How to Get to King’s–Sans Gas
by MacKenzie Crawford
Every regular academic year, Kingâ€™s students and staff drive at least 1.62 million kilometers to and from campus. Thatâ€™s a recent number that even excludes the spring and summer terms, and assumes people only drive to and from campus once per day! Clearly, thereâ€™s a challenge that some of us face â€“ weâ€™re right beside a truck driver training school, weâ€™re a slightly inconvenient distance away from a major bus terminal, some days are very cold in the winter, and we have a very inviting free parking lot. So how does one go about getting here without participating in the assumption that personal cars are the way to go?
There are myriad reasons why one would want to avoid personal car use ranging from personal health to economic implications. Our car culture is built upon a legacy of decades of artificially-cheap subsidized energy with an implied belief that the supply can last forever with few harmful effects. Weâ€™re very sensitive to urban planning and our built environment, and Edmonton is highly geared towards automobile transport, not alternative modes of transportation.
Weâ€™ve been fooled into normative behaviours that are sometimes hard to overcome. I believe that cars are too expensive to use to get to school when one adds up the costs of insurance, weekly gas, maintenance, and potential accidents. Our health during the academic year is very sensitive to begin with. Even a short daily trip of walking or biking can make large impacts on our grades and long-term health. We tend not to notice the stress that is placed on us by navigating busy streets (I hardly ever feel like driving home from Kingâ€™s in the 4-6 rush hour), and the inherent daily feeling of being rushed that comes from driving our streets – never mind the fact that our â€śfreeâ€ť parking lot actually costs students a whopping amount of money per year in tuition and other funding to maintain such infrastructure. We also have moral and theological obligations as Christians to consider whether driving a personal vehicle is good stewardship of the worldâ€™s resources.
Not that I want to get anyone riled up. I just want to share my experience of getting to campus. Sure, there are plenty of students that live less than 1 km from school and still warm up their cars and drive to school in the winter which is enough to get me riled up, but I think itâ€™s most important that getting here be more relaxing, healthy, and enjoyable. Even economic calculations of quality of life now take into account things like commuter stress, lost opportunity costs, and sedentary health impacts. Certainly, there are stressors associated with alternative transport such as difficult transfers, poorly linked bike paths, high-resistance streets, availability of space and timing of transit vehicles, and aesthetically deficient neighbourhoods, but many of these will not change without greater public demand for good urban planning.
Ever since I got a U-Pass (a semester-long Edmonton Transit Pass) stamped onto my part-time U of A student ID, Iâ€™ve found it really hard to â€śneedâ€ť to drive my car to Kingâ€™s. That tiny nudge is what made me finally park the car. Sure, the bus route isnâ€™t perfect, but I compensate by throwing my bike on the busâ€™ bike rack and riding the rest of the way through quiet suburban streets. Admittedly, it takes slightly longer to get here by bus, but I donâ€™t have to worry about getting into a car accident on a snowy day, I can get some study or contemplation time into my day, and most importantly, my car just sits at home not chomping into my bank account. The pleasant realization that I havenâ€™t filled up the car for over a month is surprisingly freeing! The community aspect is wonderful too. When Iâ€™ve carpooled, biked next to, or taken the bus next to my fellow students, Iâ€™ve found that community ties are fostered far more than heading off in my sole social bubble-on-wheels.
So, how does one get here more easily? First, try to overcome the socialized assumption that one must fly solo and that one must arrive and leave absolutely as quickly as possible at all costs. Itâ€™s best to avoid traffic heavy roads like 50th street, instead using quieter roads and city bike routes, which can be investigated on Google Maps or Edmonton.ca. Use city bus routes, plan your route, and use the extra time to catch up on some class readings. While youâ€™re there, look at all the vehicles that can be taken off the road and how many more people could get around easily on transit if we reached the â€ścritical massâ€ť of transit ridership. If you live far away from bus routes, consider carpooling with others in your area. Last year, through a research project, Josh Culling and I identified many people who lived far away from Kingâ€™s, but were just a few blocks from other Kingâ€™s community members who were willing to carpool. You can use carpool.ca, put up a â€ścarpool wantedâ€ť poster on campus, or talk to other commuters. Most importantly, enjoy yourself, and remember that life is about living intentionally in your community, not fighting traffic.
This year, I hope to spend some time exploring what Kingâ€™s could look like if we had a mandatory U-Pass and some way for commuters to carpool. Obviously, those who are not well serviced by the Edmonton Transit System might not benefit as much from a U-Pass, but for a majority of students, their experience at Kingâ€™s might be a much more positive one due to the myriad benefits of non-automotive ways of getting to campus. As a community dedicated to sustainability and community, we owe it to ourselves to delve into this issue more deeply.
An abbreviated version of this article was published in The Chronicle on September 28.