Accepting the Clean Air Award, from left, is Omnitrans Interim CEO/General Manager Scott Graham, Board Chair and Ontario Councilmember Alan Wapner, and Director of Marketing Wendy Williams.
Photo credit: Omnitrans
A pilot program that more than doubled the number of local college students using public transit and eliminated an estimated 129 tons of pollution earned Omnitrans a Clean Air Award from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, presented on Oct. 4.
In 2011-12, Omnitrans initiated the “Go Smart” pilot program dedicated to transitioning local college students in the San Bernardino Valley to using public transit rather than driving to get to campus. Omnitrans partnered with California State University-San Bernardino, Chaffey College, Crafton Hills College and San Bernardino Valley College to offer free, unlimited bus rides to over 50,000 college students. Approximately 1,450,000 trips were made by over 13,500 individual students in pilot year.
Students had unlimited access to the Omnitrans bus system with a simple swipe of their college ID card. During a typical week, 5,100 unique students rode Omnitrans which means that over 10 percent of students became regular transit riders, up from 4 percent prior to the program. Over 25 percent of enrolled students tried the program at least once. Subsequently, ongoing self-funded Go Smart programs were established at each of the pilot program colleges and student ridership continues to increase over a year later.
“Go Smart helps reduce transportation costs for students and removes lack of transportation as a barrier to education for some,” said Interim CEO/General Manager Scott Graham. “Gaining familiarity with public transit while a student also makes them more likely to use and support public bus service in the future,”
During the pilot year Go Smart student logged 8.7 million cumulative miles! By taking public transportation instead of driving, this removed an estimated 129.2 tons of carbon monoxide from the air while also reducing the levels of reactive organic gases, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. Side benefits included reduced traffic congestion near the partner colleges and reduced parking demand on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods.
“Each year, we honor businesses and individuals who work unrelentingly to improve the quality of the air,” said SCAQMD Governing Board Chairman William A. Burke, Ed.D. “These inspiring winners have set an example of commitment and determination for all of us.”
The pilot program was funded by partner colleges and each of the 15 cities and county in the Omnitrans service area, using monies earmarked for emission reduction projects.