For students that do not have a car on campus, finding transportation is often a difficult task, filled with uncomfortable moments asking a close friend for a ride to Hornbacher’s to pick up some cereal, or to venture out to West Acres so you can exchange those ill-fitting new pair of shoes.
If asking for a ride is not something you enjoy, there is another option that many students simply do not consider: riding the bus.
The Metro Area Transit bus system, more commonly known as the MAT bus, provides free rides for all area college students through the U-Pass system. U-Pass allows all current Tri-College faculty, staff and students to ride free on the entire MAT system.
While the bus rides are free, some students at Concordia, like Junior Meg Henrickson, do not ride the bus because she is unaware of the routes.
“Even though I hear people talking about it,” Henrickson says, “I’m unsure of where to get on or off…it is heavily advertised, but the specifics are not clear.”
On the other hand, Junior Lauren Monteforte rode the MAT Bus to Target and West Acres in Fargo without difficulty.
“I actually thought it was a fine experience,” Monteforte says. “But I have heard, from my friends and others, that it was not nice.”
Lori Van Beek, the MAT Bus Transit Manager, says she is doing her best to inform students about riding the bus. MAT Bus has a YouTube video demonstrating how to board and exit the bus, how to signal the bus at a stop and other essential information for riders, like how to make a transfer and slide their ID upon entering the bus.
For MAT, Tri-College participation is vital. According to Van Beek, 53 percent of all current MAT bus riders are college students. Van Beek believes more students would ride the bus if they knew the benefits.
Public transportation is eco-friendly, as it greatly reduces the number of vehicles on the road. It saves money, which all college students should appreciate. And for those with cars, riding the bus during winter also eliminates the chore of removing snow from the windows.
College faculty members, like Assistant Professor of Sociology Andrew Lindner, are seen riding the bus to campus. For Lindner, the MAT bus is a convenient option because he lives downtown.
“I get dropped off right in front of Old Main,” he says, “It’s great.”
Compared to other small city buses, Lindner believes MAT is an impressive system.
“They are clean, they are rarely crowded and they are nearly always on time,” he said.
After hearing Lindner talk about the MAT bus last semester, I decided to give it a try. When I stepped on the bus, I was surprised how easy it was to get around Fargo-Moorhead. In just under five minutes, I can get from Concordia to downtown. And if I don’t want to take the bus back, there are bike racks on every bus to store bikes while you ride.
Riding the MAT Bus, in my experience, is not only convenient but it trains one for navigating and understanding other public transit systems across the globe.
During a May Seminar to Europe, I felt comfortable riding the bus in London, Paris, and Brussels because I had to learn all the essentials, like determining my route and where to transfer, here in Fargo-Moorhead.
So, even if you are on the fence about using public transit, give the MAT Bus a chance. At the very least, you’ll save money and learn transferable skills.
Matt Hansen, a fourth-year student, writes The People’s Republic of Matt, a politics column in Opinions. He double majors in political science and sociology at Concordia. On Twitter: @MattHansen