“Back to school” are three words that many students dread, but for Western students fall brings some perks along with all of those required readings. Two of those perks are the student Viking Xpress bus passes and the Late Night Shuttle, both of which started up again last Sunday.
The Late Night Shuttle, which runs Monday through Saturday from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and Sunday from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the school year, is available to all students with either a valid Viking Xpress bus pass or a Western ID card. Two routes run every 30 minutes from downtown, through campus, to Lincoln Creek and the reverse. More information about pick up times and route information can be found on the AS Transportation Web site at transportation.as.wwu.edu.
Viking Xpress bus pass distribution will take place through Friday at the Western Card office temporarily located in Wilson Library 165 across the street from the AS Bookstore, according to AS Alternative Transportation Coordinator A.J. Garcia. After Friday, they will still be available for individual pick up at the card office.
Both services are funded by the quarterly $25 Alternative Transportation Fee that is included in tuition for student taking six or more credit hours.  To receive a bus pass, students will need to be enrolled in at least six credit hours or opt in to the $25 fee, Garcia said.
Students taking 6 or more credits cannot opt out of the fee, Garcia said.
“By keeping it a universal bus pass, that enables us to … reduce the cost as much as we possibly can and … spread the cost and spread the benefit to every student,” Garcia said. “That was really the vision of the students who wanted this program to happen … for a universal fee and a universal bus pass.”
Students who lose their Viking Xpress bus pas can receive a replacement at the card office for free, but according to Garcia, the number of students requesting new bus passes has become a problem.
“It’s in the thousands [bus passes replaced]. It’s getting to a ridiculously high amount,” Garcia said. “[It’s something] that we’re working on this year, trying to come up with … an incentive program to really encourage students to hang on to their bus passes.”
Along with an incentive program, Garcia is also working on getting the bus pass integrated with students’ Western cards. Garcia believes that this will be more practical, save plastic and hopefully reduce the number of lost cards.
“I mean, if you’re like me ... when you’re a freshman, you’ve tried using your Western card five times on the bus. It makes sense to really have that [the bus pass and Western card as one card],” Garcia said. “Also the added benefit is hopefully [to] reduce the number of lost bus passes that we’ve had. But really it would make using the bus much more user friendly when you just have one card with everything on it.”
Although it has been in the works for years, Garcia is hopeful that the integration of the Western card and the Viking Xpress bus pass could happen soon.
“I think this is the year to get it done,” he said. “We’ve mostly worked out the kinks with the bus pass and the Late Night Shuttle and all that and now it’s time to take this program in the next direction.”