The will is there. The desire is there. And the need is there.
But for many students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the wheels are not.
On a campus where few students have cars, transportation is one of the largest barriers for those who want to volunteer in the Madison community.
Enter: Transportation Options.
The Morgridge Center for Public Service at UW-Madison launched Transportation Options in fall 2014 to provide resources for students who want to volunteer throughout Madison but do not have a way to get out to the community from campus.
The program takes a “multi-modal” approach, allowing students to choose from a range of options to find the solution that works best for them and for the environment.
“Students lives typically are very full, so it’s important to support them however we can when they elect to volunteer” Morgridge Center for Public Service Associate Director Karen Crossley said. “Transportation Options allows students to find a solution that suits their needs.”
“We also want to encourage students to be conscious of their carbon footprint,” Crossley added. “Maybe they didn’t even realize they had volunteer opportunities along a bike bath or on a bus route.”
Transportation Options’ resources live online at Morgridge.wisc.edu. There, students can find an interactive map with volunteer opportunities within walking distance of campus, tools to map safe bike routes and information to help them navigate the bus system.
All UW-Madison students already are provided Madison Metro bus passes each semester. But Transportation Options helps students map their routes and navigate the sometimes confusing bus schedule.
“The bus has been great,” UW student Carol Silva said. She travels every week with a team of fellow students to Marquette Middle School through the Morgridge Center’s Badger Volunteers program. “It works well because it’s free and usually arrives right on time.”
“On the way back we usually reflect on the day,” Carol added. “In general, that time has given us more of an opportunity to bond.”
Students in the Badger Volunteers program—of which there are more than 650 each semester—and students enrolled in Service Learning courses on campus, also have access to cab rides. Funding from the Morgridge Center for Public Service and other donors makes it possible for students whose volunteer sites are beyond walking, bicycle or bus range, to reach out further from campus through a partnership with Union Cab.
Not only does Union Cab offer a discounted rate to volunteers, but they also worked closely with Morgridge Center for Public Service staff in the summer to develop a new online ordering system to make the cab process easier and more efficient.
Beginning this past summer, Badger Volunteers also now have a car-sharing option. Through a partnership with Community Car, students can reserve vehicles located close to the university to drive themselves from campus to their volunteer sites.
“It’s been great,” Badger Volunteer Caitlyn Flynn said of Community Car. “We can leave when we want. We can go when we want.”
Caitlyn’s team volunteers at Lakeview Elementary on Madison’s north side, where bus service from campus is tricky. Her team is one of many this fall that jumped at the opportunity to use Community Car.
“We just have a lot more control about getting to our site and getting back.”
And for those who prefer two wheels, the Morgridge Center for Public Service and Madison B-cycle have formed a partnership to provide Badger Volunteers with year-long memberships.
Morgridge Center staff say Transportation Options will continue to evolve as student and community needs change.
But now, where there’s a will to help, there’s a way for UW-Madison students to get there.