The five colleges operate both as independent entities as well as mutually dependent institutions. The Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory was founded in 1969 by the Five College Astronomy Department. Together, the Five Colleges operate WFCR (Five College Radio), an NPR member station operating at 88.5 MHz in the FM band. They also participate in an interlibrary loan program, allowing students, staff, and faculty to take advantage of all five campuses' collections.
In addition, students at each of these schools often take classes at the other colleges ("cross-registration" is permitted and often encouraged). Student groups and organizations often draw participants from all five campuses and several academic programs (for example, astronomy, dance, some foreign languages, and women's studies) are run by the Five Colleges.
A popular urban legend among Five College students holds that the characters on the Saturday morning cartoonScooby-Doo represent the five colleges. The legend has Velma representing Smith College, Daphne as Mount Holyoke College, Fred as Amherst College, Shaggy as Hampshire College, and Scooby as UMass Amherst.
University of Massachusetts Transportation Services, as a contractor for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), provides free inter- and intra-campus bus service to students. Most of the routes are centered and serve UMass Amherst, which has over two-thirds of the student enrollment of the Five Colleges, but two routes, Route 38, connects Mount Holyoke College to UMass Amherst via Hampshire and Amherst Colleges, and Route 39 connects Smith and Hampshire Colleges (with some weekday trips and all evening and weekend trips when classes are in session operating to Mount Holyoke College). The buses, operated by student workers from UMass Amherst, run on frequent schedule seven days a week when classes are in session, allowing car-free travel to class and social events. Hourly buses run into the early morning on weekends, an alternative to driving after drinking. This service is funded through a contract with the member institutions. The PVTA also operates two non-UMass Transit routes (the Maroon 40 Minuteman Express, and the Blue-43) that connect UMass Amherst with Smith College via Route 9. All of these routes are free to ride for students, staff, and faculty of the Five Colleges Consortium.
Greyhound Bus Lines, Peter Pan Bus Lines, and Megabus also offer interstate bus service to the region. The major terminal for the region is the Springfield Bus Terminal, from which services are provided both north-south and east-west to Vermont and New York City, and to Boston and Albany, respectively. Megabus makes its stop in the region at Hampshire Mall in Hadley en route to Vermont and New York City, while Greyhound makes an additional stop in Northampton and Peter Pan also calls at UMass Haigis Mall.
Amtrak service is offered at the Amherst station (AMM) once each way via the Vermonter. It is contiguous to the Amherst College campus and a PVTA bus stop, although this stop is slated to be closed in 2014 when the Vermonter is rerouted through Northampton. More departures are available from the Springfield station (SPG), where Northeast Regional direct and shuttle trains connecting to Northeast Regional trains connections are available one stop away at the Springfield station (SPG), with multiple departures daily to New Haven and New York (with some trains continuing on to Washington, DC) and once-daily service via the Lake Shore Limited to Boston or Chicago.
Northampton Airport (FAA: 7B2) and Turners Falls Airport (FAA: OB5) are the closest dedicated general aviation airports. They offer 24-hour access for private aircraft, including corporate jets. 7B2 and 0B5 can only accommodate very small corporate jets.
Major domestic scheduled airline service is available at both Bradley International Airport (FAA: BDL) in northern Connecticut (45 minutes) and Logan International Airport (FAA: BOS) in Boston (90 minutes). Logan offers extensive international flights. Regularly scheduled shuttles are available for a fee.