FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students returned to Merced College on Monday for the start of the spring semester, and now they can get to and from the campus for free.
That's because of a new partnership with "The Bus" transit system, which is managed by the Merced County Association of Governments.
All students now pay a fee of $9.95 per semester that allows them to ride any route at no cost just by showing their college ID.
"If you're a student in Los Banos and want to get to the Los Banos campus, if you live in Gustine and want to get to the Merced campus," says Stacie Guzman, the Executive Director. "Anywhere our service runs on a fixed route, which is essentially anything on our schedule here, you can ride for that $9.95 per semester."
Previously, an unlimited student semester pass cost $180, so the program represents a major saving for those like Nestor Rodriguez, who rely on The Bus as their primary source of transportation. He enjoys the free Wi-Fi and never having to worry about driving or parking.
"I get everywhere," Rodriguez said. "It takes me from home to the grocery store, to the laundromat and to school. So for me, not having an automobile here at Merced College, it benefits me a lot."
Dean of Student Services Murrell Green says the idea started with student leaders who wanted to improve access to higher education, while also helping to relieve traffic congestion and improve air quality.
"Our Associated Students of Merced College, or ASMC, really fought and championed for the students to have this, so this was all student-led."
Opponents argued it's unfair to ask all students to pay the fee, even if they don't use "The Bus," but the initiative passed by more than 60 percent during a study body vote in September.
Supporters hope even more students will now get on board and take advantage of the free rides.
Merced College's new bus system aims to make transportation easier for students