I teach business statistics at CSU-Pueblo and at the beginning of classes this year I asked my students to complete a brief survey. I’m using the results to demonstrate a few basic concepts in class as familiar data seems to improve conceptual comprehension.
One of the questions I asked in the survey was, “What mode of transportation do you typically use to commute to the CSU-Pueblo campus?”
This was a multiple choice question with 6 different response options:
- Ride the Bus
- Drive my car
I received 110 survey responses and I was somewhat surprised by the results.
I certainly expected most students would be driving to campus but I was very surprised to find so few taking the bus. The students are mostly Juniors but there are plenty of Seniors and Sophomores as well (only a handful of freshman) so most of the responses were from students who probably spent lots of time on campus last year. I realize campus is on the city periphery but I just assumed that some students, most of whom barely have enough money to pay for tuition, rent, food and books, would take the bus to campus rather than pay for a car along with insurance, parking and gas expenses. But, only 1 person out of 110 respondents takes the bus.
I decided to look at the Pueblo Transit Bus Routes to better understand how well the bus system serves the CSU-Pueblo community. What I found leads me to believe that students, staff, faculty and others who need to get to CSU-Pueblo on a regular basis don’t take the bus because the system is too inefficient by design. By that I mean the Pueblo Transit bus routes won’t allow someone to get to CSU-Pueblo efficiently enough to make it a feasible transportation option.
To illustrate my point, I used the Pueblo Transit bus route maps and time tables to find out how long it would take to get to CSU-Pueblo from each of the four public high school locations in Pueblo. Here’s what I estimate in terms of travel duration for a one-way trip from the listed High School to CSU-Pueblo.
- Centennial HS using Route #8 (Hwy 50 West) connecting to Route # 9 (University): 1 hr 25 min
- Central HS using Route #12 (Lake Avenue) connecting to Route #10 (Belmont): 1 hr 10 min
- East HS using Route # 9 (University): 10 min
- South HS using Route #7 (Highland Park) connecting to Route #10 (Belmont): 1 hr 20 min
Aside from the direct run from nearby East HS to CSU-Pueblo these rides all take well over 1 hour one way. From a time standpoint it would be more efficient to walk from Centennial HS!
Who has time for a 2 hour and 50 minute round trip commute?
In an environment when CSU-Pueblo desperately needs to grow enrollment any barrier to student attendance is a problem worth addressing. I have to believe that Pueblo is home to many young people who would love to go to college if they could afford to attend. Tuition is one piece of the puzzle but transportation accessibility is another critical piece, particularly if you recognize that most of these students must work part-time and full-time jobs in order to afford the high cost of a college degree.
Let’s say you live near Central HS and work at the Taco Bell on the corner of Abriendo and Michigan. You are able to walk to work but in order to make it on time to classes and back for work shifts you have to drive. But, you can’t afford to purchase a car and still have enough for rent, food, obscene utility bills, tuition, books, etc. So, what do you drop? Probably you decided to opt out of college because it requires a car and too much money for tuition and books.
As I’ve stated in a previous post, the City of Pueblo and CSU-Pueblo have got to work together to improve our shared prospects and to provide better amenities for young people. The millennial generation does not want to drive everywhere. They want affordable, walkable neighborhoods, reliable public transportation and access to cultural amenities. But, if they come to CSU-Pueblo, they find themselves on a desert outpost where it’s not even possible to grab a burger and a beer without getting in a car. In the immortal words of ESPN’s Chris Berman, “Come on, Man”!
How can we ever hope to grow Pueblo’s economy if we’re not willing to make it more appealing to the younger generation, our future tax payers? How can we ever grow enrollment at CSU-Pueblo if we don’t provide an appealing, accessible environment where young people want to live?
Public transportation is only one, relatively small piece of the puzzle. But a small investment in public transportation would pay much larger long term dividends than the enormous investments we’ve made in the new Justice building or the investments that many seem to want to make to expand the Convention Center. By the way, why are our local leaders so anxious to spend so much money on new construction in a floodplain?
Many of the college students at CSU-Pueblo will graduate and head north to Denver Metro where they are more likely to find decent entry level jobs along with walkable neighborhoods and reliable public transportation. Shouldn’t we begin to make small investments in Pueblo to keep some of them here?