Starting next week, Wichita State students, faculty and staff members will be able to ride any city bus for free.
Thanks to a new partnership between Wichita Transit and the city’s largest university, anyone with a Shocker Card — WSU’s official ID — can ride a city bus to school, work or elsewhere at no cost.
In addition, the city plans to run a campus-to-downtown connector that will hook up with Wichita’s Q-Line trolleys every Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., giving WSU students a free ride to restaurants and entertainment options between Delano and Clifton Square.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on and thought about for a while, and this is just the beginning,” said Mike Tann, Wichita’s transit director, during a news conference at WSU on Thursday.
“College is . . . very expensive, and some of those costs are incurred in transportation,” he said. “Our job in public transportation is to provide an economical way to get to and from school, to get from school to employment, to get from school to places of entertainment or places to go shopping or just to enjoy what Wichita has.”
Free rides with Shocker ID cards start Tuesday — WSU students’ first day back for the spring semester. The Friday-Saturday shuttle to downtown will start Jan. 25.
As part of the agreement, WSU will pay the city $150,000 this semester, taking over the cost of a weekday route from WSU’s main campus at 17th and Hillside to WSU South near Harry and Oliver, said Troy Bruun, associate vice president and university controller for WSU.
An initial memorandum of understanding between the city and WSU runs through May. “Future WSU funding assistance will be based on a per ride calculation,” the memo says.
Bruun said the funding source for the agreement comes from WSU’s parking and transportation fund, which does not receive tuition revenue or state appropriations. The fund’s revenue comes from parking permit fees, parking citations and hourly revenue from the university’s parking garage.
Under the new plan, Wichita State students and employees could save $55 a month — the price of an unlimited one-month pass. A single ride on Wichita Transit costs $1.75 for adults. An unlimited one-day pass is $5, and an unlimited one-week pass is $25.
Tann said the agreement likely is the first step of a new cooperation between Wichita Transit and the city’s largest university. Over the past year, the city also has offered additional routes and free or discounted bus service to Wichita public school students.
“I’m hoping every year we’re standing up here in front of students and telling them what the improvements are for this year coming up,” Tann said.
At Thursday’s announcement, vice mayor Jeff Blubaugh called the new partnership “a strategic next step to increasing the robust transit services in our city.”