support from New York State and the federal government will once again be key determinants of TCAT's resources as we strive to continue our high quality of service in the years ahead."
To be sure, a Dec. 31 editorial in The New York Times reported that numerous public transit systems all across the country have had to raise fares, reduce service and put off replacing outdated vehicles at a time when ridership is rising.
"The problem is, financing for mass transit has not kept pace as cash‑strapped state and local governments limit their support," according to Times editorial writer Eleanor Randolph. "The federal government, which provides only 17 percent of financing for transit systems, should be doing a lot more, particularly since nearly 60 percent of riders are related to work, with commuters from every income level."
Randolph noted that out of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, only 2.86 cents goes to public transit and almost all of the rest goes for highway construction and improvements.
"As riders leave their cars, Congress should reward all of us by financing first‑rate public transportation that saves gas, tempers, time and the environment," said APTA president Michael Melaniphy in the same editorial.
In other business, the TCAT Board is also welcoming a new member Joseph "Seph" Murtagh, who is newly elected to the Ithaca Common Council. Murtagh replaces Nancy Schuler, former Ithaca Common Council Member.
In a resolution of appreciation to Schuler at the board's Dec. 1 meeting, the board praised Schuler for her assistance in bringing about numerous improvements to TCAT, including the establishment of bus shelters at Ithaca Bus Station, State and Quarry streets, and Linn Street and University Avenue. Schuler was also instrumental in promoting what resulted in very successful direct service from Cornell University to Wegmans.
TCAT's other board members for 2012 include: Frank Proto and Kathy Luz Herrera, Tompkins County legislators; Jennifer Dotson, Ithaca Common Council member; Bill Gray, City of Ithaca Superintendent of Public Works; David Lieb, Cornell University's Associate Director for Transportation Service; and Kyu‑Jung Whang, Cornell University's Vice President for Facilities Services.
In 2012, Whang will replace Dotson as board secretary and treasurer.
· Mackesey announced her proposed committee assignments for other board members to include: Audit Committee - Herrera, Whang and Murtagh
· Budget Committee, Proto (chair), Gray and Whang
· Human Resources Committee, Dullea (chair), Mackesey and Murtagh
· Planning Committee, Lieb(chair), Proto and Dotson
· Transit Services Committee, Dotson (chair), Lieb and Herrera.
In addition, Mackesey will replace Dullea as TCAT policy committee representative to the Ithaca‑Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC).