As of last Wednesday, the Interurban Trolley is free for Goshen College faculty, staff and students.

Jim Histand, former vp of finance, Launa Leftwich, dean of students, Paul Householder, associate director of ITS, and Ken Newbold, provost, all played key roles in getting this program up and running. It went into effect on Feb. 8 and is available to anyone with an active GC ID.

Over the years, the idea for this program had been talked about, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that GC began to pursue it.

In partnership with the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) and the coordinating organization of the Interurban Trolley, GC worked to implement this new program that offers free access to the Trolley for faculty, staff and students.

The Trolley has five fixed routes through downtown Elkhart and downtown Goshen. To see specific routes and times, you can go to the Interurban Trolley’s website. There’s no way to estimate how many GC members will use this new service, but Newbold is hopeful.

“We hope this program will provide more convenient access to GC students, faculty and staff to visit downtown Goshen and other local destinations,” he said.

To Newbold, this is a promising new opportunity for the college.

“I am most excited about the access to reliable mass transportation for members of the college community this program provides,” Newbold said. “The Trolley offers routes to local businesses, parks and can assist those in need of a means of getting to campus.”

Since not every student has their own car, Newbold is excited about how the Trolley can benefit them, as well as all GC members in general.

“This program opens up opportunities,” he said, “to reach Goshen and Elkhart for those without personal vehicles or those that want to use mass transit as an option to get around Goshen.”

The Trolley stops closest to campus at the corner of College Avenue and 9th Street, as well as the corner of Main Street and College Avenue. Students, faculty and staff need only swipe their ID, and all rides along any of Trolley’s routes are free.

Hitesh Sharma, junior, sees this as the perfect opportunity for commuters.

“I used the Trolley a lot last year when I lived downtown, and I continue using it this year as well,” said Sharma. “When the school made it free, I got so excited that I ran to take my first free Trolley ride to downtown and back! I was probably the first student to try the free ride (and I wish to be in history books of Goshen for that).”

Sharma noted how easy it makes his commute.

“I can go to The Brew to do my homework anytime now,” said Sharma. “I can go to Kroger’s. I don’t have to worry about not having $1 bills on me every time.”

While the Trolley is available to all GC members, there is a certain level of planning that people need to be aware of.

“One of the challenges I see,” Newbold said, “is the timing required to use the Trolley for those commuting to campus. The bus stop near campus is convenient but users must plan their travel around class times and the route schedule.”

But despite those challenges, Newbold hopes to see a number of people from GC utilizing this program.

“I hope to see a growing number of faculty, staff and students using the Trolley as it offers a means of connecting with community members, less reliance on personal cars and reliable transportation,” he said. “This program can open doors to our surrounding community that may have otherwise not been pursued and can provide access to community activities.”

Sharma agrees and sees this as an opportunity for students to interact with the broader community.

“The administration worked a lot to make this possible for its students,” said Sharma. “Don’t confine yourself only inside the bubble of Goshen College. Get out there and be involved in the community. Goshen is a great place, and you meet so many great people! Also, the free ride is all the way to the South Bend airport, so take advantage of that.”

Christi Sessa, sophomore, is excited for the program as well.

“It’s here, and it’s awesome, and the trolley is a really great resource,” said Sessa. “Use it!”