Student Union Lot | Photo by Bethany Althauser | The Wright State Guardian
Dayton, Ohio is a breathing representation of the car-dependent infrastructure of American cities, and I think students—especially international students—suffer for it.
America, Dayton and cars
According to WalkScore, Dayton receives a failing grade for walkability: 45. And for bicycles, the score is 47. America as a whole ranks just a bit higher at 48.
Large European and Asian cities are often known for their walkability and public transportation. While 88% of Europeans own a car, 32% use public transportation at least every week. Compared to 11% of Americans who use public transport on a daily or weekly basis, it is obvious that Americans use cars due to a lack of quality public transportation or a complete absence of it. This is in combination with city design.
The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission is one organization working to improve city design. The MVRPC promotes collaboration among communities and residents to advance regional priorities, according to their website.
Matt Lindsay is the Manager of Environmental Planning. Within the position, Lindsay serves as the Bike and Pedestrian Planning Contact and manages updates to the Regional Active Transportation Plan. Lindsay also plans and facilitates meetings of the Regional Active Transportation Committee and serves as a resource for local communities to see approaches to improving bike and pedestrian connectivity and safety within their communities.
“In 2011, MVRPC adopted its Regional Complete Streets Policy, which requires that every transportation project that seeks federal funds through MVRPC at least consider and, if feasible, include facilities for walking, biking and transit access within the design of the project,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay explained that MVRPC updates regional plants to reflect any new developments or ongoing priorities.
“MVRPC supports local communities’ efforts to develop Safe Routes to Schools Plans, Active Transportation Plans, conduct walking audits, develop local complete streets policies, apply for outside sources of project funding or apply for walk-friendly or bike-friendly designation,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay adds that a coordinated development of the transportation network will result in better use of funds, which will in turn benefit all residents of the Miami Valley Region.
Bloomberg shows the evolution of how America got car dependent and the factors that keep us there, and students suffer the safety, monetary, social, environmental and efficiency consequences because of these car-dependent cities.
Vehicle State University
Come to the Wright State University neighborhood of Wright View to find a walk score of 42. The score is so bad that it could not even pass a course here.
In all seriousness, WSU is an island, and the only way to get off this island is with a car. Even though many students are equipped with a car since the majority of us are commuter students, this does not work for everyone.
Put yourself in the shoes of an international student. You have landed in an unfamiliar country, you may not speak the language as well, you may not have any American friends and you do not have a car.
You are not even familiar with the island, much less equipped to get off of it. You are spelling SOS out in the sand, asking for rides from American students you do not even know that well or are spending exorbitant amounts of money on Uber.
A common issue among international students is the cold, often having to trek through the snow just to get groceries. The WSU dining halls often do not accommodate the dietary needs and preferences of international students, making getting groceries essential. And since many do not have relatives in Ohio, that is one less way to transportation.
Sakira Afrose Toma is an international student from Bangladesh majoring in Marketing Analytics. This will be Toma’s second year at WSU.
“It is totally different in our country,” Toma said. “If you go to a nearby university or nearby college or nearby market, you can use something like a rickshaw. People don’t use [cars]. If you go the long way, you can use your private car, but there is also [buses and planes],” Toma said.
Toma remarks that without a car in America, it is impossible to get around. Even just getting from the hotel Toma spent in her first night here to campus was difficult. Toma also observes that Americans are very busy, cutting off many opportunities for rides.
When nine of 10 Americans rely on cars for mobility, it is no wonder international students find it hard to get around.
And since Americans rely on cars, the cost of maintenance is paramount. According to AAA, car maintenance costs nearly $800 per year on average. Personally, I have had to spend over $2,000 on car insurance and repairs in the last half year alone.
If approximately 3,000 students live on campus at WSU, that leaves approximately 7,000 students as commuters. If we assume each student has their own vehicle and compound that by the average cost of car maintenance, that is $5.6 million annually in car maintenance costs.
That’s approximately 515 years of current WSU tuition costs.
The 7,000 cars will emit 32,200 metric tons of CO2.
For every thirty minutes a student spends in a car each day, there is a 3% higher chance of obesity.
If you check the WSU main Instagram’s snow day posts’ comments, you will see that some students have an over one-hour trip to school each day. Young adults in America spend approximately that amount of time driving per day in total. United Kingdom drivers only spend about 147 hours driving per year.
And some of WSU’s over 800 students with disabilities may find difficulty or have an inability to drive. While WSU’s campus is overall more accessible than the average college campus, the struggle still exists outside of campus.
The solution to these problems? Make more and better public transportation, cater more towards the transportation needs of international students, redesign and improve the city and build walkable and bikeable infrastructure.
“Community attention to streetscape, site design and land use can have a lot of influence on how walkable a location or community can be. Shorter distances between destinations, mixed use districts and building complete streets make it more attractive for residents and visitors to choose non-motorized modes when getting around in town,” Lindsay said about the improvement of Dayton specifically.
As far as WSU goes, Toma thinks that a bus that comes every 10 minutes to one hour as well as Friday and Saturday shuttles will be a big help in getting around.
“It will give the student more relief because of our university providing shuttles Friday and Saturday to Meijer and Walmart,” Toma said.
The MVRPC pays special attention to public transportation and walkability around university and college campuses, including all other schools, in evaluation of walking and biking demand as a destination where this kind of travel is to be expected.
Learn more about car dependency and end the motocracy now for the good of students and residents alike.