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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The driving dilemma: home vs. campus

Published: September 23, 2011
Section: Opinions

If you tried to reach me at any point this summer, there’s a good chance I was driving—to work, to meet friends, to baseball stadiums, etc. In fact, I spent more money on gas this summer than on anything else. By the time I was ready to go back to school, I was thrilled that I would not have to drive anymore. Not only was I tired of throwing away $50 a week on gas, I was just plain sick of driving.

It wasn’t just the excessive driving or the gas allowances that created a wall between me and my car. I was tired of anxiously having to remember when I last changed my oil or whether I should check my air pressure. Also, I ran out of gas one night and had to walk for miles with my friends to find a gas station open at 3 a.m. in a thunderstorm.

The night before I left for Brandeis, I pulled my blue Chevy Cavalier into my garage, took one last look at it in all of its glory and closed the door, knowing that I wouldn’t be driving it again until I returned home.

A few of my friends couldn’t bring themselves to part with their cars, so they elected to take their cars back to school. But, having been back at Brandeis for nearly a month, I can say without a doubt that I am glad I didn’t bring my car to school with me.

Aside from paying the monthly fee to keep my car on campus, I just don’t think it’s worth it to have a car on campus. For those of us living on campus, having a car is just another thing to worry about. In the back of your mind, you’ll always worry about where to park and wonder if you got a ticket—a fear that’s with us whenever we park our cars outside our driveways.

Aside from parking, you’d also become preoccupied with maintaining your car. This includes filling your gas tank, checking your oil levels and tire pressure, monitoring your washer fluid levels and keeping your car clean. It’s just too much to worry about, especially when you could have just left your car at home.

Aside from the stress of having a car on campus, I do not feel like there’s any real reason to bring a car to campus. First of all, the way our college campus is constructed, you don’t need a car to get around. You can walk anywhere on campus and get there within minutes. Granted, many people are not thrilled about having to go all the way from Ridgewood to Usdan or North Quad to Spingold, but it’s certainly doable. On other, larger college campuses, it makes sense to have a car, but not at Brandeis.

Additionally, we rarely have any reason to go off-campus for anything. We have our own little city here, complete with dining halls, a cafe, convenience stores, a sports complex, a health center—in short, everying! That is, unless you want to go into Waltham to buy groceries or just explore, in which case you can either walk or take the BranVan. But 95 percent of the time, if you need a service, you can find it on campus.

Additionally, it’s a well-known fact that it’s healthy to walk. A lot of college kids love the fact that they walk around so much, because it keeps them in shape; you get to burn off the dreaded Freshman 15.

If you’re still unconvinced, consider this: The university provides more than adequate transportation if you ever need to go off-campus. Whether your phone breaks and you need to go to the Verizon Store, or you want to visit a friend at a different college, there are multiple ways to do that without your car. There’s the BranVan, the campus shuttle or the Boston/Cambridge shuttle on the weekends. You can even bike to Waltham with the university’s free rentals. Since we’re paying a fortune to go here, shouldn’t we be making use of all of the university’s facilities, rather than paying for our own transportation with a car?

Plus, a lot of people take the commuter rail or the T-Line into Harvard Square, Porter Square or Boston. It’s really not hard to use them after you’ve gotten some practice. When I first came here, I couldn’t tell the Red Line from the Red Carpet, but I can now navigate all of the lines myself, with directions of course.

Nevertheless, driving is something I look forward to when I come home for breaks. I run home, pull my car out of the driveway and take a joy-ride to Taco Bell. That first drive makes me feel so limitless and free. But if I drove everyday, I wouldn’t feel that way; I’d probably get sick of it like I did this summer.

Now I’m not saying there are never any circumstances where we would need to have cars on campus. Just the other day I had my friend give me a ride to Target in Watertown. How else was I supposed to get to Target during the week? The BranVan only goes into Waltham and the Boston/Cambridge shuttles don’t run during the week. So I do understand that there are circumstances when having a car on campus would be convenient, but it’s just not worth it when nearly your entire life in college happens on foot.