More students, staff taking buses to school
November 16, 2009 —
Each morning, just after 7, Ty Carson leaves his home in Pinconning and boards a Bay Metro bus bound for SVSU.
For many students, taking the bus to school is only a memory from high school days. Not for Carson.
“It was hard to learn the schedules at first, but it got easy fast,” he said.
“It takes me two hours, but that really seems like a half-hour now.”
The graphic design sophomore is just one of a growing group of Cardinals that makes its way to and from campus on public transportation.
“There’s definitely more students riding now than there used to be,” said Ruth Buzzard, a Bay Metro bus driver with 25 years of experience.
Buzzard drives Route 4, a fixed loop that includes SVSU, Delta College, downtown Bay City, and points as far west as Auburn and the Midland Civic Arena.
She estimated that she sees 20 to 30 students during the day, and sometimes up to 50.
Doubling these numbers to include riders on the Saginaw Transit Authority (STARS) buses suggest that somewhere between 40 and 100 students might take the bus each day
Sharise Hood is primarily a STARS rider. The social work and criminal justice junior said she began riding the bus to campus when her car broke down, and was surprised by the advantages.
“It’s really cheap to me,” Hood said. “It’s great when gas goes up, and it’s more convenient in the winter.”
Carson’s reasons for taking the bus echoed Hood’s. “It’s much cheaper and easier than driving,” he said, adding that it gives him time to get homework done on his commute.
Kenyanna Campbell and Ashley Scott have different reasons to take the bus. They don’t ride to get to the University, but rather to get away from it for a while.
Campbell, a nursing sophomore, and Scott, a biology sophomore, are roommates who live on campus. They take the STARS bus into Saginaw to shop at the mall and other nearby stores.
“It’s very useful, and it’s a better deal than the bus in Detroit, where we’re from,” said Campbell.
Local bus fares are indeed cheap by the standards of larger cities. A ride on STARS is $1.25, and fare cards can reduce the cost to 80 cents a ride. Bay Metro rides are one dollar, or 75 cents for students.
With gas prices at $2.45 today, savings can be large — and only grow as fuel prices rise.
The high cost of fuel in the past few years was one of the forces that drove English professor Elizabeth Rich to begin taking the bus.
“I’d see these buses go by my house, but I never realized they went all the way to SVSU until I looked into it,” Rich said. “Now I ride the bus every chance I get.”
Rich’s reasons for riding the bus extend to not only the practical — saving money, avoiding hectic morning commutes — but to the social and political as well.
“When you take the bus, you don’t have to drive; it’s better for the environment, it’s bad for the oil companies, so how can you lose?” she said, laughing.
Another regular rider motivated by environmental concerns is Stephen Hocquard. As SVSU’s assistant vice president for campus facilities, Hocquard has been instrumental in a number of shifts toward a “greener” campus. Effects of his work include the installation of an aqua-thermal heating system that will use pond water to heat and cool the new Health and Human Services Building.
Hocquard, like Rich, shows his commitment by riding the bus as often as possible.
“It’s more sustainable, and it makes sense from a general viewpoint of helping the cause,” he said.
Hocquard catches the bus from a park-and-ride lot in Midland and says he sees a number of faculty and staff on the ride each day.
He has also been communicating regularly with the directors of both local bus companies to maintain a high number of runs to SVSU, and to increase campus awareness of the service.
Like the other riders, Hocquard also pointed out that riding the bus saves money. And not just fuel savings, he noted, but also money saved on maintenance costs and depreciation.
With routes extending from Midland and Auburn, to Buena Vista, and all the way north to Standish, buses can offer a practical alternative to driving for area commuters. But there is one major drawback to public transportation: buses stop running to SVSU about 6 p.m., making night classes an impossibility for riders.
Both Carson and Hood complained of the difficulty of coordinating class schedules with the bus schedule, trying to fit in all required classes during the daytime only.
“I guess I’d prefer to have a car for the flexibility it would give me with classes,” said Carson. “To make my transfer back to Pinconning, I can’t take anything that goes longer than 4 p.m.”
But Hood said that working with an adviser helps her make her class schedule fit nicely with the bus’ each semester.
“Even if my car was running again,” she said, “I’d still take the bus.”