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A simple guide to commuting on the bus in Bellingham

Taking the bus to campus can be confusing; here are some tips to make getting to Western’s campus easier.

A Whatcom Transit Authority bus leaving Haggard Hall at Western Washington University's north campus in Bellingham, Wash. on Thursday, Jan 27. It's a popular spot for students to catch the bus throughout the day. // Photo by Yocasta Jacobo

Western Washington University continues to provide more in-person classes and events as spring approaches. Many students will be commuting to campus and potentially riding the bus for the first time. The bus system can be intimidating and confusing, so here are some basics to help you get around Bellingham. 

One way to get some information is through online resources, such as Western’s Transportation Services page. The website includes informational videos, late night shuttle resources and regional transportation. 

The Whatcom Transportation Authority also has online resources students and community members can access.

WTA representative Maureen McCarthy gave some insight on what students can do to make trips smoother for themselves and bus drivers.

“Definitely try to get to your bus stop on time or even take a bus earlier than you need in order to limit the number of people on the bus,” McCarthy said. “Wait near the bus stop or shelter, and if there are multiple lines at that stop, try and let the driver know if you need that specific route.” 

Western’s Transportation page states that 85% of students ride WTA buses to get around Bellingham. McCarthy also said that students make up 40% of WTA ridership. 

One of the most important tips to remember when riding the bus is to bring your Western ID card, which allows students to ride free all around Bellingham with just one swipe. 

James Detka, the alternative transportation coordinator at Western, also shared some helpful knowledge for students.

“Be kind to the drivers; say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ when riding the buses,” Detka said. “If you have any questions, the drivers are very helpful and always willing to answer your questions as well.” 

Detka also said, that having your ID ready makes boarding faster and easier.  

Western recently came to an agreement with Skagit Transit that allows students to travel as far as Everett for free with just their Western IDs.

Many Western students find riding the bus intimidating, especially if it’s their first time riding on public transportation. Third-year Madi Peters said she wishes she had been better informed before taking the bus for the first time. Some of the tips she gave for riding the bus are: 

  • “To be respectful of the space on the bus. Especially if it’s a bit cramped, save space by carrying things on your lap, or if you're with friends try spreading out or even standing.” 
  • “Google maps can be your best friend. It was really helpful for me when I was getting used to riding the bus; it would tell me the most up to date time the bus would be there and tell you what time you would get to the destination.”
  • “Learning your routes or even stops is really helpful, and make sure to pull the yellow cords so you can let the driver know what stop you need.”
  • Western Transportation Services also have an office on-campus students can visit located in Old Main. Western Transportation Service Manager Shelby Zimmerman said the ultimate goal is for students to have a smooth and comfortable experience riding the bus.

“At the start of every quarter and at the fall info fair, we have booths and invite WTA or Skagit to bring in a bus or shuttle so students get used to the system and make the transition easier,” Zimmerman said. 

Students and future riders can find more information here.

Yocasta Jacobo

Yocasta Jacobo (she/her) is a third-year public relations student and Campus Life reporter for The Front. Yocasta likes to read and watch movies in her free time. You can reach her at


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