Navigating Public Transportation in Morgantown

According to the 2016 census, Morgantown, W.Va., has a permanent population of 30,885, a number that doubles with the West Virginia University student population. Based on economic data gathered by Town Charts, about 61.4 percent of the permanent population commutes to work using their own vehicle. From the same population, 3.4 percent relies on some form of public transportation. Walkers make up 17.8 percent, and 1.5 percent rely on taxicab services, motorcycles or bicycles for their daily commute. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates that about 9,700 people commute to work in Morgantown between 5 a.m. and 10:59 a.m.

Public transportation in the United States is a vital part of the economy. It helps tremendously with various environmental, economic and energy concerns. More and more people are using public transportation, which has led to cities expanding their public transportation services and it’s impacting the country in a big way. Not only do individuals benefit from the use of these services, but so do families and businesses as well as communities.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, in 2016, Americans took a total of 10.4 billion trips on public transportation. Since 1995, public transit trips are up 34 percent, outpacing average population growth in the United States.

Mountain Line

In May of 2016, the Monongalia County Urban Mass Transportation Authority Levy passed adding increased rural destinations to the city’s bus service. The Mountain Line Transit Authority now has routes across the entire county.

“[The levy] will bring in an estimated $1.8 million each year [to Monongalia County],” said Mountain Line Authority General Manager David Bruffy.

Since 1996, the Mountain Line Transit Authority has been positively impacting the state of West Virginia. The transit line was originally developed to consolidate resources by merging the city public transit and county public transit. Over the years, the bus line has become a major source of transportation for Morgantown.

“To this day, we have 19 different bus routes and about 1.2 million riders,” said Maria Smith, Marketing Officer for Mountain Line Transit.

The Mountain Line supplements its annual budget with federal subsidies and a nearly $1 million contract with West Virginia University. The contract gives a small portion of each student’s tuition to the Mountain Line in exchange for currently enrolled students being able to utilize the Mountain Line’s transit services for free.

“Of our total ridership, about 70-75 percent of it is students, faculty and staff of WVU,” Smith said. “We also have a high percentage of senior ridership, high school students and then we just have our regular, local riders. But, the majority, like I said, comes from the University.”

Ali Jeney, a graduate student at WVU uses the Mountain Line almost every day to get around town and to and from classes. Most days, she utilizes the #44 Valley View line to get to her downtown classes.

“It’s actually surprisingly reliable and runs every 15 minutes,” she explained. “The super downside is that it stops running at 3 p.m., so if you have classes that get out after that, you don’t have a way home unless you walk or wait for the #9 Purple Line, which is what I have to do some days.”

One of the most common delays for the Mountain Line is heavy traffic in town, which can especially affect the express lines that run in 30-minute, non-stop intervals.

“The Purple Line is always late picking up in front of the Mountain Lair; anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes late, but it does run, and I won’t be stranded,” Jeney Said.

Most of the lines run on a flag-down system. This means that if you are on a route that isn’t a designated express route—a route that makes only certain stops to guarantee it remains on time—then you can simply flag down the bus and you will be picked up. The only downside is not necessarily having a covered area to wait, which can be inconvenient in inclement weather conditions.

Another benefit of the new levy funds was the creation of the Beechurst Express line. This line, one of the most popular lines, runs every 20 minutes during peak travel times Monday through Friday during fall and spring university sessions, excluding holiday breaks.

The other line that sees the most frequent ridership is the #38 Blue and Gold Express line which runs Monday through Friday, year-round from 6:40 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. (8:40 p.m. during the WVU fall and spring semesters. Saturday year-round from 3:20 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. and Sunday year-round from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. For a full list of routes, destinations and times, you can visit the Mountain Line website.

“It’s free because I’m a student, which is nice,” Jeney said. “But when I lose my student ID, then I totally pay. Since the fares range from 75 cents to a dollar, one-way, it’s really not bad.”

In addition to new bus routes, Mountain Line Transit Authority was also able to create a new park-and-ride site in Cheat Lake. The park-and-ride is a pull-off where individuals can park their cars for free to either carpool or catch the bus to their connecting lines and/or destinations. Before the levy, there was only one park-and-ride in Morgantown, located at the Westover bus depot. There is an additional park-and-ride off of the Goshen Road exit, just before the Marion County line that offers a bus two times a day into Morgantown.

Mountain Line Transit Authority prides itself on being user-friendly and employs Twitter to make sure that all riders have up-to-date information about all buses and routes. Each line has its own Twitter account and updates in two-minute intervals about bus and transportation status.

Other Options

There are other public transportation options of course. Morgantown does offer two 24-hour taxi services. Motown Taxi and Morgantown Yellow Cab. You can get contact information and rates by clicking on the provided links.

Uber and Lyft services are also an option when considering your commute around Morgantown. Companies like these give residents and students alternative travel options whenever the Mountain Line may not be running, perhaps early in the morning, on weekends or during holidays.

Sarah Averill, an aerospace engineering student at WVU, drives for Uber in order to supplement her income.

“Based on my schedule, I make about an extra $100 a week, sometimes more if I have the time,” she said.

Kammi Teter, a substitute teacher and middle school volley ball coach, also drives Uber to supplement her monthly income.

“I average between $500 and $1,000 a month,” said Teter. “It just depends on what I’ve got going on at the time. But if I do have the time, I’m definitely going to Uber because it’s so worth the money.”

Recently, Uber made it possible to tip your Uber driver on your credit card when you book the trip.

“It really helped me make a little extra,” Teter explained. “A lot of people don’t carry cash on them, so by adding a credit-tipping feature, Uber has increased my payout in several cases.”

By downloading the Uber app, you can pick a driver to come and pick you up from any location with a varying fee that fluctuates during peak travel times, distance and driver quantity and demand. There is no set cost, but they do typically tend to run $10 or less, depending on your destination. If you’re taking an Uber to a football game and you’re coming from a downtown location, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5-$13, in most cases.

If you’re worried about getting in the car with a complete stranger, Uber has a rating system that allows you to see who is picking you up, what car they drive and their past customer experiences. After you’ve finished your ride, you simply rate the driver on a one out of five scale.

Text, video and graphics by Samantha Huffman