Recovery package. Recession. Economic stimulus.
These are the phrases on the tips of everyone’s tongues this week – not to mention the past six months – as our legislators in Washington work toward a compromise and we here on ‘Main Street’ continue to revel in our poor-College-student statuses which, admittedly, existed long before the recession.
But, we can only think of one sure-fire way to get College students to stimulate the economy: Free Transit Week.
Unfortunately for us (and the economy), the spring version of Free Transit Week is no more.
Anything that has the word “Free” before it is guaranteed to attract College students. No Facebook group gains more immediate members than one advertising a free product. Free iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts for the first day of Spring? Check. Free pancake day at IHOP? Oh, hell yes. We’re already counting down the days until Rita’s opens up and offers us free Italian/water ice.
So, it came as a huge disappointment when we found out Free Transit Week has been cut.
For fiscal reasons, NJ Transit is only doing Free Transit Week in the fall and is instead promoting a “Student Pass Program,” a monthly pass offered at a 25 percent discount.
This comes as a blow to many students who not only utilize but look forward to Free Transit Week every fall and spring semester.
In the past, the Friday and Saturday nights during Free Transit Weeks would see College students packing the trains. It was almost guaranteed you would see multiple students from the College, either waiting for a midnight or 1 a.m. train at Penn Station, or waiting in line to pay for parking at the Hamilton Train Station.
Last year, Valentine’s Day fell during spring Free Transit Week, which was a tremendous help for students planning a special night in New York City. Because of free transit, such a trip could be planned at a fraction of the usual price it takes to spend an evening in the city.
Normally, a round-trip ticket to the city from Hamilton puts a college kid out $20.50. If it’s a date and you’re paying for someone else, you’re out $40. Add dinner, drinks, subway fares, random shopping, dessert, coffee, a comedy show or whatever else is calling your wallet’s name in the city, and it becomes an overwhelmingly expensive night.
Without having to pay for transportation, it didn’t seem as daunting to splurge on a nice dinner in the city, attend a show, go out for drinks or spend a day shopping.
With all of the colleges in New Jersey, we can’t imagine that Free Transit Week didn’t cause a mass influx of state-wide college students eager to get away from their normal environment – without making a major dent in their dwindling gas-money fund.
And, New Jersey Transit can’t possibly be losing money on Free Transit Week: We made plans specifically around the week in the past, so many of us aren’t going at all this year.
Unless NJ Transit suffers a financial blow that we’re currently unaware of, we see absolutely no reason to pull the plug on such a popular promotion.