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Free CATA transportation, updated late night dining hours begin this week

August 27, 2018
<p>A CATA bus pictured on June 8 at the CATA Transportation Center. <strong>Kaiyue Zhang</strong> <strong>| The State News</strong></p>

A CATA bus pictured on June 8 at the CATA Transportation Center. Kaiyue Zhang | The State News

Two services used by MSU students will undergo some major changes during the 2018-19 school year. 

Free CATA bus service begins Aug. 27

During MSU's academic year, the university and the Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, partner to provide additional bus transportation, or "Spartan Service," to areas across campus. 

In previous years, students would have to pay a fare upon boarding a bus. This year, transportation services will be free of charge as the result of an update to the contract between CATA and MSU. 

“This agreement will reduce the out-of-pocket costs to students and parents and be an incentive for more students to use CATA while on campus to get to class and back safely,” MSU Interim President John Engler said, according to a press release. 

Frederick Siler, marketing specialist for CATA, said the free service will be implemented on a one-year trial basis. After that, the university plans to evaluate the pros and cons of the service being provided for free. 

The trial applies to weekday bus services, according to Siler. That means students won't have to pay a fare to travel bus Routes 30, 31, 32, 33 and 39. Weekend services via Routes 34, 35 and 36 will also be free. 

In addition, CATA is offering free service on a brand-new bus route.

"CATA will also offer free service on Route 38, a newly-created route, providing dedicated service to Spartan Village from Ramp 1," Siler said. 

For those that remain on campus during MSU's summer, spring and winter breaks, CATA is also providing bus service via Route 32, which will service the Shaw parking ramp, MSU Auditorium, the Clinical Center and Lot 89. 

Some CATA routes won't be free. Individuals using off-campus routes such as Lot Link, Night Owl and the Route 1 bus, for example, will still be charged a fare. 

"Lot Link, Night Owl and all off-campus routes are not included in fare-free boardings, and will require the discounted 60 cent fare with valid student ID or $1.25 regular fare," Siler said. 

Last year, about three million rides were taken on campus buses, according to MSU. CATA has provided services on campus since April 1999.

Changes to MSU's dining plans

Changes to meal plan features like late night dining and Combo-X-Change take effect this week, as well. 

MSU offers three tiers of meal plans: DineOn Silver, DineOn Gold and DineOn Platinum. One thing all three of these dining plans have in common is unlimited access to any of MSU's residential dining halls with the swipe of a student I.D. 

Students can usually visit dining halls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a full meal, but some locations offer options after 8 p.m. Cafeterias open after 8 p.m. are usually referred to as "late night." 

According to Eat at State, a division of MSU's Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS, customer counts for late night dining hours have decreased. 

As a result, dining halls serving late night will continue to offer hot meals from 8 to 10 p.m., but then they'll transition to snacks and beverages at 10 p.m. In addition, late night dining at the MSU Union Food Court will no longer be available on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Late night dining will be still be available from 8 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays at the MSU Union.

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Kat Cooper, director of communications for RHS, said students have been asking for more freedom with MSU's Combo-X-Change program. The program allows students to choose hot food or multiple snack items from Sparty's stores around campus for a meal.

Cooper said students with on-campus dining plans will now be able to use their Combo-X-Change on weekends. In addition, they'll get a sixth Combo-X-Change every week. Cooper said this acts as a "trade-off" so students are not losing value in their meal plans. 

"The number of people who were utilizing late night on Friday and Saturday were very small, and so we wanted to instead do something that students have really been asking for for years, which was extend the Combo-X-Change to be seven days a week," Cooper said. 

Dining halls at MSU that offer late night hours include Brody Square, The Edge at Akers, The Gallery at Snyder-Phillips and Wilson Dining Hall, plus the MSU Union Food Court. Combo-X-Change meals can be selected at Sparty's locations around campus. 

Full hours of operation and menu options for residential dining halls can be checked online at Eat at State.

This article appears in the Welcome Week 2018 print edition of The State News.

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