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WNC student turns focus to transportation

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

The lack of public transportation options at the college led student Mimi Premo to discover her true passion. Turns out, it’s public transportation.

“The bus is like a microcosm of everything going on in the world,” she explained. “Nothing is hidden. You see the human interaction. It comes to life.”

A stint with Americorps brought her to South Lake Tahoe from her native Southern California, where she learned at a young age how to navigate the bus and rail system.

She moved to Carson City four years ago and began pursuing a musical theory degree from Western Nevada College. However, most music appreciation classes were taught in the evenings and rehearsals for musical productions were always scheduled at night.

With the last JAC bus leaving the college at 6:15 p.m., she found she couldn’t keep up the schedule – and it didn’t make a lot of economic sense to pursue the major either.

“Although there will always be a need for a good mezzo soprano, the work isn’t really steady,” she deadpanned.

So she switched her focus to political science, hoping that would bring her closer to her ultimate goal.

“Transportation policy is what I’m really interested in,” she said.

And her interest isn’t only academic.

Without a car, riding the bus and walking are the primary forms of transportation for the 26-year-old single mom and her 3-year-old daughter.

She said people call her “the walking girl,” sometimes stopping to ask how she gets from one place to another so quickly.

“I’m known in this city for walking everywhere,” she said. “I think people are afraid of muscle power, and that’s really a shame.

“There’s a bit of fearlessness to it. Some people might call it stupidity. But what’s everyone so afraid of with walking?”

She knows there are other places better suited for someone who does not own a car or even have a driver’s license. But she chooses Carson City.

“I love Carson. I love the people. I have found a home here,” she said. “I’m a stubborn woman. I take the love of Nevada over the inconvenience.”

After completing an internship with the city’s transportation department, Premo created an independent study class at the college to dedicate more time to the subject.

She designed a transportation survey for her fellow students, anticipating it would show the failings of the city’s public transportation system, Jump Around Carson.

However, she found that only

1.7 percent of the 56 students who responded used JAC, 73 percent drove their own cars, 7 percent carpool, 1.7 percent said they got rides and almost 9 percent reportedly ride bikes.

The real concerns, she discovered, were inadequate lights in the parking lot and congestion on College Parkway, which respondents said caused them to be late to class. Cyclists said it made the roadway dangerous.

Premo presented her findings last week to a panel.

While it was not the outcome she had expected, she said, she will work to find solutions to the problems identified – even if she does not receive the support of formal student groups.

“It’s better to be the lone wolf that makes the noise,” she said. “It’s not for glamour or glory. It’s pretty much because I want to and there’s a need for it.”

After completing her associate’s degree at WNC, she plans to continue her education at the University of Nevada, Reno. She’s considering trying to start a consulting business or find employment with a city or state agency.

“Nevada’s going to grow after this recession is over,” she said. “I really think mass transit is the future.