The ultimate CATA survival guide for freezing Spartans

Hold on for dear life

Ah, Michigan State University in the winter time. When cold temps, snow, sleet and rain mix with classes on the opposite side of campus. Even someone who finds serenity in long campus walks will agree that an hour-long walk across campus in frigid weather is just not worth it.

For those of us without a car, this leaves us with a few options. You can either order an embarrassing Uber ride to class as a last resort (yeah, people do it), or you can man up and get on the CATA.

We all hear horror stories about these “clean machines,” aka crowded busses filled with college kids in desperate need of some deodorant – missing a class because the CATA takes forever to get anywhere, getting on the wrong bus and accidentally ending up in downtown Lansing, etc. The list goes on and on.

Don’t let these stories stop you from mastering the CATA. It just takes patience, know-how, and a little luck.

Know the unspoken bus rules

Crowded or not, there are rules. If you’re sitting, don’t be the person who puts their backpack in the seat next to them and keeps it there, regardless of how crowded the bus gets. Make room. Your backpack does not need its own seat, I promise.

If you’re standing, it is very important that you remain in a semi-athletic stance, in case a sudden turn is just too much for your relaxed positioning – which it will be. Hold tight and brace yourself. I’ve never seen a person completely fall, but if you wanna be the first, ignore these rules.

Walking > riding the CATA at peak hours

Now, this depends on what you think is worth it – a long walk alone in a freezing Michigan winter, or standing on a crammed bus, too close to strangers for comfort? A busy day in the winter time means a full bus. From noon until about 3pm, the bus gets pretty full, and you may or may not end up holding the pole for dear life as the bus takes wildly sharp turns. It is a doable trip, but not an enjoyable one. Pick your poison.

…Or if you ever want to split your walking trip in half and do a little of both, just take the bus to the main CATA transfer point then walk the rest of the way. Gives you a little of both. Still not fun.

Get the app – yes, it exists

Can’t stress this enough. The rumors are true: there is an app that tells you when the bus is coming. It’s called SpartaRide and it’s truly a lifesaver, considering no one can accurately predict the actual time the bus will pop up. With SpartaRide you can search whichever CATA bus number you want, and it will tell you exactly what time it will be arriving at the nearest bus stop.

 The CATA waits for no one

Sad but true. Ever see those kids sprinting to the bus while the driver just drives off without them? Those drivers probably think it’s funny (so no, you are not an exception).

No one wants to be that kid. Running with arms flailing, the amused driver watching you in the rearview, all the warm Spartans on the bus watching you through the window as they pass…Honestly, you’re better off just waiting for the next one.

So, what have we learned today? The CATA isn’t the most trustworthy mode of transportation, but sometimes it is highly necessary. If done correctly, the experience isn’t nearly as painful. Download the app, get to the pickup location early, avoid the bus during busy hours – and never, ever be the kid that gets so obviously left behind. Please.

Best of luck, Spartans.

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