Collaboration Means Free Bus Rides for Students

Thanks to a new pilot program with the City of Sioux Falls and Sioux Area Metro (SAM), Augustana students, faculty and staff can now ride city buses for free when presenting their Augustana IDs.

Students at Augustana College now have a new, cost-free and environmentally friendly way to travel around Sioux Falls. The College recently unveiled a new collaboration with the City of Sioux Falls and Sioux Area Metro (SAM), which will allow Augustana students to ride city buses through a school-sponsored fee. By joining forces for this pilot program, both parties hope to increase bus ridership among the student body and, more generally, to increase the use of public transportation throughout the city.   

The pilot program, which is slated to run through Friday, Dec. 19, with the potential to be renewed at that time, will be available for all Augustana students and also faculty and staff who present their school ID each time they ride the bus. 

According to Augustana Student Association leaders Brittany Dardis and Elliot Blue, the program’s benefits include improved access to the greater Sioux Falls community, especially for students who do not own cars, and promoting long-term goals for a sustainable campus and city.  Blue, ASA vice president, said that students who simply want to save on their gas bills will take advantage of the program alongside those without other means of transportation. Dardis, ASA president, hopes that the example set by Augustana will influence other Sioux Falls organizations and businesses to work out similar transportation service contracts with the city.   

“Not only will more young people be entrusted in public transportation, but, hopefully, our example will spread to other companies around the city,” Dardis said. “It’s definitely a win-win.” 

The City of Sioux Falls believes this pilot program will pave the way for the future.

“We believe this partnership with Augustana will be a great way to enhance Sioux Area Metro services and can be replicated with other organizations in the future,” said Sam Trebilcock, transportation planner for the City of Sioux Falls.  

The collaboration was engineered by the City of Sioux Falls Planning and Building Services Department, Sioux Area Metro, ASA, Augie Green, and the Augustana Center for Campus Life. For allowing students to ride the buses for free, Augustana will compensate the City based on a promotional fare agreement that will hopefully, student leaders say, lead to a long-term agreement.

The initiative is modeled after a similar program in Fargo, North Dakota, where students comprise more than 50 percent of  public transit ridership. Being a college town as well, officials said, Sioux Falls only stands to benefit.

“The beauty of it is that, in a city like Sioux Falls, there is a real utility to providing students with a very low-cost means to get around,” said Dr. Jim Bies, Augustana dean of students. “But the biggest issue is whether or not it can cut down on our reliance on our automobiles. We hope students will comprehend that you don’t need a car to go to college here.”  

By taking advantage of this no-cost means of transportation, Bies believes students will, in turn, see areas and neighborhoods of Sioux Falls of which they were previously unaware.

Bies believes that fostering such awareness will also have a noticeably positive effect, creating a greater consciousness of the city’s growing cultural diversity.

“When you ride a bus, you see your environment through a different lens,” Bies said.

The program is currently underway. A public “ribbon cutting” promotional event is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, outside of Morrison Commons.