WeGo public buses will take you to almost any destination in Nashville—for free

Take an in-depth look at another free subscription you get with your Commodore Card. This time, it’s free rides on public transportation to almost anywhere in Nashville.

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Alexa White

Spot the purple WeGo buses around campus and all throughout Nashville. (Hustler Multimedia/Alexa White)

Jaime Svinth, Deputy Life Editor

Let me set the scene. It’s 2021 and I’m living on Commons. I’m on the phone complaining to my mom about how I want to go to the mall, to the grocery store, to Broadway, to anywhere outside campus. But I can’t afford to spend at least $16 round trip on Uber or Lyft just to get out of the Vanderbilt bubble. Ten minutes later, after one of her frequent browsings of the Vanderbilt website, my mother sends me a text: “You can ride the public buses in Nashville for free with your Vandy card.” Then: “I think you can take it to Whole Foods.” 

Music to my ears.

Since that fateful day, I have been notorious among my friends for frequenting Nashville public transportation—it is a notoriety I wear proudly. Today, I’ve decided to share the wealth because exploring Nashville shouldn’t be limited to the amount of money you can spend on Uber or Lyft (or contingent on how many friends you can recruit to join you to split the cost over Venmo). 

Like many of the other subscriptions Vanderbilt gives students with their Commodore Card, the WeGo Nashville public bus system allows students to ride for free. Whether you’re a Peabody education major needing to get to school to teach, a Fahrenheit Yoga lover on your way to 12 South or you’re headed to Broadway, you should probably listen up. 

Using WeGo transportation:

Step 1: Download Google Maps or Moovit

When riding to your desired destination, it’s important to identify the bus stops near you, the bus route you need to take and the right stop near your destination. There are three ways to do this: using the general list for the bus routes, stops and arrival times, the Google maps app or the Moovit app. 

I didn’t know the Moovit app existed last year, and, upon discovering it, it’s my top recommendation for making the process of using public transportation easy. 

Step 2: Plan your trip

If you’re wanting to embark on your trip at the moment you look at the schedule, you can use Google maps as you would normally. Just type in your destination and filter it to the “bus” icon at the top, and it will automatically give you the route to take, the bus stop to wait at and the time that it will arrive. Moovit works similarly for spontaneous trips, but it’s a more effective platform for if you’re a planner and want to see what your trip would look like ahead of time (like me). 

  1. On Moovit, simply type your destination in and your chosen starting point. 
  2. Edit your trip according to departure time or arrival time by clicking on the dropdown by the button “Depart now.” You can select “Depart now,” “Desired departure time” and “Desired arrival time.” 
  3. Press “Search routes.” A list of different routes you can take will populate and you can select based on your starting point preference (i.e. what bus stop you would prefer to leave from). 
  4. Select the route you want to take, and the app will give you the optimal time to leave to catch the bus on time. Pro tip: I recommend leaving a few minutes before the recommended time. Press “Go” for directions to the bus stop. 
  5. Complete steps 1to 4 to plan for your trip back from your destination so you can plan ahead for what time you’ll need to be at the bus stop for going home. 
  6. Once at the bus stop, make yourself visible by standing near the blue bus stop sign. You’ll know when your bus is coming because (1) the app will show you when the bus is approaching and (2) the WeGo buses will display their route number and name.
Follow these six steps to optimize your public transportation experience. (Hustler Multimedia/ Alexa White) (Alexa White)

Step 3: Riding and getting off the bus

When you get on the bus, make sure you have your physical Commodore Card because you will swipe it at the machine to the right of the bus driver. No, you can’t use your phone (speaking from personal experience, my friend was not allowed to ride without the actual card). Once you’ve done this, you can sit just about anywhere. 

When you’re approaching your bus stop, find the white wire running along the windows and pull it down. You should hear a ding, and that will signify to the driver that you want the next stop. 

On the bus, you’ll likely see a conglomeration of people from different walks of life, which is actually one of my favorite things about using the public bus system. You’ll see friends chatting on their way to lunch, VUMC employees heading home, and sometimes those who are simply looking for a warm place to reside during colder days. For me, it’s been not only a way to economically travel around Nashville, but also a way for me to experience the city’s culture and community. Having accessible public transportation has taken the stress off of exploring the beautiful city we go to school in, and I’m extremely grateful for our ability to ride free. Happy We-Going!