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Freshman 101: Your Guide To The CATA Bus

Now that your first day is over, you might realize that walking to class won’t always get you there on time. Transportation is always one of those topics that doesn’t get much coverage at NSO, so now is probably as good a time as any to break down all those loops and links you’ve heard so much about.

To start, you want to get on a bus that will take you around campus, not all over town. CATA (which stands for Centre Area Transportation Authority) has two different types of routes. The Campus Service routes will take you through campus, while the Community Service routes will take you off campus for a small fee. To keep track of all your options, download the CATA app, which will show you where all the buses on duty are right at your fingertips. The app usually shows the buses a stop behind where they actually are, so take that into consideration when timing out your day. If you click on the red location pins, the app will tell you what the stop is called and where it’s located.

The CATA app gives a bird’s eye view of any bus route you choose.

Here’s where we get into the nitty-gritty. The four Campus Service routes, otherwise known as the Blue Loop, the White Loop, the Red Link, and the Green Link, all of which are free to ride — no need to get your quarters ready. When you’re ready to get off at the next stop, just pull the yellow cord by the window to notify the driver. There are usually three Loop buses and two Link buses running on each route at a time depending on the time of day, giving you a pretty good shot at getting to class on time. You’ll often hear the White Loop and the Blue Loop referred to as the “Whoop” and the “Bloop” respectively, so just to be clear, there are only four Campus Service routes. Not six. Four.

The Loops do exactly what they sound like they do — they loop around campus. Both the White Loop and the Blue Loop run on Curtin Road at the top of campus going opposite ways. The Blue Loop will take you down College Avenue, while the White Loop will take you down Beaver Avenue. Both College Avenue and Beaver Avenue are one way streets, so be mindful of that when choosing which bus to take downtown.

The Blue Loop will take you to some important places like the Pattee Transit Center Eastbound right outside of the library, the Natatorium across from East Halls, the BJC, The Millennium Science Complex on Pollock Road (a good spot to get off if you have class in the middle of campus), The White Building, College Avenue, and Allen Street. The White Loop will come in handy if you need to go East Halls, The Visual Arts Building, the Pattee Transit Center westbound, Rec Hall, The Schlow Library and CATA Office, Beaver Hill, Calder Commons, The Meridian, or the IM Building. The White Loop is the best bus to get you downtown and back to East on the weekends, especially if you have a little too much fun and don’t feel like walking all the way back. But beware: the White Loop stop at East Halls will fill up very quickly, so get there early if you’re in a hurry.

The Links, on the other end, only run back and forth on Curtin Road and connect two stops at the end of their routes. The Green Link and Red Link are always come in handy if a Blue Loop or White Loop is too packed and you can’t get on one in time to get to class. The Green Link mainly travels through west campus, but eventually travels to commuter lots near the BJC. The Red Link travels to the White Course apartments near west campus, and then takes you all the way to Innovation Park and the Mt. Nittany Medical Center in the opposite direction. You may never need to get to any of these place during your freshman year, but both Links stop near East Halls, The Visual Arts Building, and the Pattee Transit Center to and from their endpoints.

The Community Service routes are always helpful if you need to go to work off campus or need to get some supplies, but you’ll never use all 20 of the routes in your time at Penn State. Some of the more helpful routes, like the Vairo Boulevard route and the Nittany Mall route, will take you to Walmart and the local mall, but they cost $1.75 per person to ride and the buses won’t give you change. We suggest you go to the CATA website for more information on all the Community Service Routes, such as fare options, monthly passes, schedules, and all those abbreviations you’ll see on the back of the buses.

Now that you know how to use the buses, you need to know how to act on them. We know that you’ll be grumpy some mornings and wasted some nights, but there are certain commandments that you need to abide by. Some of the most important ones include:

  • Don’t get on from the back of the bus. It’s printed next to the back exit, but in case you think the driver won’t notice, they will.
  • Don’t scream on your cell phone.
  • Move all the way to the back when new people are boarding the bus. It’ll make it easier for everyone.
  • Move your bag off the seat next to make space for someone else. Don’t take up more room than necessary, the buses get crowded enough.
  • The front seats of the bus flip up to accommodate elderly and disabled people. Don’t roll your eyes or complain about how long it takes them to get seated. Have some manners, suck it up, and move on back.
  • When someone is trying to exit the bus, make a path for them. Even if you can’t move too much because the bus is crowded, just shove over as much as you can. In addition, don’t stand in front of the back exit if you’re not getting off at the next stop. You’re just getting in everyone’s way.
  • Finally, the most important rule of all: Do not vomit. You will likely be kicked off, but more importantly, it’s just gross. Keep it together until you get home or don’t get on the bus if there’s a chance for dinner round two.

Now that you’re all prepped and polite, you’re ready to hop on the next bus like a pro. Just keep your cool, mind your business, and try not to throw up.

About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism and Onward State's student life editor. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia" (she looked up the exact driving time). She enjoys Broadway musicals, neck pillows, and eating cereal at night. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.


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