For over 6,000 students at Virginia Tech, the last week in August marks their first steps toward a college diploma. I bet most of you will have your bags packed once you come home from orientation — lanyard, dorm key, Hokie Passport and a foldable map of campus in case you get lost. Just one question: Do you have 40 minutes to walk to the Math Emporium?
I didn’t think so. Although on-campus housing is designed to eliminate many stress inducers for newcomers, off-campus transportation is vital for the true college experience. Here’s what you need to know about Blacksburg Transit, the be-all end-all for freedom.
Take charge of Blacksburg, like a true townie.
Since 1983 Blacksburg Transit has been a pivotal system for Blacksburg natives, residents of Christiansburg and students alike. What once began as seven full-time drivers has evolved to 135 operators in order to feed the needs of Virginia Tech’s increasing student population. As of 2013, approximately 90 percent of passengers are students.
According to Harland Brown, operations manager and Blacksburg Transit worker for over 24 years, there are close to 20,000 passengers per day. Nearly 200 bus stops are for the town of Blacksburg alone, not including other travel locations — Radford, Christiansburg, Montgomery County Courthouse, Roanoke, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Lynchburg Amtrak station and Megabus trips including Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York, and more.
Don’t let the name fool you, this bus will grant you access to any place in the world if you are up for the adventure.
Never forget your Hokie Passport.
Unless you are willing to spare a couple of quarters each ride, always double check that you’ve packed your plastic. Blacksburg Transit is in partnership with Virginia Tech which means that riding this bus system is free of charge for students. Simply present your Hokie Passport to the bus driver as identification before you ride and enjoy.
Be kind to the bus drivers, the bus drivers are your friends.
Despite what any movie classic may allude, Blacksburg’s operators are kind and concerned about your safety. Driving a vehicle of this size requires skill and their service to this community should not be overlooked.
Stephen Bell, Virginia Tech alumni and operator for two years, ensures the student body that in a pinch, Blacksburg Transit will be your saving grace.
“If someone were to come on and say, ‘I’m sorry I forgot my Hokie Passport at home, but I need to make this bus,’ we are not here to make them fail their classes,” Bell said. “We are here to get them to where they need to be and if that sort of thing happens, we understand.”
Through extensive training bus drivers are taught to recognize familiar faces on their daily routes which allows for leniency when passengers misplace their personal identification. Though this may be comforting news, try not to make it a habit.
Don’t pick a front seat if you don’t want to get up.
Sitting in the front may seem like a good idea when you just ran from Torgerson Bridge to the checkpoint at Burruss Hall with a ton of fancy recording equipment, but take a seat in the back if you don’t want to risk holding those bags for another 15 to 20 minutes until you reach your destination. If the driver needs to fit more passengers on the bus, he or she will often ask the people in the front to stand because their seats can be folded to create more standing room.
The bus will leave you.
It’s nothing personal, it’s just numbers. Waiting for one person might mean making dozens of other people late. The bus system isn’t like grade school where you are excused for being late to class if the bus is late. People have the capability to walk, bike or drive so taking the bus is not an acceptable excuse. Therefore, sometimes hurling your body at a moving bus will do no good, unless you can make it to the next closest bus stop.
If you want to avoid all of this nonsense, make sure to be at your bus stop five minutes early. Every once in a while the buses will drive off a couple of minutes early, so it is your job to plan ahead.
Pull the cord! No, not like “Flashdance.”
Sometimes physically getting on the bus will be such an ordeal that you begin to doze off in your seat. Just remember that it’s not sufficient to yell “Stop!” at the bus driver when you see you’re nearing the bus stop.
Every request must be recorded through an electronic pulley system for liability purposes and bus drivers are not authorized to stop anywhere but those stops. These cords are located around the interior rim of the bus and usually announce “stop requested” once pulled. You know you’ve pulled hard enough when the sign in the front lights up in red.
When you miss your stop (because we all have), don’t panic.
There are resources that exist to help you, such as the BT4U app that uses geospatial data to predict when the next couple of buses will arrive to your current stop. Follow its Twitter account @Ride_BT for major service changes such as weather delays, game day routes and hours of service. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Relax, stuff happens.
Take it from the girl who waited an hour for the same bus to come back with her keys and Hokie Passport, it’s not the end of the world. According to Brown, people have left weirder things on the bus like walking canes and retainers.
Just remember that the strangers sitting next to you are just as much your friend as the GPS in your hand and you’ll have Blacksburg dialed in in no time.