By Eric Sanchez |Asst. News Editor|
As you might already know, all students of CSUSB (along with other colleges in the area) can ride the Omnitrans free all year long with their student I.D. cards. When I heard about this promotion I thought about how much money I would be saving on gas, and that $102 parking permit. I thought about all the free time I’d have on the bus, finishing some reading or schoolwork and all that fun stuff. All of this for free all year long? You can’t beat that, right? Omnitrans already offered pretty great rates for students ($35 for a 31-day pass) but in reality I never really considered riding the bus until it was free.
While glorious thrifty, coupon-clipping thoughts kept running through my head, there was still a terribly realistic part of me that kept asking: But will I really do it? I’ve ridden public transit before but only in a big city, Chicago, this past summer and in Denver two years ago (Denver counts right?), but the suburban Omnitrans have always just been something I’ve seen around town, like moving landmarks.
I guess I never thought of Omnitrans as a real option for me because I just assumed it would take too long because the Inland Empire is so spread out. All reservations aside, I felt that this was too good of an opportunity to not try at least once, so when I finally was resolved in trying it out I did what any sane person would do the night before doing something completely new and consulted Google.
I learned that it would take me two hours and 56 minutes to catch the 66 line at 10:07 a.m. and ride it to a transfer station in Fontana and then transfer to the 14 line and then take that to San Bernardino where I was to switch to the 2 line which would take me to campus.
The next morning I skipped breakfast because I was a little nervous and excited about actually taking the plunge and ridding the bus to school, even though I tried to stay calm, because I mean, people do this every day.
I left my house at 9:43 a.m. and set off downhill towards my stop on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Grove Avenue in Upland. Halfway down the hill while passing the skunk nest I’ve feared for years, I checked the time (for the fourth time) afraid of getting left behind.
When the bus arrived I was really enthusiastic and expected to see a caring, wise, slightly plump bus driver mirroring my attitude; however, there was a serious man whose demeanor defied his jovial Hawaiian shirt instead.
“He’s at work, it’s ok, no biggie,” I told myself. I just sat down and just enjoyed the ride, I was surprised to discover that riding the Omnitrans was pretty similar to riding the CTA in Chicago, even down to the female robotic voice proclaiming a stop had been requested whenever someone pressed the yellow strip running on the inside of the bus .
We stayed on Route 66 AKA Foothill all the way past the 15 freeway, but then we took a right and went down to where the transit station was, though I wasn’t really sure of it at the time. However, once the bus stopped and everyone got off I reluctantly took the hint and followed them to what I took for the station.
The station reminded me of a mix between an airport and a park, about four buses were waiting around what looked to be a Little League snack bar, but the only snacks available were from an old man selling them out of his cooler. I wandered around for a little bit and mingled with about 50 other people waiting for their own buses. When I say “mingled” I don’t mean I actually talked to anyone, at very best I might have given someone an awkward head nod after maintaining eye contact with them for over two seconds. I was still just mainly concerned with not missing my bus. When I found the bus with the “14” on its marquee I stepped on-board, even though I wasn’t 100% sure if this was the exact bus I needed. I was flustered and did not really know what to ask, so I hesitantly told the driver I needed to go to Cal State.
“Oh ok, well I can take you downtown, then you can catch the 2 from there,” he said.
Bless you sir, bless you, I thought, and took a seat, confident and assured of my newfound friend’s ability to deliver me to the 2 line safely and timely. It was on the 14 line that my not eating breakfast was catching up to me. After passing my third Baker’s I was hurting, both physically and emotionally. Remember to eat a respectable meal before going on a long bus trip because eating is not allowed while you’re riding. Passing up Baker’s after Baker’s when you’re dying of hunger all the while having a coupon for a free burrito-and not being able to stop, will make you want to cry.
Again, the time came when everyone got off, and I followed. This time I asked the driver which of the five buses parked along a street in downtown San Bernardino I needed to catch.
I went around the corner and across the street like he said and caught the 2 line just before it set off. The closer the bus got to school, the more and more students got on with their own backpacks. Relieved to be in the home stretch, I finally relaxed and looked at all the people in their cars that we were passing up. Let me tell you pulling into school after enduring a miniature road trip just to get there is way more rewarding than driving in with your car and scavenging for a parking spot.
Believe it or not I got to school about 45 minutes ahead of Google’s prediction, that may have been because we passed up several stops where no one was waiting, but that’s not to take away from the Omnitrans system that worked like clockwork.
All in all, this experience taught me that riding the Omnitrans to school, for me, should only be reserved to when I have the time to spare, or when it is absolutely needed. That being said it completely erased my stigma towards suburban public transportation. Now I’m excited and grateful for me being able to make local trips completely free on the Omnitrans. If you live within a reasonable distance to campus, and within Omnitrans’ routes, I truly recommend taking it to school at least once. If you make it even just a loose habit you will save tons of money on gas even if you’ve already purchased a parking permit. Remember to plan ahead and check out the times the buses stop running, if you have to stay on campus for a late class and live a way’s away, you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of the night with no ride.