University senior Chelsea Fung stands on an EmX platform in West Eugene, waiting for the bus to take her to the University, something she does every day.
“I like the EmX transportation,” Fung said. “If I didn’t have it, I don’t know what I would do. I can get across to Agate in a third of the time it takes me to walk.”
This is an opinion many students seem to share as they head to school using public transportation.
University senior John Hankemeier, who rides the bus twice a week, like its reliability. “I think Eugene has a great public transportation system,” he said.
Although the transportation system takes quite a few students to campus every day, there is a downside according to Fung.
“The people are sketchy, but that is all part of public transportation,” Fung said. “I have also found that the EmX is cleaner than buses and other forms of transportation that I have used in Portland.”
The office of the Dean of Students cooperates with the Lane Transit District to make sure the highest number of students benefit from the free public transportation available to all University students.
“Public transportation is a great option,” said Jennifer Summers, who works in the Dean of Students’ office. “While it may not be as enjoyable as commuting in your own personal vehicle, it does ease congestion, reduce emissions, and give you plenty of quality time to people-watch, as well as get to know your neighbors.”
Students can use public transportation for free by simply showing their student ID card to the bus driver.
Hankemeier occasionally rides the bus because of the convenience it brings.
“Whenever I have two classes that are back-to-back, I always take the bus because I don’t have time to go move my car between classes,” Hankemeier said. “On those days, I usually drive to the Springfield bus station and take the bus from there. It’s about a 10-minute bus ride.”
There are three areas that are busiest for LTD: the Harlow neighborhood near Autzen, the West University neighborhood and the Amazon and South University neighborhoods, according to the University and LTD.
Andy Vobora, the director of service planning, accessibility, and marketing for LTD, said direct routes are the most popular.
“The direct routes to campus have very good ridership,” Vobora said. “The top of the list is the 79x that provides the connection from the Kinsrow apartment complexes to the University.”
The Kinsrow apartment complexes are among the apartments where student numbers are high. The complexes include Ducks Village, Parkgrove, Willamette Gardens, and nearby Chase Village and McKenna Estates.
However, only one bus line serves this neighborhood, so if students don’t live right next to a bus stop, they might have to walk a few blocks to catch the bus to school every day.
In addition to fewer public transit options, the neighborhood has fewer amenities for residents in comparison to other Eugene neighborhoods, like grocery stores and shopping areas.
“The Harlow Neighbors has large concentrations of student residents, but the neighborhood does not experience livability impacts as acutely as other areas,” Summers said.
“West University is far more densely populated and contains significantly more student, young residents and rental housing,” Summer said.
The good thing about West University is that the EmX line runs through a large portion of it, creating an easy way for students to get to campus.
“The entire community has options for student living and connecting to campus via LTD,” Vobora said. “Students should pay attention to core route systems that operate along major travel corridors through Eugene-Springfield. These are routes that operate the fullest span of hours and operate seven days per week.”
The 28, 73, 76 and 78 all provide direct connection to campus and have solid ridership, according to Vobora. These routes mainly serve the West University, Amazon and South University neighborhoods.
Amazon and South University
Amazon and South University are both neighborhoods with growing student populations. Less than half of Amazon houses are owner-occupied, and eight out of 10 homes are rentals in South University, according to Summers.
There are several options when it comes to transportation. The LTD bus routes that serve West University also travel through Amazon and South University.
“Biking is always an option,” Summers said. “Eugene has many great bike trails for students and community members to take advantage.”
Lane Community College
For students dual-enrolled at LCC and the University, route 81 serves as a connector between the two campuses.
“Clearly everyone likes the direct connections, and LTD has worked to maintain these routes, even during the recession when bus services had to be reduced,” Vobora said.
For students who live in Springfield, the EmX is the perfect way to get to campus.
University senior Beckie Jones said, “EmX is fast and free. I love the UO route.”
However, Jones said she is concerned about the proposed expansion of the EmX.
“LTD wants to build the new EmX line without putting it to a public vote, even though it’s public funds via our taxes,” Jones said. “The Springfield-to-Eugene route makes great sense, and at peak times EmX could run full buses every five minutes instead of 10. But they need to make cutbacks to routes in the Gateway area because it’s quite underutilized.”
Jones isn’t the only one concerned about EmX expansion. Over the years LTD has proposed expansion of the EmX line in both the east and west direction and has been met with angry business owners along the routes.
So, for now, people who use public transportation will have to take the regular LTD buses to their destinations.