Clarence Dodge and Lee Mcloughlin | Guest Writers
FIU is the largest commuter campus in the U.S. with most students living off-campus. For a research methods class, we interviewed students on how they get to FIU and the quality of their commute, and why they don’t use public transportation. We found that cost, stress, and commute time impact the quality of students’ academic and social lives.
With gas prices rising and the bus network inaccessible for many, we want to start a broader conversation about the role FIU has in making the commute easier for students beyond expanding parking.
We found that the ‘choice’ to drive is severely constrained and that there is interest in public transportation because of the high cost and stress associated with driving private vehicles on South Florida’s notoriously congested and dangerous roads.
One interviewee said, “I know people who take the bus to school that were in my classes, that’d have to essentially leave their houses two hours before, while the trip by car would be like at max 30 minutes.”
Though students may choose private transport for more control over their schedule, some said they still did not feel they had full control because of traffic.
The high costs of driving a car stem mostly from the price of gas. One student estimated that they spend an average of $44 weekly on gas. In comparison, a Metrorail student pass costs $56.25 per month. This seems like an obvious saving, but it only makes sense for those using it more than part-time.
Driving can be a stressful experience and one student lamented that she was not able to take public transportation for its potential stress-relieving effects.
“When someone else is driving, it takes that stress off…that’s what I love about public transportation, you don’t have to pay car insurance, you don’t have to pay gas, you don’t have to pay attention.”
Despite these issues, FIU policy intervention can positively influence the transportation situation beyond the endless expansion of parking facilities (which isn’t sustainable). These solutions include:
- Expand successful FIU-provided transport like ‘Panther Express’ to underserved areas, such as Homestead.
- Demand dedicated bike lanes – According to the Miami Riders Alliance FIU has been ‘boxed in’ by highway corridors and the bike lanes which have been allocated (along 8th Street and 24th Street) are even more dangerous because they are shared with cars.
- Extend and publicize a free Miami-Dade bus pass – Less than 1% of FIU students purchase a monthly transit pass. FIU should trial limited free bus passes to boost interest.
- Make compulsory parking fee opt-out – Students who don’t drive are forced to pay the almost $90 fee – a significant disincentive to commuters considering switching from private vehicles.
- Publicize and modernize car-pooling – Respondents indicated car-pooling options were not communicated and as a result, not used.
- East-West Corridor Metrorail link and better bus service – FIU should collectively push for the link which could dramatically reduce private vehicle journeys and advocate for more frequent and expanded bus service.
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