Topeka Metro service offers new Washburn bus line free to students

Dante Overbey, a sophomore pre-engineering student, waits for a bus  at the 17th street bus stop, north of the Washburn campus.

Olivia Marshall

Since its service update on Aug. 1, Topeka Metro offers updated service routes, including a new Washburn line. Ronnie Murphy, director of marketing and communications, and Patrick Blankenship, director of planning, discussed the benefits of using the bus. 

Blankenship started with Topeka Metro on June 30. His role is to set up the backstage elements of the bus system. He is responsible for all of the scaffolding and structuring the public doesn’t see, setting up the system that allows for proper transit operation. This includes driver schedules, stop locations and, most importantly, the timetables. 

“When you pick up that bus guide, it looks like it just happens, but transit planners are the ones in charge of that,” said Blankenship.

Few universities offer their students full access to city transit systems, but this year it has been confirmed that Washburn students can ride Topeka Metro for free. Washburn ID cards function as a bus pass when swiped at the fare box. This is one example of Washburn showing its commitment to transit and students, alike.

“Not only do you ride free, but you have access to the north, south, east and west. It’s a great opportunity. The bus is clean, safe and reliable. Plus, it doesn’t break down like your car,” said Murphy.

There are now three buses crossing the campus all day, getting rid of the access issue and giving students a reason to ride. 

The new Washburn #7 line will provide access to the north and south of campus. Before, Washburn only had the east and west lines. Now, the north and south element will allow students to go south toward Walmart or north to the medical district and downtown. 

For example, if nursing students have clinicals and they live on or near campus, it takes a single seat bus ride to get to the medical district.

Some of the challenges and barriers faced by Topeka Metro in the past are due to a lack of education in public transit systems and societal misconceptions. A lot of people don’t see public transit as an option, especially those who come from cities and areas outside of Topeka where transit was never available.

“Thanks to transit, cars are not the symbol of independence,” says Murphy. 

A common misconception in this part of the country is that when people reach a certain age, they need to get a car. Topeka Metro is attempting to break down this way of thinking and show people that they have an opportunity to do something different and take part in this new system.

After adding up gas, insurance, tags, title and basic upkeep, on average, the cost of having a car is about $5,000 to $7,000 per year, every year. These days, young people are putting off the purchase of the car, partially because of transit. While access to alternative forms of transportation grows, the necessity of owning a car decreases.

“A decade ago, all people talked about was how long it takes parking on campus and how much we hate it. Stop parking on campus. There’s no need, now. We run the same time that the university is open. We are going by wherever you live,” said Murphy.

There is now a complete transit system on campus, with the transit and the bike share, Topeka Metro Bikes.

“Once you hop off the bus, if you don’t want to walk, you have access to bikes through the Topeka Metro bike program. There are plenty of alternatives. Fight that hassle,” said Murphy.

One of the simple benefits to taking the bus is freedom, and another is the Instagram-worthy moments, according to Blankenship. 

“We are asking you to get a cup of coffee, walk through a great environment, breathe the air, see the trees and get your legs moving. Forget hurriedly being late to class,” said Blankenship. 

“It’s easier; you can text, read, or space out. You can see the city in a way you never have before. You see so much more of the world around you. Plus we will help your Instagram game.”

Both Murphy and Blankenship encourage new riders to “baby step it” by taking the bus to class once or twice a week. And before you sell your car, make sure you go shopping at least once. 

Washburn students are the fastest growing demographic in Topeka Metro ridership. Washburn is now looking at adding a stop at Washburn and 19th to serve the new dorm, KBI, and the Washburn Place apartments. 

Hop on the #busselfie #topekametro conversation on Instagram. You can stay up-to-date with Topeka Metro on Facebook or Twitter @TopekaMetro.