On February 1, transportation for Saint Martin’s University undergraduate students got a lot easier. Now, SMU has joined Evergreen State College and South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) in a deal with Thurston County’s public transportation provider, Intercity Transit. Students are now able to use their Saint Martin’s identification card as a bus pass to catch a ride anywhere from the Westfield Mall in Olympia to SeaTac.
The pass program has been under discussion for years, but Saint Martin’s began discussing it more seriously last semester. Junior Dara Zack, along with many other students, brought up the idea of free bus passes for students at the open forum held through ASSMU last fall.
“Many students wanted to use the transit system but didn’t know how to go about it,” said Zack. There were many questions about the cost of contracting the service, as well as if buses would stop on versus near campus. This fall, students voted for transit passes which would be funded by student fees paid by undergraduates. “Now that the passes are free, I think more students will be excited to use it.”
Senior Erica Manthey also thinks the new transit system is a great idea.
“I have a roommate who doesn’t have a car, and she will be taking the bus from my house, which is in Tumwater, to school every day.”
Saint Martin’s decided to participate in what Evergreen, involved since 1998, and SPSCC since 1992, have already found to be beneficial.
“The routes used by Evergreen and SPSCC students are among the highest ridership,” said Erin Scheel, Youth Education Specialist for Intercity Transit. Market research done in 2008 and 2009 showed that 46 percent of riders are below 25 years of age. “It has been especially helpful for students at SPSCC, where there is limited parking.”
Although the campus roads are not equipped to hold heavy buses, Saint Martin’s has the best access to the buses in the county because the campus is near the transit center (off Sleater-Kinney Road, corner of Sixth Avenue and Golf Club Place). Route 66 (which travels to Pacific Avenue, Ruddell Road, and downtown Olympia), 67 (Tri Lake area), and 68 (Tumwater Square, Downtown Olympia, Lacey Corporate Center, Mullen and Carpenter Roads) all serve near the SMU campus. However, many other routes are available from the transit center.
“In addition to great access to Intercity Transit, students can connect to broader areas, such as to the Tacoma Dome, Mason County, and Grays Harbor,” said Marketing and Communications Manager, Meg Kester.
Intercity Transit was been awarded the American Public Transportation Association’s award for Best Mid-Sized Public Transportation System in America in 2009. They were also recognized by the Federal Transit Administration for Operational Innovation and Ridership Success, with the Ridership Award for increased ridership and high rider satisfaction in the quality of transit service and customer service.
“The bar is set high, and we will continue to strive for the best for the Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater communities,” said both Kester and Sheel. “We are excited to work with SMU, and anticipate a long and successful partnership.”