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Penn State 101: Understanding the CATAbus

Everyone loves to giggle at oblivious freshmen attempting to swipe their ID cards to get onto the White Loop after a long night on Frat Row, but getting around campus would be much less of a hassle (read: shit show) if everyone understood how the CATAbus worked. These routes have become familiar to many of us, but at one point in time, they seemed totally foreign. Time to unravel the mystery.

So here it goes.

There are two different types of routes, the Campus Service routes and Community Service routes. Obviously the Campus Service routes take you around campus, and the Community Service routes provide transportation off campus.

There are four Campus Service routes: the Blue Loop, the White Loop, the Red Link, and the Green Link. Both the Loops and Links are fare-free. You just climb on. You don’t swipe anything, or give the driver anything. If you try, we laugh at you.

The Loops run from Curtin Road all the way down town. The Blue Loop covers College Avenue (going East to West), and the White Loop covers Beaver Avenue (going West to East). If you’re riding the Bloop, you’ll be hitting useful stops like the Library (called the “Pattee Transit Center” by the robotic voice that reads off the bus stops), the Natatorium, the BJC, the White Building, College Ave & Allen Street, and the Walker Building. The White Loop will get you to Curtin Hall (super helpful for freshmen living in East and trying to get downtown), the Visual Arts building, the Library, Rec Hall, the BTP house, the Schlow Library on Beaver, the Beaver Hill apartments, the Meridian, the BJC, and the IM Building.

The Links, in contrast, don’t run in the same circular kind of pattern that the Loops do.  They run back and forth across Curtin Road to provide transportation to and from West campus. The Red Link travels from the White Course apartments all the way down Curtin, and then heads to Innovation Park and the Mt. Nittany Medical Center. The Green Link travels along Curtin Road as well, but focuses more on West campus (Rec Hall, the Walker Building, the BTP house) and then on commuter parking lots out by the BJC.

Then there are the Community Service routes. There are twenty of them, and we won’t go through the stops that each specific route makes, but we’ll focus on the most common and useful of that twenty.

The Vairo Boulevard route, called the “V,” is the bus that will get you to WalMart. This will eventually come in handy, whether you need to buy some cheap groceries or you have to catch a MegaBus back home.  The V is not fare-free—it’s $1.50 per person. Bring exact change, because if you give them two dollars, they’ll keep that extra fifty cents.

I’d suggest checking the route schedule online before waiting around for the bus to show up. It only comes about every forty minutes, so you’ll have to catch it at just the right time. The schedule differs on weekends verses weekdays, too, so make sure you look closely. Also, though it doesn’t list them on the schedule, the V has stops on campus other than just College & Allen and the Pattee Transit Center. It travels the same route as the Blue Loop, so you can stand under that fancy new glass bus stop outside of the White Building about ten minutes before it’s expected to get to Allen Street and it’ll swing by for you. Don’t forget to bring another $1.50 for the ride back on campus.

If you’re itching to go shopping and the stores downtown just aren’t doing it for you, the Nittany Mall bus route, called the “M,” will help you out. Like the V, you should check the route schedule online before you stand out at the bus stop, because this one only comes once an hour, and the hours differ on the weekends.  The M’s on campus route is similar to that of the White Loop, so catch it at a stop along Curtin or Beaver.

There are of course eighteen other Community Service routes that you may need to learn more about, but they’re each specific to certain areas off campus, and to describe every apartment complex that each one goes to would get a little tedious.

If you’re living off campus and can’t figure out how the bus that goes to your apartment complex works, just check out the CATA site. They offer maps of the routes each bus takes, along with route schedules. They have you covered.  Download the CATA app if you can, too—it shows you exactly where the bus you’re waiting for is located on campus in real time, so you can judge how much longer you have to wait out in the rain before the damn thing arrives.

Also, you need to check out this post on CATA etiquette before you even think about setting foot on any bus on campus.

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About the Author

Alicia Thomas

Alicia is a senior with majors in Print Journalism and Spanish and a minor in International Studies. Chances are that she's somewhere talking about her semester abroad or ranting about sexual assault prevention right now. She can be reached via Twitter (@aliciarthomas) or email ([email protected]).


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