The carless on campus conundrum

Illustration by Shelsey Braswell

Walking to class in 14 inches of snow and sliding around on slippery sidewalks isn’t always fun. Neither is paying hundreds of dollars in parking fees and tickets. However, there are pros and cons that come with both owning a car and being carless that include buying parking passes, getting around town and visiting family back home.

Sophomore Adrian Valencia is from Tucson and finds it difficult to go home as often as he would like. To attend family events and ceremonies, Valencia has to take a seven-hour bus ride home. The commute often causes him to miss classes.

This is troubling, Valencia said, because going home is a form of stress relief, and the inability to do so makes him more anxious. Valencia also said not having a car restricts the places he can work. It would be difficult working at the mall because it is all the way across town, and places closer to campus are often fully staffed.

“It can be difficult not having a car, because it can really limit where you can go,” Valencia said. “It can get old being secluded to just campus and the few places that surround it.”

Winter can be another obstacle carless students have to face. Sophomore Nicole Pablo experienced many problems during the past winter, from becoming ill to getting her socks and shoes wet. Pablo said she couldn’t go to the usual places she needed to, because it would be too cold to walk, and getting groceries on foot in the snow became a huge problem. She even recalled slipping while walking to class the day before classes were canceled.

The icy weather also affected Pablo’s ability to go home. She said her family often doesn’t feel comfortable driving to Flagstaff from New Mexico to bring her home. Throughout the winter, she has to frequently stay in town, while she would rather be at home.

“Being in college can be very stressful,” Pablo said. “Terrible weather and having to travel in it doesn’t make it any better.”

Miss Indigenous NAU, Brandi Espuma, has to attend events associated with her title, and not having a car has infringed on those tasks. Espuma has to go to events around Flagstaff and even to places on her reservation. She said using public transportation, taking Ubers and walking can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for women.

“Asking people for a ride can be embarrassing,” Espuma said. “NAU is so condensed, and the rest of Flagstaff is so spread out, and that makes getting around much harder.”

Sophomore Ellisha Tsinnijinnie has a car on campus and said it can be inconvenient at times. Tsinnijinnie said she also experiences troubles during the winter. Near her apartment is a steep hill, and during the winter, it’s very icy. She’s seen other cars slide down, which made her scared to drive. She also tried to park by Cline Library or at the San Francisco Parking Structure, but all the passes were taken. She had to settle for a spot at the south commuter lot, and there were still hardly any parking spots available.

“It’s so annoying to pay so much money just to be inconvenienced,” Tsinnnijinnie said. “Parking in other places means getting tickets, and that is just as bad.”

Owning a car comes with more fees than simply paying for parking permits. A student would also have to pay for insurance, maintenance and an actual car payment. All of these bills can be hard to keep up with on a college budget.

Espuma said being carless helps the environment. She said driving can have a lot of carbon emissions, and one benefit of public transportation is that it reduces the strain on the environment.

Pablo said since she doesn’t have a car, she has the opportunity to see stores and restaurants she wouldn’t see while driving. This allows her to shop at more local businesses, rather than driving to shop at large corporations.

While having a car can seem like the best thing for a college student, the responsibilities and fees may not be worth the convenience. Exploring campus and the surrounding areas, and having extra cash may be a greater weight on the scale.