Another One Rides the Bus

If you haven’t been on WIU’s campus in a while, you might notice more bus traffic.  Yes, that’s right; WIU has a bus system (Go West) that has grown largely over the past couple of years.  It may sound silly, but the Go West transit system has been a lifesaver for me.  Through rain, snow, cold, heat and pure laziness, the WIU buses help get me to class on time.  These buses are very convenient and I take full advantage of having the opportunity to ride them.  The Director of Go West Transit, Jude Kiah, was more than eager to respond to my inquiries about the Go West bus system.

A few weeks ago, WIU’s Go West transit team worked with developers to create a new and improved mobile app.  Kiah explained the Go West Transit app features improved maps and an alert tab, –which provides direct information from Go West’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.  Users now have the ability to see the entire bus system or just the route of their choice.  “This allows us to provide better service to our riders,” Kiah said.

As ridership increases, so does the number of people using the app.  Freshman Anthony Kosatschewsky, an engineering major, has taken the bus all over campus and throughout Macomb.  “I usually track the bus if I am in a rush somewhere,” he said.  WIU’s Go West transit system also has a phone number that riders can text at bus stops to see when buses will arrive at that stop.  Personally, I like the new app as it seems to be more reliable and more accurate in terms of bus arrival times.

Since I take full advantage of the Go West busses, I have a hard time imagining what campus would be like without them.  Assistant Professor in the management and marketing department, Cathy Onion ’85 ’90, said when she attended WIU, students either walked or drove to class.  “It was the ‘norm’ to walk everywhere,” Onion explained.  As a professor on campus, she also said that the bus system has probably saved current students several dollars in parking fees.  When she attended, she said “if students were running late to class, they would drive their cars and park any place they could find a spot,” which resulted in many parking tickets.

Imagining what campus was like without the WIU busses made me wonder how the bus system began.  “I thought the campus was wide spread and our students desired an ability to navigate it in a more efficient way,” Kiah said.  The students on campus, back in 1997, agreed and helped turn the idea into reality.  Kiah explained it started with three buses and two routes; today the Go West system has 19 bus routes and has transported more than 2 million passengers this year, alone.  “It’s a nice service for the community members and the students,” Onion said.

Alumnus Jamie Ruth ’06 occasionally rode the bus when she attended WIU.  But, like Onion, Ruth often walked to her classes.  “I had friends that often would take the bus,” Ruth said.  “When I did ride, I remember it (the buses) being full.”

Ridership has definitely increased from when Ruth graduated in 2006, and the numbers continue to grow.  Kiah said nine new buses will be added to the fleet and cameras will soon be installed in all the buses.  Also, new shelters, benches and pads will soon be installed around town.  I can’t imagine what the bus system will look like in 10 years when I’m an alumnus.  If you are interested in downloading the new Go West Transit app, visit iTunes or Google Play and type “Go West Transit” into the search bar.  Other Go West information is also available at http://gowesttransit.com/.

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