Earlier this year, Intercity Transit rolled out a new program called the Class Pass. The Class Pass is free and makes it possible for schools and non-profit youth groups to take more field trips by using regularly scheduled Intercity Transit busses. After just four months of this pilot program, nearly 1,200 students took field trips on the city bus with the Class Pass, making the pilot a huge success.
The Class Pass works best for groups of 10 to 40 people including students, teachers and chaperones, and is available to pre-K through 12th grade. Larger school or youth groups may need to wait for the next bus. All 21 Intercity Transit routes in Thurston County are accessible to groups through the Class Pass, making it easy to travel throughout Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm.
Using the Class Pass is simple. Teachers or group leaders simply submit a request using the online form. “Intercity Transit emails them a pass, which is kind of like an e-ticket,” explains Kerri Wilson, Intercity Transit’s Walk N Roll Youth Education Program specialist who manages the Class Pass Program. “Then, they just print it out and show it to the driver as they get on the bus. It’s that easy.”
Wilson makes it clear that the Class Pass is not a replacement for school district transportation services, but it can be a useful supplement for field trips and other events. “When school buses are not available, due to funds or scheduling, Intercity Transit can step in and help,” says Wilson. “We know that there’s a need for the Class Pass, and we want to provide that service to our community.”
In 2018, 30 classrooms took field trips on Intercity Transit buses when fares were required. “By removing the fare, we removed a barrier to bus access,” says Wilson. Teachers from 16 classes took students on 41 field trips in the first four months of 2019, far surpassing the 30 field trips taken over the entire year in 2018. Teachers from the Olympia, North Thurston, Tumwater and Yelm school districts, where bus routes run, are using the program. One non-profit youth group has also used the Class Pass so far. LOTT Wet Science Center, GRuB, Fertile Ground, the Thurston County Food Bank and the State Capitol were among the most popular field trips. “We hope that over the summer, more non-profit youth organizations will take advantage of the Class Pass,” adds Wilson.
The Class Pass use has been quite creative as well. In one recent case, a class took a school bus out to their field trip, but school bus scheduling would have required the teacher to cut the field trip short for the bus to return by a specified time. Instead, they planned the return trip with the Class Pass, and the students were able to get the most out of their field trip, explains Wilson. And that isn’t the only creative use. Komachin Middle School was able to use the Class Pass for several groups when they took part in their day of caring—a day when student groups work on community service projects throughout the area.
Feedback has been positive for the program so far. “The most expensive part of field trips is transportation cost. It typically costs $60-$70 per trip,” says one teacher who recently used the program. “Last year, we could only afford one trip. This year, with the Class Pass, my class was able to take several trips.”
Other teachers have appreciated the online pass ordering, helpful drivers, thorough instructions and maps, and the opportunity to expose their students to public transit as a good alternative to private vehicle use.
Along with the Class Pass, groups can request a classroom presentation from an Intercity Transit educator who will help students prepare for the bus ride. “Some students have never been on a bus before, and others have been on a school bus, but they quickly realize that a city bus is different,” says Wilson. “It’s a fun and exciting experience for them.”
The 30-minute presentation covers a number of topics that are good for a transit rider to know, such as the importance of mass transportation and active transportation like walking and biking. The class also helps prepare students to know what the bus ride will be like and covers the rules for riding the bus. To prepare for the bus ride, teachers can access and show their students a fun and educational video “game.”
Intercity Transit’s Walk N Roll Youth Education Program strives to create a healthier, safer and more active community by supporting educational opportunities to help youth navigate their world through walking, biking and taking the bus.
As the Class Pass program moves beyond the pilot phase, Intercity Transit will continue to send feedback surveys to participants to ensure the program is simple and beneficial to all. To get more information on the Class Pass program, or to sign up your class or non-profit youth group using the easy online sign-up form, visit Intercity Transit’s Class Pass webpage.
222 State Avenue, Olympia