College Students Ride Free Through County

The Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) is now offering free public transportation for all students attending any of the five colleges and universities in Ventura County. The participating colleges include Moorpark College, Oxnard College, Ventura College, California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and California Lutheran University.

The daily commute: Second-year students Katherine Orantes and Valeria Flores exit the bus arriving from Newbury Park for early-morning classes. (Photo by Francisco Atkinson - Photojournalist)
The daily commute: Second-year students Katherine Orantes and Valeria Flores exit the bus arriving from Newbury Park for early-morning classes.
(Photo by Francisco Atkinson – Photojournalist)

The program is officially called the ‘College Easy Ride Program’ (CERP) and will run through May 19, 2019. It was created after the VCTC acquired funding from the state of California. According to Darren Kettle, executive director of VCTC, the funding was approved through a grant from California’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. Kettle said the grant funding came out to about $500,000.

“One of the biggest issues was finding the funding for this program, we had been talking to the colleges for a while, funding was always an issue,” Kettle said. “The positive in this is that VCTC was able to develop relationships with the colleges, which turned into the colleges agreeing to get the word out about the program, since VCTC does not have direct contact with the students at each university.”

CERP is starting as a year-long trial run and will be reviewed in the spring to see if it should be continued. Logistics behind the funding and any changes that need to be made to the program will also be considered.

With the money now available, all of the buses are being reimbursed $1.10 for every college student that rides with them. The data is being tracked by the bus drivers and is being reported back to VCTC. There will be a monthly report on how the program is doing.

“One of the biggest challenges that we have with this kind of thing is making people aware of the program,” Kettle said.

Kettle said he hopes this form of public transportation will encourage students to utilize this service more often and learn about the routes. Kettle said he hopes that an increase in usage will lead to feedback from the students about bus challenges.

Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that incoming students were informed of the new program during student orientation in August. Additionally, returning students were sent information on the program, Lavariega-Monforti said.

“I found out during the spring semester at the Equity Leadership Council and when I heard about the program I was so ecstatic,” said Garrett Mueller, the undergraduate delegate of the ELC.  “I was a presidential host last year and one of the biggest questions I would always receive was about public transportation.”

Mueller said parents of Cal Lutheran students were not always pleased with the responses and that he wishes more people on campus knew about this program. Lavariega-Monforti confirmed that students have complained about the lack of options for transportation and how it makes simple tasks harder to complete.

Mueller said he has tried to bring awareness to the program through word of mouth and by helping create the program poster that can be found on campus. The poster has a QR code that will open up a link to the bus route when scanned by a smart phone, Mueller said.

“It’s not just about getting the students to and from the college – it’s reaching beyond what people often think is the college student trip,” Kettle said. “The college student trip could be anything, because college students are needing to work more to be able to pay for school.”

More information about the bus routes in Thousand Oaks can be found by visiting the transit page of the Thousand Oaks Public Works Department website.

Vianca Castaneda-Correa