Web Extra: How do you promote transit to new students?

Posted on July 11, 2011

[IMAGE]VirginiaTechBlacksburgTransit-Promoting-Transit-6.jpg[/IMAGE] With summer upon us, and campus orientations in full swing METRO Magazine wanted to know how transit agencies serving universities and colleges promote campus transit to freshmen and other new students. We checked in with a handful of agencies and schools to find out about their outreach plans and asked whether student interest in campus transit is on the rise at summer orientations.

Here are some of their responses:

Virginia Tech is starting their Freshman Orientation program on Monday.  We participate in this program each year by staffing a booth at the Freshman and Transfer Orientation.

We have “greeters” at the parking lot where families arrive to catch the bus to the start of Orientation – so we’re already showing them what a great system we have by introducing them to it within their first five minutes on campus!  From there they travel to the Orientation site and visit a “resource fair” where we staff a booth and answer questions and pass out literature. The end of the time is capped off with a return bus trip to their cars!

We also sell advertising spaces on the buses used and provide families with a bag of sponsor information.

Fiona Rhodes, marketing specialist
Blacksburg Transit
Blacksburg, Va.


We promote alternative transportation options in a variety of ways including participating in New and Transfer student orientation information fairs Monday through Thursday throughout the month of July, targeted presentations to both students and parents, participation in Welcome Back Pack (Dining event), Campus Crawl and Welcome Week activities as well as several other University activities. 

We also publicize transportation-related information in all the print and web information generated by our campus partners; i.e., Housing, Admissions, Parents Services, International Students, etc.

We have an active WolfTrails program which publicizes information via the WolfTrails website, Facebook and special events.

Is student interest on the rise?  Perhaps.  I feel like in these economic times, parents are definitely looking for ways to save money. They seem to appreciate conversations about all the transportation options we offer which makes it easier for them to tell their students they do not need to bring a car to campus. 

We stress all the options - Wolfline, City and Regional transit fare-free via the GoPass program which allows our students, faculty and staff to ride these services fare-free. We also talk with them about WolfProwl, our weekend downtown entertainment bus, Zipcar (car sharing) and Zimride (Facebook-integrated ridesharing) targeted to the NC State community, bicycling (WolfWheels bike rental program) and walking. Wolfline ridership averages 14,500 riders per day.

Christine Klein, director of communications for transportation
N.C. State University

Raleigh, N.C.

To my knowledge, we have not seen an increased interest in public transportation at our summer orientations. This is not a great surprise, as more than 70 percent of incoming freshmen choose to live on campus. We do make incoming students and parents aware of public transportation options.

Saginaw Valley State University has worked with our two primary public transportation providers (STARS and Bay Metro) to ensure that their routes and schedules serve our students well. In 2010, we worked with Bay Metro and Delta College (our local community college) to start a new route that serves both campuses from a major Bay City interchange. 

J.J. Boehm, director of media relations
Saginaw Valley State University

University Center, Mich.

[IMAGE]C-U-MTD-Transit-Plaza-Promoting-Campus-Transit-2.jpg[/IMAGE] The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has had employees present at the Campus Services Fair sponsored by the University of Illinois every afternoon from May 31 continuing through July 13. The Campus Services Fair is held at the Illini Union and is part of a full day of activities for incoming students and their families. MTD distributes a lot of information about its services including a Maps and Schedules book, a campus-specific service brochure, and a pocket guide for our STOPwatch real-time information system.


We also let students know about the area’s Zipcar car sharing service and distribute bicycle maps which highlight the safest travel corridors. MTD also advertises its services in special editions of the student newspaper, The Daily Illini, that is sent to the homes of incoming students prior to their arrival on campus. Interest in the availability of MTD’s high-quality transportation is always robust and parents seem to be especially pleased that their student will be able to get around safely and efficiently without a need for a car.

Jan Kijowski, marketing director
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District

Champpaign, Il.

At Penn State there are numerous orientation events across University departments and often an initial bus ride is included in those programs. For example, an orientation group might take the LOOP from one end of campus to the other, but there is no formal presentation provided by CATA.

Often, various departments will contact us and we’ll provide them with complementary ride passes to try out the service or for travel training. We do this biannually for all incoming international students through Global Connections. We’re continuously working with the University to get into the programs as much as possible, with moderate recent success. 

We promote transit to incoming students in a variety of other ways, too, mostly through the Daily Collegian, Penn State’s daily newspaper; they publish a summer feature that’s sent out to all incoming students over the summer months. We also participate in the University’s Spend a Summer Day event, which is a two-week Campus open house for prospective first year students to learn about admissions, academics, and student life at Penn State; we set up a table and answer questions and provide information.

Jacqueline K. Sheader, MBA, marketing manager
Centre Area Transportation Authority
State College, Pa.

Omnitrans recently announced a college free pass pilot program for 2011-12…[and received] this Facebook post after announcing our board’s approval of the program:

“OMG OMG OMG!! Fees have gone up so high, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to go to school at all next year. With all of the increases, I'm paying 50 percent more this fall than I did last fall. And parking permits just went up to over $100/quarter! Over $300 for the year just to park my car! Thank you so much for doing this. It's such a relief. Really.”

Additionally, we have gotten 30-plus calls/emails from students and parents inquiring about the program. 

Wendy Williams, director of marketing

San Bernardino, Calif.

[Student interest in campus transit] is on the rise, because we've been working with the transit agency to provide more and better service, access, routes, branding, etc, and the University hired a dedicated Transportation Planner 1.5 years ago to help promote transit. 

Megan Tolbert, transportation planner, TRIPwise
California State University – Monterey Bay, Campus Planning & Development
Seaside, Calif.


For more University Transit news, click here.

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