Learning to Live Carless: A Student Dilemma
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
For many students at Boston College, the start of the fall semester means reviving dormant friendships. But there’s a relationship that’s often cut off by the start of the academic year—the relationship between student and car.
Most students don’t have a car on campus. They rely on the MBTA subway line, commonly referred to as the T, and taxi service for their transportation. Those who have cars are mostly junior and senior year students that live off campus. For parking, they’re either fortunate enough to be renting a property with a driveway, or have enough cash to lease a spot from a neighbor.
Alyssa Rizzini, A&S ’15, from East Providence, R.I. doesn’t have access to a car on campus. She relies solely on the T to get around Boston. "The T is great because of the price but it has [its] pros and cons," she said. "It’s sometimes not worth it because it takes so long."
There are a handful of T stops within a reasonable distance of the BC Shuttle bus, with the Reservoir stop on the D-line being the most used. However, when you take into account the time required to get on a shuttle bus, get on the T and finally make it downtown, the final travel time can sometimes get excessive. Also, according to the most recent MBTA ScoreCard of July 2012, the Green Line, which the D-line is a part of, had the lowest average distance between breakdowns of any line at 2,901 miles. The MBTA’s goal for the Green Line is 5,500 miles—it was the only subway line to not make its goal. These breakdowns inevitably increase travel time and interrupt commutes.
Julia Redgate, CSON ’15, is from Boylston, Mass. She drives a lot when she is at home but she sees the T as a good option while at school. At least, she says, until she needs to go into the city more often. "I think it’s fine because, honestly, I wouldn’t want to drive in Boston," she said. "It kind of freaks me out. The only problem with the T is that it does take a long time. When I do clinicals that will be kind of hard [without a car]."
However, not everyone on campus is as content with life without the ultimate form of mobility, especially those who experience life with a car during their junior year off campus.
"It’s key to off-campus life," said Thomas McShane, from Yonkers, N.Y. and A&S ’14, regarding his car. "Trips to Target, Star Market, and Home Depot would be much more difficult without the speed of a car and the space available to carry things like food, cleaning supplies or furniture. I didn’t think it would be this important."
McShane has his own driveway. Yet, some students have gone as far as engineering their own parking systems so that they can bring a car to BC, some before their "Junior Migration" into Newton and Brighton.
Ashley Francis, from Canton, Mass. and LSOE ’14, brought her car to BC as a second-semester sophomore on College Road. She was able to do so by searching for legal parking spots on secluded residential streets in Newton. She cannot imagine life at BC without a car. This year, she keeps it close by on her off-campus driveway. "I love it," she said. "I think it’s so much better than paying the hundreds of dollars to pay for a spot on-campus or hiding it in Newton."
According to the Office of Transportation and Parking website, to apply for a resident undergraduate student parking permit, several criteria need to be met. Students need to show that they are either a junior or senior year student. They also have to be "enrolled in a Boston College sponsored field practicum or three credit internship." This field practicum or internship also has to be located outside the range of public transportation. If accepted, the permit costs $534 per semester.
Francis hated not having a car during her first three semesters at BC. "Everything was so much more limited … everything was such a hassle," she said. "The T is great and all, but having to be on it for like an hour to go to a restaurant isn’t worth it. I just felt stuck on campus. I mean, that’s why I snuck my car [in Newton] last semester last year. Once we had it, I couldn’t get enough of using it, it was so much better."
There is another way for students who don’t fit the criteria for on-campus resident parking to get access to a car. ZipCar, a service that allows you to reserve locally parked cars for hourly and daily use, has cars available in the BC area. Applicants for the service need to be 21 years of age or older.