ITHACA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Tompkins County Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. (TCAT) has begun its fall service period, which will be divided into two phases.

The first phase runs from Sunday, August 25 through Saturday, October 26. The second phase runs from Sunday, October 27 through Saturday, January 18.

Instead of waiting for winter service in January, TCAT's service development team opted for a midway redesign to plug in any service gaps. The hope is that by that time, they will have more confidence in knowing the older buses will be swapped out with nine new buses.

At a cost of about $4 million, TCAT will take possession of the new buses next month, after which time it will take a few weeks for the maintenance crew to install GPS and fare box equipment. The buses must then be examined and pass muster from NYSDOT inspectors.

Will the academic year beginning, TCAT planners have made a number of changes and other adjustments, including adding service, to balance resources available with meeting the travel needs of thousands of new and returning students to local campuses.

A simplified and reportedly more equitable fare structure aimed at making riding the bus more affordable for riders boarding outside the Greater Ithaca area has been implemented.

With the start of the fall service period, TCAT has also implemented improved service and a better weekend shopping connection for Ithaca College students who will now have three Route 11 routes.