UMSL wins bragging rights in first College Transit Challenge

by | Aug 29, 2019

Students, faculty and staff combined for the most check-ins and social media engagements during the daylong competition, organized by Citizens for Modern Transit.
College Transit Challenge

UMSL students show off their school pride and colors while riding MetroLink back to campus Wednesday morning after the College Transit Challenge kickoff event at the Grand station. (Photos by August Jennewein)

MetroLink and MetroBus help connect people to educational opportunities throughout the St. Louis region.

In an effort to highlight that impact and the transit system’s overall importance on both sides of the Mississippi River, Citizens for Modern Transit staged the College Transit Challenge on Wednesday.

As part of the challenge, CMT encouraged students, faculty and staff members from Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis Community College, Southwestern Illinois College and the University of Missouri–St. Louis to check in on social media as they made use of the Metro system. The daylong competition ended with UMSL on top, registering the most engagements.

UMSL got going early in its pursuit of victory as about 15 people – among them students, staff members, Chancellor Tom George and Louie the Triton – boarded a train around 7:30 Wednesday morning at the UMSL North Station and rode it to the Grand Station to represent the university at a kickoff event.

College Transit Challenge

Chancellor Tom George speaks at the Metro Transit Challenge kickoff event Wednesday morning at the Grand MetroLink station. Mascots from Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Southwestern Illinois College and St. Louis Community College joined Louie the Triton in representing their schools at the start of the competition.

“It was absolutely amazing seeing a total of five colleges and universities showing up to support Metro, and drawing that connection between Metro and educational access was awesome,” UMSL Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs D’Andre Braddix said. “We had a great showing of students. Everybody was really engaged.”

CMT Executive Director Kimberly Cella coordinated Wednesday’s event and served as its master of ceremonies.

“As the transit advocacy group at CMT, we’re constantly looking for outside-the-box ideas to promote transit use and its benefits to the region,” she said in her opening remarks. “We know public transit is a safe, cost-effective option for people of all ages and makes education more accessible. Transit is important to the vitality of this region and a key asset to both businesses and our academic institutions.”

She turned the microphone over to Taulby Roach – a 2014 UMSL MPPA graduate and the president and CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates MetroLink and MetroBus. Roach estimated that students took nearly 2 million rides on MetroLink last year and about 1.6 million rides on MetroBus, accounting for about 20 percent of the system’s ridership.

UMSL students make up a large number of those riders.

“About 80 percent of our students are commuters, so they really need public transportation,” George said. “Many of our students don’t have the financial resources to buy a car in order to be transported. They need mass transit. That’s very important for us.”

College Transit Challenge

More than half a dozen students joined Chancellor Tom George, Louie the Triton and staff members such as D’Andre Braddix and Curt Coonrod at the kickoff event.

Braddix said about 4,500 UMSL students ride MetroLink and MetroBus. Enrolled students receive free Metro passes each semester while faculty and staff members can purchase passes for $65, a significant savings from the regular rate of $288.

It should not have been a surprise that UMSL took first place in Wednesday’s challenge, sharing more online posts and pictures highlighting their transit usage than another other college or university taking part in the competition. In addition to bragging rights, the university will be awarded a MetroLink Train Trophy at the CMT annual meeting on Sept. 19.

“Congrats to UMSL for their community-wide support of the College Transit Challenge with posts from both students and staff on all social media platforms, events on campus throughout the day to support transit usage and representation by Chancellor George, the Triton and students at the kickoff event,” Cella said while announcing the results on Thursday. “Their enthusiasm was great to see, but it wouldn’t have been a challenge without some competition, so we also thank all the universities that partnered with CMT, Metro Transit and St. Clair County Transit District to highlight the benefits of the St. Louis transit system for the academic commute and to access all that our region has to offer.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik