Well, it’s going to be yet another boring weekend. At least I’ve got a good bit of entertainment available to me here in the apartment— which is a good thing, since I won’t be venturing all that far from it.
You see, I don’t have a car. I tried learning to drive… for about eight years, and never made much progress. It’s as if my brain just isn’t wired for spatial perception or visual discrimination rapid enough to be of use in driving— and my somewhat spacey, easily distracted nature doesn’t help matters any.
So I have to make do with alternatives. Most of the year, there’s a decent transit system that gets me around. Two transit systems, actually: one system run by the university campus at which I’m attending graduate school that goes between various locations on and near campus, and a second, city-run system that skips most of campus but leads to a large number of locations in the surrounding city.
The city routes are not running this Monday, because of the Martin Luther King weekend; they never run on Sundays because of a lack of funding. And the campus routes, which normally run seven days a week, are not running at all over this three-day weekend.
Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if I were in the part of campus that was actually served by the city routes. Unfortunately, I’m 3/4 of a mile from the nearest stop served by the city buses on Saturday. And to add insult to injury, there used to be a stop served on weekends right across the street from me, until a couple years ago, when the city reworked one of the routes to serve more of town and less of campus. And of course, my research lab is even further than that bus stop; yes, it’s on campus, but “campus” is literally a mile and a half long, and my apartment is at the butt end of it.
And I’m not the worst off; at least it’s a nice, pedestrian-friendly walk from here to the other side of campus for me. The campus routes also serve a number of apartment complexes just off the south end of campus which are not nearly as pedestrian-friendly in their location, with dangerous crossings and missing sidewalks along the way to campus— and, of course, an even longer walk if you can manage to avoid getting hit by a car in the first stage of the trip.
But hey, it’s just one weekend, right? Things will be back to normal next weekend.
If that were the case, this would hardly be worth blogging about. But this is hardly the only time that this quandary occurs, and sometimes it occurs for months on end.
During the summer— when, it should be pointed out, there are classes and research in session— the campus weekend service is completely gutted. So any students living in this apartment complex must walk 3/4 of a mile (in 90-degree heat, of course) to the bus stop if they want to get anywhere off campus on Saturday— say, for groceries they couldn’t manage to get during the week because of work obligations. And Sunday? Good luck walking a mile and a half to get whatever you need downtown. Good luck altogether, for that matter, if you live in one of those less pedestrian-friendly apartment complexes off the south edge of campus.
Oh, and did I mention that there are a lot of international students living in this same general region of campus, many of whom don’t drive?
So, a note to bus systems: Low ridership, which may very well be a fact of life on these weekend routes, is not identical to no ridership. Just because very few students use a particular service doesn’t mean they should be completely ignored.
It’s perfectly understandable that full service is not a feasible option; that’s why I’m not even demanding full service. Maybe do something like four runs a day, two (spaced about an hour apart) in the morning and two in the late afternoon— enough for someone to spend a day out if they want, take care of a few errands, and then make it back home. Just something that’s an alternative to walking a mile and a half to the other side of campus in either 90-degree heat or below-freezing cold. Or even try something radical: have some sort of on-call system that students can sign up for if they need it, similar to what’s used for students with disabilities, since by completely cutting service you’re basically implying that you don’t think there are a significant number of students who’d need it.
And ironically, perhaps more students would be there to use it if it were offered. One of the reasons I go home to stay with my family during the summer is precisely because of the lack of weekend bus service during the summer. I could probably find an assistantship and do research up here, but I’d be essentially stuck in my apartment the entire weekend— not exactly an enjoyable proposition, particularly when I can’t judge what my assistantship schedule might look like when it comes to free time.
But until such service is available, I— and many other non-drivers who don’t have a carpool at their disposal— am denied easy access to all sorts of opportunities and activities both around campus and around town, just because I use my feet rather than a car to get around.