RIVERSIDE – Chris Vergara lives on the bus. Well, not exactly. But that’s how the 18-year-old Riverside City College student puts it. Most days, he’ll catch two Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) buses to get from his Riverside home to campus. Some days, he’ll hop on one to get to a job interview and catch another to grab a slice of pizza with some friends. On his busiest days, he’ll board as many as six different buses in one day.
“I actually like the atmosphere aboard a bus,” Vergara said. “Sometimes my mom will want to give me a ride and I’ll take the bus instead. The drivers are nice, the buses are safe, on time and it gives me a chance to listen to music and text my friends.”
Pretty soon, he’ll have a brand-new iPad to take on his trips. Chris is among a growing number of Riverside County students benefiting from the flourishing Go-Pass and U-Pass programs, which for six years, has given students unlimited rides on RTA buses by simply swiping their school IDs.
To commemorate the program’s success, RTA will give away iPads to two lucky students – one from Riverside City College and another from Moreno Valley College – during a ceremony next Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Riverside City College bus stop on the northeast corner of Magnolia Avenue and Terracina Drive. One of those students is Chris, who earned the grand-prize when his school ID was randomly picked during one of his many trips aboard the bus.
The Go-Pass and U-Pass programs now encompass a statewide record six partner schools: Cal Baptist University, La Sierra University, Moreno Valley College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Riverside City College and UC Riverside. All told, more than 1.3 million student boardings occurred during FY12, an all-time record.
“This program has been remarkable,” said RTA Chairman of the Board Doug McAllister. “It’s changing the mindset for a whole new generation of students. In so many cases, it’s making a student’s pursuit of a higher education possible.”
Cash-strapped students have credited the Go-Pass and U-Pass with saving them money as well as expanding their educational opportunities. Administrators have applauded the program for relieving traffic, reducing emissions around campus and minimizing the need to build expensive parking structures.
“The program has been an outstanding success,” said RCCD Chancellor Gregory W. Gray. “Without a doubt, it’s allowed the doors of access to be opened to students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend college.”
And there’s no sign of slowing down. During October, ridership at Riverside City College and Moreno Valley College skyrocketed nearly 30 percent compared to the same month a year ago. Some of that increase could be attributed to improvements in bus service around the two campuses. Thanks to those changes, students are spending less time waiting for the next bus to arrive.
“Even people who have cars are riding the bus,” said Jaimie Mitchell, a 27-year-old business major at Moreno Valley College who is also taking home an iPad on Tuesday. “I used to be surprised by how many students are riding the bus; nowadays it’s just become so common.”