One major factor that led many students to Del Mar College was its affordability. After books, supplies and daily expenses, college students could stand to save a few bucks any way they can.
Included in the tuition of every Del Mar student is the ability to ride any Corpus Christi Regional Transit Authority bus with their student ID. Students have already paid their bus fare to ride what is commonly referred to as “The B.”
I have been fortunate to have used some of the great public transit systems in the United States from Honolulu to New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles and even Austin, which competes with the much larger cities of Houston and Dallas for the title of best in Texas.
I was eager to see how the RTA would compare to those others I have experienced.
On a frigid windy Saturday morning I set out for the closest stop to my residence. I anticipated the heat inside the bus would be cranking and it surely was, which made for a comfortable ride.
The route I boarded, Bus 27, begins at Staples Street Station and heads down Leopard Street toward Calallen before making another loop around Robstown, and finally heads back to Leopard.
Anyone familiar with this route would certainly not describe it as a glamorous or lavish area. The first passenger I wished to interview had tattoos covering his face. I had not yet worked up the nerve to approach anyone, let alone him.
Once I was ready to meet some fellow riders, I talked to Richard Allen, who said he has been a daily rider of The B since moving to Corpus Christi from Nebraska in 1984. Allen said he likes the bus because it is affordable.
“The cost of gas, insurance, maintenance … owning a car is just too expensive,” Allen said.
Allen said the biggest changes he has seen since the mid ’80s have been the addition of more routes throughout the city and neighboring communities, as well as more stops along the existing routes.
Allen said he prefers the bus over rideshare apps such as Uber.
“There’s not the same entertainment on Uber as there is on the bus. It might be more convenient but not as fun,” Allen said.
Allen enthusiastically informed me that the Transloc app, which allows passengers to view routes and the location of buses, is “about as useful as a broken arm.” But for a beginner passenger like myself the app worked fine.
Allen said he has other issues with the RTA besides the app, specifically the security onboard.
“Fights on the back of the bus … people trying to sneak beer on the bus” were two of the wildest things Allen has witnessed as a passenger, which seem fairly mild to me.
Another passenger, who preferred not to give his name, said he has been riding the bus from Robstown throughout Corpus Christi for the past eight months since his car broke down.
“I don’t use the app because a bus comes by (on his route) every 30 minutes,” he said. “It’s easy to learn the times and routes.”
He said he had one main complaint about riding the bus.
“If a bus you’re on is running behind, or making a lot of stops you can miss your next bus, even just by a few minutes,” which will result in waiting up to half an hour for the next bus, he said.
Like Allen, he also isn’t a fan of rideshare apps.
“Why am I going to pay all this money for what I can pay 75 cents for?” he said.
My first experience on the RTA was an enlightening one. Much like Allen, the bus may seem a bit scary at first, especially to those uninitiated. But experience and not judgment will reveal that preconceptions are sometimes the complete opposite of reality.
The stigma of public transportation exists in our minds as we live in a superficial society where people are often judged by their perceived economic status.
At a younger age perhaps I may have been embarrassed if a situation arose where I needed to ride the B, as if it were social suicide. However, there seems to be a correlation between culturally booming cities and above average public transit systems.
If The B is to continue to improve and grow it is imperative for young people to lift the stigma on public transit in Corpus Christi.
Del Mar students have an opportunity to turn the cultural page of the city, as we have essentially a free bus pass for the duration that we are enrolled.