OmniRide, chamber partner to promote the bus service to students | Securities

OmniRide is trying to get more students on its buses between school and internships.

Transit agency launches new marketing campaign to distribute informational flyers and bus passes to students at eight high schools in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park, as well as Manassas campuses and Woodbridge from Northern Virginia Community College. Prince William’s Chamber of Commerce shares the bill for the campaign.

All eight secondary schools are on bus routes and near stops, and both NOVA campuses have bus stops. For now, the bus system is trying to remind students where OmniRide can take them from school. But if fares are restored on the agency’s local and Metro Express lines, OmniRide plans to bring back its student pass for high school and college students, which offered heavily discounted fares.

Holly Morello, ride request program manager for OmniRide, said that before the pandemic, more than 100 community college students were using the pass. But since March 2020, when COVID shut down businesses and schools, local and Metro Express lines are free.

“We wanted to let schools know…that there are routes that go through a decent number of schools in the county that kids can potentially use, not as an alternative to the school bus by any means…but it is a potential option for kids to get to internships,” Morello told InsideNoVa about the new marketing initiative.

“The [student] the pass was no longer necessary, but we felt it was still important to let people know that the buses are still running and, oh by the way, you don’t have to pay,” she said added.

Like other transit agencies, OmniRide’s ridership has plummeted since the pandemic began, but the bulk of the ridership loss has occurred on the system’s commuter lines that take workers to Washington on morning and bring them back to Prince William and Manassas in the afternoon. Local roads have seen less decline.

The Chamber sees OmniRide as a way to connect students to internships otherwise inaccessible without a car. Superintendent of Prince William Schools, LaTanya McDade, has made preparing students after graduation a priority in her new four-year strategic plan and has personally called on area business leaders to create opportunities for high school students local.

“With a goal of adding 500 new apprenticeships or internships by 2025, we will challenge our partners to consider how they can contribute to having meaningful learning journeys in every high school,” reads its strategic plan. Vision 2025.

Chamber COO Ross Snare told InsideNoVa that partnering with area schools on workforce development is a top priority for the business group and that businesses in the area are eager to heed McDade’s calls for more opportunities for students.

“We want to make sure that we create as many opportunities as possible for the workforce of tomorrow, so having a program like this to give students from Prince William, Manassas, Manassas Park the opportunity to going out there and really starting to prepare for workforce development programs through internships and things like that is ideal,” Snare said.

Melvin Z. Madore