Student bus riders: My experience in relation to commuting students

As I prepared to leave my apartment, I frantically checked the Foothill Transit Line 187 arrival time on my computer, refreshing the page every couple of seconds until it was time to pack up and leave. I shoved a book, notepad, a couple pens and even a snack into my purse and walked over to the bus stop. Ten minutes and one wrong bus stop later, I was en route to Claremont from Azusa.

Albert Ho, media relations director of the Foothill Gold Line Extension, commented on the usage of Foothill Transit by college students in the community, saying “I don’t think students, especially students at APU in comparison to Citrus [Community College], utilize all that the transit system has to offer. … They either have cars of their own or have friends with cars so the need isn’t always there like it is for students at Citrus, such a large commuter college.”

In my experience, this has been absolutely true. When I told some of my friends I would be riding the bus for a class project, most of the responses were full of concern: What if you get lost? and Have you ever even been on a bus? Much of the APU community I interact with has no idea, and frankly, no care for the local public transportation system.

Because of the lack of information and experience I had before riding the bus to Claremont, I made sure to take measures to prepare myself, so as not to distinguish myself as someone who had never been through the process before. I was less concerned with issues of safety, wrongful navigation or missing the bus, and more concerned with making sure I appeared to know what I was doing.

In all honesty, I was so concerned with doing everything correctly, that I sent several questions to my friend who had been on the bus earlier that day: Do they only take quarters? Where do I put the money? Do I have to tell them when I want to get off the bus?

Feeling confident and prepared, I immediately took a blow to the ego when I still couldn’t find the quarter deposit after several tries and some laughs from the bus driver. I walked toward the back of the bus, internally analyzing everyone I walked past as I determined where the best place to sit would be. I settled in an empty row behind two young girls who were engaged in lively conversation, knowing I would at least be entertained.

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Waiting for the bus at the Azusa Ave. and Citrus Ave. stop || Kayla Johnston

The young girls were students on their way home from class at Citrus Community College. Each day, they take the bus from Azusa to Montclair — roughly an hourlong ride — to and from school. As I listened to their conversation, I was struck by the normalcy of the role that public transportation plays in their lives. There I was, having spent days worrying and planning for my single bus ride, while students everywhere commute on a daily basis.

Mt. San Antonio College, another local community college, allows students to vote each year on a mandatory transportation fee that covers unlimited transportation through the Foothill Transit system. In partnership with the transportation company, the unlimited “Class Pass” is offered for an $8 charge, which is a clear factor in the high numbers of students utilizing the bus system along with other student discounts offered.

The number of students utilizing Foothill Transit played a major role in the development of the Gold Line. “Of course, we see the largest number of our riders using the bus to go to and from work, but just as staggering is the amount of students who really do benefit from it. … [The Gold Line] just provides a way to connect more schools and the areas surrounding them, allowing students expanded commuter options,” Ho said.

A couple of stops down the road, a young man sat next to me, fully engrossed in the music blaring from his headphones. He nodded his head toward me, and unloaded his backpack on the floor. After a couple nervous seconds debating if I should talk to him, I asked, “Did you just get done with class?” He responded with another nod and continued scrolling through his music.

While the students on the bus may not have been the friendliest, it was clear that they were one of the most represented of the people surrounding me. Of course, this had a lot to do with the fact that I boarded the bus at 2:45 p.m. — right at the end of most school days.

At the end of my journey to and from Claremont, I left with a renewed confidence and appreciation for the bus system, primarily because of the ways it provides easy, affordable and accessible transportation to students. Although I may not need to use the bus on a regular basis, I have already used my experience to share with my friends and others who are skeptical of public transportation the true convenience and ease of Foothill Transit.

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