Louie the Triton joins other mascots to help kick off College Transit Challenge

Citizens for Modern Transit Executive Director Kim Cella speaks at a kickoff event for the College Transit Challenge while surrounded by mascots from participating schools St. Louis Community College, Southwestern Illinois College, the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Saint Louis University and the Washington University in St. Louis

Citizens for Modern Transit Executive Director Kimberly Cella speaks at a kickoff event for the College Transit Challenge Friday morning while surrounded by mascots from participating schools Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Saint Louis University and the Washington University in St. Louis. (Photos by Steve Walentik)

The rain was falling hard across the St. Louis region last Friday morning, leading to several traffic snarls on area roadways.

But MetroLink was running on schedule as Louie the Triton and a small contingent of University of Missouri–St. Louis students and staff members boarded an eastbound train from the Cortex station. They were joined by counterparts from St. Louis Community College, Saint Louis University, Southwestern Illinois College and Washington University in St. Louis, including mascots Archie, the Billiken, Kashmir the Snow Leopard and the Bear, all on hand to help kick off Citizens for Modern Transit’s College Transit Challenge.

The weeklong challenge, which runs until this Friday, March 10, is meant to highlight the benefits of public transit and encourage consistent use among the region’s college students, faculty and staff.

Graduate student Taylor Cook and Louis the Triton stand on the platform at the Grand MetroLink station

Master of Public Policy Administration student Taylor Cook and Louie the Triton wait for a MetroLink train under the canopy at the Grand station on Friday morning. Cook, a project management and mass communications intern in the Office of the Chancellor, and Louie were part of the UMSL contingent on hand for the College Transit Kickoff event.

“Transit truly is for everyone,” Citizens for Modern Transit Executive Director Kimberly Cella said as she spoke at the Mascot Meetup kickoff event, held inside the 4240 Building in the Cortex Innovation Community. “As the transit advocacy organization, we are constantly looking for outside-the-box ideas to promote transit use and benefits in the region. We know public transit is a safe and convenient transportation option for people of all ages, and it makes education more accessible. It’s important to the vitality of our region. It’s a key asset to businesses and academic institutions.”

At UMSL, enrolled students are eligible to purchase a pass that provides unlimited MetroLink and MetroBus access for only $25 per semester.

“Students are one of our largest groups who rely on the convenience and safety of the Metro Transit system, making up about 20% of our customers,” said Charles Stewart, Metro Transit’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Through our U-PASS Program, tens of thousands of students and faculty have unlimited access to Metro trains. This is an amazing benefit. It makes it easier to build important connections to education. But U-Pass isn’t just a way to get to and from classes. It is also a ticket to shops and restaurants, parks and recreation, sporting events and concert venues. It is a connection to the vibrant culture that makes the St. Louis area unique.”

Stewart is hoping students, faculty and staff members use the College Transit Challenge to give transit a try. Individuals affiliated with each of the five schools are encouraged to use MetroLink and MetroBus as much as possible during the week. They must first register by visiting College Transit Challenge and entering their name, school affiliation and cell phone number.

Registrants will then receive a text message to confirm campaign registration and daily text messages asking them how many times they rode transit, which mode was utilized and to where. Usage will also be tracked via social media.

All participants are included in a daily drawing for prizes, $50 gift cards, transit passes, “College Transit Challenge” schwag and much more.

As part of the challenge, members of student organizations affiliated with each partnering school are encouraged to attend a midweek event from 2-5 p.m. Thursday at Sugarfire Smoke House, adjacent to the Convention Center MetroLink Station in downtown St. Louis. The group with the most attendance will receive $250 to support its efforts.


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