The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

    Life on the rails

    commuter cultureIt’s a typical Wednesday at City College. Students disembark from a Regional Transit light rail train and make their way to classes.

    Here, the steady stream of people is widely varied and includes Daniel Freeman, 49, an older returning student; James Marr, 18, who is just taking a few classes to see what he might want to do with himself, as he puts it; and Michelle Geck, 22, who’s studying to be a dental technician.

    All three students rely on public transit to get to school and return to their homes. They’re also part of the school’s thriving commuter culture that includes old, young and a varied socioeconomic group of students.

    Freeman says he depends on the regional transit system because he cannot afford a car. Returning to school, he says, means that all of the money he would have left over from his night job at a local gas station goes toward books and rent.

    “It used to be that I would work two jobs and make a nice living for myself, but I wanted something better, something that mattered,” Freeman says. “Maybe I’ll make something out of myself in the last half of my life that people will remember me for.”

    Freeman’s parents didn’t attend college, and when he was old enough to work, he says, there was no question in his mind what he would do: He’d find a job to support himself. When asked about getting to school without the aid of public transportation, he scoffs at the notion.

    “My wife and I live month-to-month every month,” Freeman says. “We save just enough so that we can do something nice every now and again, but with the rider pass that the school gives out to ride on the transit, it makes the decision easy.”

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    The rider pass is the pre-paid sticker that goes on student’s identification card; good for a semester, it allows students to ride the local city public transportation without buying a ticket for every ride. All students pay for the Regional Transit Pass Card through a $16.62 fee included in registration for students taking 12 or more units. If the student is taking less than 12 units, the fee decreases accordingly.

    Marr uses public transit to get to class for environ- mental reasons. He brings his bike when he rides the bus and light rail to reduce his carbon footprint.

    “I have a car that my parents bought me when I graduated from high school,” Marr says. “I could use that to get to school, but it’s important to me that I’m ecologically conscious and aware.”

    Marr says he doesn’t know exactly how much of an impact he’s making by not driving on a daily basis, but he sees other benefits from getting around without his car.

    “Not everywhere I go has a bus or train stop so I take my bike with me, too,” Marr says. “At this rate I think that I probably ride my bike just about as far as I ride the bus or train, so physically it’s really good for me too.”

    Marr says he encourages his friends and family to ride the bus, too, but he says he hasn’t had much success convincing them to brave the Sacramento public transportation system.

    “My mom loves her car too much to ride the bus and my sister says that sometimes the people on the light rail scare her,” Marr says. “I think it’s silly person- ally, to be afraid of people on the train, but I’m just one person and a guy—maybe I don’t have the whole picture.”

    Marr says he doesn’t think that there is anything to be afraid of on public transit but understands why it might be an issue for some female riders.

    “The stories that come to mind usually involve people riding alone in the later hours of the night,”Marr says. Meanwhile, Geck says she decided to take the light rail to class because driving has become

    prohibitively expensive.

    “My husband and I wanted to save some money every month,” Geck says. “It’s not so bad during the re- ally busy hours, but later at night and when there aren’t a ton of people on it can be frightening.”

    To address her fear, Geck’s husband, Warner, bought her pepper spray, which she says helped with the jitters the first few times she thought that she might be in trouble. Geck has been riding the light rail for over a year now and says that after her first few ‘close calls,’ she doesn’t feel afraid anymore.

    “I used to get on the light rail timid and kind of afraid, but as time went by I got more and more comfortable,” Geck says. “I used to clutch the pepper spray … like a security blanket, but as time went by I needed it less and less.”

    Now, with her fears at bay, Geck enjoys the time she travels on the light rail.

    “If I was driving I wouldn’t have time to answer e-mails or study,” Geck says. “But this way during the commute I have an extra hour to cram for a test if I need to or read.”

    With convenient access to public transportation, students like Freeman, Geck and Marr say they can get to their classes and continue to move forward with their lives.

    “This is how I get to school everyday, “ Freeman says. “This is how I get to the first step of a better life. That might sound silly, but for me it’s the truth and I’d make a bet that there are people, a good number of who, need it like I do.”

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