Metro Area Transit

Metro Area Transit

Fargo and Moorhead’s joint bus system, Metro Area Transit, was the first system on which I was a regular rider. For many students, college is their first experience with public transportation, whether for convenience on campus or for reliance due to not having a car. Though I wasn’t such a transit enthusiast back then as I am now, I certainly wasn’t against it and wanted to make the best of it and judge for myself how convenient and easy or inconvenient and slow it actually was. I also did not (and still do not) have a car, so before making friends it was really my only means of getting around town. Since campus is relatively small, I pretty much just walked or biked to class and my on campus job, as my dorm was only about a block from the hub of academic buildings along Albrecht Blvd.

Two circulator routes ran through campus, Route 31 On-Campus Circulator every 15 minutes, and Route 32 Near-Campus Circulator, serving University Village and other apartments nearby every 30 minutes. I would occasionally ride one of these a few blocks to or from class if it happened to be coming by at the right time. A new night circulator, Route 35 started during spring semester 2008, running between campus and University Village from 8 – 10:07pm.

My fall semester (2006) I would occasionally ride the bus out to Target or West Acres mall to run errands on the weekends. It would require a transfer downtown at the GTC so all together it probably took half an hour each way – not bad, but certainly longer than driving. Route 15 serves West Acres from downtown and was always pretty busy. One time I recall standing room only on the ride back with nearly 50 passengers on board according to a fellow rider’s count – quite crowded for a 30-foot low floor bus.

In the spring I had class at NDSU Downtown twice a week so I began taking the bus regularly, as most of my classmates did too. Route 13 connects campus to downtown ad the GTC. Presumably after NDSU Downtown opened, MAT added 13B to provide more frequent service between campus and downtown on school days. While 13A runs along the regular route, 13B does not run as far north so its a quicker trip back to campus. The two routes alternate, each with 30 minute headways, to provide 15 minute service to downtown and back during the day.

NDSU bus shelterEarlier this year MAT expanded the Memorial Union bus shelter on campus and added a bus locator display, utilizing on-board GPS to track the whereabouts of 13A and 13B. With a very simple time schedule, I’m not sure this was necessary, but with new buses it probably wasn’t a major expense to implement and has implications for more trackers around the metro that could improve legibility and ease-of-use for the whole system. The tracker should be nice in the winter when buses typically run a few minutes behind schedule due to road conditions and inclement weather.

With the growth of NDSU’s downtown campus, MAT is planning for additional bus service between campuses. Especially for business students who do not have to essentially live at studio like architecture students, this should be a convenient means of getting between classes. Evidently no student parking will be provided at either of the two new campus buildings, which is a concern of architecture students who frequently will be working there all hours of the night when buses do not run.

Generally Metro Area Transit is a well run transit system with 22 routes serving Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo. I always had a good experience riding, with friendly drivers, well maintained buses, and sufficient schedule/route information provided.

When I was back in the area last weekend, I stopped by the GTC to get some pictures and even rode a route for a few blocks (my old Bison Card still grants me free rides). It was fun to check it out again, especially now that I have a better understanding of the ins and outs of transit operation as a driver for CyRide. MAT is a decent system that is certainly better and more adaptive than Cedar Rapids Transit and could probably rival CyRide if it had the same resources and ridership demand.

Check out my MAT bus pictures on Flickr.
More info on MAT’s website at


  1. Obviously there is no SHAME about the freeloading you and the other students do on the MAT bus system! Paying only 50 cents a month while the general ridership now must pay $1.25 a trip or $40/month for a 30 day bus card. Student services should be paid with student fees–NOT taxpayer dollars!!!! It is obscene how lazy and sloven NDSU students are–can’t even walk a half block–can’t walk from a parking lot to campus, etc. Again, SHAME!!!!!! The public doesn’t even come close to the frequency and number of buses. This past winter, members of the public were left standing an hour plus in sub-zero temps because the bus failed to show up and/or no bus shelters–no heated bus shelters. Public routes were running 1-2 hours late–yet those freeloading whimps at NDSU had “express buses” and heated shelters–and the public was left cold and stranded. Again, if students want bus service, it should be paid for wholly with student fees–and to ride the regular MAT bus students should pay the regular adult fare. I notice you lack any shame or conscience about using your Bison ID–even though you have graduated and no longer are eligible to use it. But then what can one expect from NDSU–always on the lookout to freeload of the public. Now that you are an alumni get a conscience and donate some money to pay for for 8 years of fares students failed to pay full fare–also how about making a donation to buy ndsu shuttle buses for campus use!

  2. Brady Dorman

    June 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Bus Ride – I appreciate your comment and understand your concerns. I wouldn’t say NDSU students are free-loading because the university and the other 3 area colleges pay an annual fee to Metro Area Transit to allow students to ride “free.”

    While it may seem like MAT is devoting more resources to serving college students than to the whole community, it is simply because these institutions are providing specific funding for these additional services. Also the increase in overall ridership from pre-paying for students, only helps to improve the system as a whole for the entire community. Higher ridership numbers equals more federal funding for the whole system.

    I’m guessing the improved shelters on campus were also funded partially through the university. But transit stop improvements usually go at a system’s busiest stops which are likely to be on routes serving the university.

    I agree with you it was not right of me to take a bus ride – even for just a few blocks – using my old Bison Card to board without fare. I was mainly curious if it would still work, as I’ve often wondered if they controlled that for graduating students. It is a valid concern and something that should be looked in to by MAT and NDSU.

  3. I hardly consider paying that “annual fee” of $6 enough to ride the bus! Taxpayers pay for two bus systems–the one at NDSU and the so-called “public bus”! 50 cents a month compared to $40/month an adult pays is quite a discrepancy–especially when the faculty–who have some of the best paid positions in the area–also pay only 50 cents a month! The fixed public routes have seen no expansion and hear the whine “there is no money”–well, if there is “no money” then they need to get EVERYONE to start paying full fare ‘coz students ride the fixed route also. All the shelters up at NDSU come at taxpayer expense also–and NDSU has more and better shelters than the public–for some reason! HMMMM NDSU got 5 brand new buses courtesy the stimulus money from the City of Fargo–the public routes get stuck with old, broken down buses–something very wrong with this also–considering NDSU doesn’t pay taxes! I guess NDSU can be lucky they got the mayor and city commission in their hip pocket to get all this freeloading and new stuff courtesy taxpayers–as there is NO SHAME up at Fargo City Hall! Plenty of the fixed route riders are fed up with NDSU and have made it known, but get ignored–guess citizens and taxpayers of Fargo don’t count–so I guess NDSU can count its lucky stars it has such an obscene influence on City Officials! Obviously some new blood is needed to govern Fargo. Also, want to point out that students spend more on cell phones, ipods, games, computers, etc not to mention booze, etc than they do to ride the bus.

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