Parking concerns and a push to become more green have been contributing factors in the higher use of public transportation amongst students and faculty at two Michigan schools — Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College — according to officials at Bay City, Mich.-based Bay Metro Transit Authority.
"Three years ago, we started linking up with neighboring Midland County and their transit system at certain locations," says Eric Sprague, service development planner at Bay Metro. "Much of the staff for both schools come from that area and, when they realized we came into the county, they started commuting by bus much more often."
The economy is also a factor in SVSU's and Delta's decision to reach out to Bay Metro, since the impact of the downturn has caused an increase in enrollment, which is coupled with parking constraints at both schools.
"People are also trying to save gas and the schools are both really trying to find ways to become greener," Sprague says.
Sprague adds that since the growth in ridership, Bay Metro has been in contact much more with the schools in an attempt to find ways to better communicate necessary information to the students and staff, trying to work out schedules, and looking at the possibility of setting up park-and-ride lots, eventually leading to express routes in Bay City and Midland and Saginaw Counties.
"In the past, it was us asking where the best place to put our marketing materials and schedules. There wasn't a really big push," says Sprague about the agency's relationship with Delta College. "Now, we've met with staff from the school to talk about setting up a kiosk indoors near the bus shelter so students will know exactly where to look for information, grab route pamphlets, and have the necessary phone number or Website they can use to set up their trip itinerary."
Bay Metro is also in early talks with SVSU about working out a similar on-campus program. Once these programs are ironed out, Bay Metro hopes it can have the express routes up and ready to go by next fall, but Sprague explains that is dependent on the collaboration of the three entities being able to create an effective schedule and the agency's ability to implement and test the route by this summer.
"The shuttle has to be frequent enough to be useful. Something every hour is probably not very practical, so that's the difficulty — the logistics of it are a little bit hard to work in with our current schedules," says Sprague. "For the growth of the university and the college, as well as their interest in public transportation, I think it's something we're going to be working toward. Anything to show public transportation is worthwhile; we're going to shoot for."