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Students, faculty and staff ride the bus for free

July 23, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University students, faculty and staff don't have to look far to save money at the gas pump with a renewed contract to provide free bus transportation around campus and in Kalamazoo.

An agreement renewed July 22 with Kalamazoo Metro Transit allows anyone with a valid Bronco identification card to ride the bus for free on that system around the city, as well as a continuation of free services on the main and Parkview campuses through Bronco Transit run by Indian Trails.

"Students are certainly aware of it, but it's also for faculty and staff; anyone who has a Bronco ID," says Baiba Stepe, WMU's director of auxiliary enterprises. "With gas at $4 plus a gallon, it's a great alternative."

Taking the bus and riding his bike to work at WMU's Walwood Hall on Oakland Drive has cut Andrew McHugh's gas bill to about a third from a peak of about $300 a month, and his goal is to cut that number to $50.

"I own a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe. It gets about 22 mpg, which is certainly enough even if I didn't have the bus benefit," says McHugh, a network manager for the University's Advancement Services. "But since I have access to the Metro system, I have elected to preserve my vehicle for non-work purposes. I foresee the bus being very useful during the winter when scraping ice and 40 pounds of snow off my car just to pinball down the street can be replaced by a short brisk walk and hopping on the bus. I really believe more WMU employees should take advantage of this benefit. It would help our health, help the environment and send a signal that we don't need gasoline to live."

Both transit companies have reported increased usage as gas prices continue to climb. A comparison of WMU passenger numbers from previous years, however, is not an accurate gauge because Metro Transit routes were reduced with the introduction of the Indian Trails service last year.

The Kalamazoo transportation company does report that more than 14,700 Metro Transit passengers rode the bus in August 2007. That number spikes to between 50,000 and more than 76,000 during the academic year.

For Indian Trails on campus, ridership for last fall and spring semester was 123,000.

This year, the new agreement will cost $1.36 million--compared to last year's cost of $1.46 million--and will include new routes for Indian Trails. Those buses will pick up routes previously covered by Metro Transit including shuttle service for football and basketball games as well as the former Howard Route. This route, now called the Oakland Campus route, services the area near the College of Health and Human Services and also stops at Stadium Drive Apartments. A new route also was added for Indian Trails to the College of Aviation in Battle Creek, Mich.

For more information, visit www.wmich.edu/broncotransit.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

WMU News
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