Students, staff should take advantage of free rides
By Titus Gilner, Staff Reporter
Amarillo College is a pillar of the panhandle community. Serving so many people, from all different backgrounds and socioeconomic situations, it has always been a goal of the college to increase accessibility. In many ways, this is the best thing about AC – it is purposely designed to give as much opportunity for success as possible. This latest partnership between AC and the city of Amarillo, with some help from Amarillo National Bank, is a perfect example of that commitment to accessibility.
Starting the first day of fall classes and running through the end of spring, all AC students, faculty and staff will have free access to the public bus system. This means from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. anyone with an AC ID can ride any city bus route, to any stop, as frequently as desired. The goal is to not only enable students to get to class, but also to enable them to get to work and anywhere else around town.
Education is the most important thing when it comes to improving one’s position in society. Whether through school, work or a combination of both, knowledge truly is power. When considering how to improve Amarillo, the state of Texas and even the United States, education must be on the forefront; however, a commitment to education alone is not the starting point. Schools and institutions are useless if the people who need them most have too many obstacles barring them from full participation.
Roughly 15 percent of all Amarillo College students don’t have access to reliable transportation, and that’s not counting the number of people who didn’t even enroll in the first place because they had no way to get to class. There are already a multitude of things that can get in the way of studying and attending classes, but transportation should not be one of them, especially in a town the size of Amarillo, where our population is quickly approaching 200,000 and only on course to expand. This partnership, though not by any means a cure-all, is a great step in the right direction for the whole city of Amarillo.
This partnership is just one initiative of many set by new city of Amarillo transit director, Marita Wellage – Reiley. I attended a few different public comments and meetings along with the news conference held at AC’s Washington Street Campus, and it is clear that Wellage – Reiley is dedicated to updating our public bus system in a way that will truly serve those that need it most. Though her changes are garnering some controversy due to decreasing the size of the public bus system, thus affecting those that use Spec – Trans (the local transportation system for people with medical disabilities), her initiatives promise to bring our public transportation system up to economic viability while steadily improving the service in general.
I look forward to riding the bus. As someone that only has one car that I share with someone who works a full-time job, getting both of us from place to place can be a tricky and time consuming puzzle. My nearest bus stop is three blocks away, hardly a five minute walk, and with free fares I really have no excuse. This partnership has a one year expiration date on it. It’s up to AC students, faculty and staff to utilize this opportunity or we will lose it. Our city is working to modernize, as are its citizens, and the way this partnership unfolds could unveil just how much progress both have made.