Many students know the hassle: driving into a Belmont parking garage, only to spend an additional 15 minutes searching for a parking spot or driving downtown and paying a sizable price for parking.
However, there is a free alternative to travel: WeGo Public Transit.
Belmont has offered free transportation to both students and faculty via the Nashville public bus system since 2005, but many students remain unaware of the service.
In a survey of 154 students, only 18% reported using the WeGo bus system before,
according to an Instagram poll conducted by the Belmont Vision.
Kate Fong regularly uses the bus to make trips around Nashville. As someone without a car, she was advised to try out the bus system by a friend from Lipscomb.
“It’s pretty consistent, there’s a few couple-minute delays, but that’s something you can’t really help,” said Fong.
Fong typically feels safe on the bus but did note a time when she got off and walked the rest of the way due to discomfort. She also expressed some difficulties in figuring out routes.
“At a certain point in the day, they start coming only every hour, like certain routes,” said Fong. “So, it would be hard if you had to wait a whole hour.”
Belmont professor Douglas Murray, who began using the bus for his commute to Belmont in the early 2000s, also noted the sometimes-confusing nature of the bus.
“There aren’t as many crosstown routes that lead from one spoke to another, and I wish that the buses would increase their frequency at night,” said Murray.
Although he encourages Belmont students and faculty to use the bus, he does see the issues it poses. Along with routes being tricky to understand, there aren’t clear instructions for how to use the bus on the Belmont website, only instructions for how to get a pass.
“I feel that there are too many obstacles for Belmont students to get on the bus,” said Murray. “Now partly this is me looking back as an elderly person looking back on the ‘good old days.’ But in the good old days, you used this [Belmont ID]. And I’m sorry that that doesn’t happen anymore.”
But the system has worked for Murray, who alternates between a car and bus commute to work.
“I fell in love,” said Murray. “I love the idea of the city working, and I love it when I see the bus come and I think, you know, ‘this is a community project working together.’”
Additionally, Belmont provides transit services for those with disabilities who may run into issues while using the standard WeGo bus system.
“Belmont also partners with WeGo Access — a paratransit service which offers specialized vans for persons with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route transit service. Access provides door-to-door service within Davidson County with a next-day to seven-day advance reservation,” said a statement from Allison Fomby, director of public relations and publications.
Belmont also supports the “Relax & Ride” feature through WeGo, which is geared directly towards commuter students, staff and faculty. Bus routes are established between Nashville and Rutherford County, Sumner County, Dickson, Springfield/Joelton, Franklin/Brentwood, Clarksville and Spring Hill in order to make commutes more accessible.
These commuter services are intended to alleviate the parking hassle and traffic congestion at Belmont, although the free privileges are only intended for commuting to and from campus.
Freshman Karime Gutierrez drives to school every day for class. She often runs into issues regarding traffic and construction, as well as finding an actual parking spot.
“I had a 12:30 class, and that’s when all the students usually get here,” said Gutierrez. “I have to get here like an hour in advance, just to get a spot that’s easy for me to get out of.”
Gutierrez has never ridden the bus but would consider using it.
“I heard about it a little during orientation, but I didn’t really understand how to do it,” she said.
To take advantage of the service, students should reference the Belmont website, download the WeGo app and send in a digital form or email to get their pass approved. It takes up to five days for the pass to be approved and obtain free tickets. Instructions can be found here.
Students can also download the Transit app, which shows how far away each bus is and their estimated arrival at bus shelters.
This article was written by Anna Blubaugh