Campus Jamming

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Okay, so maybe this picture isn’t exactly of the campus, or somewhere in Ottawa, or even on this continent; but it might as well be. For any of you have had a chance to notice there are 2 daily traffic jams on campus. The first one usually happens around noon during the lunch time rush. The second happens at about 5:30 pm just as the majority of the employees are calling it a day and the afternoon classes are ending.

I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There aren’t too many options right now. With no busses there is way more car use, not just because of carpools but also because of people getting picked up by a friend or loved one. And of course the University of Ottawa campus is smack in the middle of the City. Normally this would be super helpful, but during a transit strike so much traffic around the campus actually hampers traffic flow on campus.

Now I do want to take a minute to say why I think that this issue is an important one. First there is the obvious problem of idling cars generating exhaust. This is not good for anyone no matter how you slice it. The second reason is a little more out there, stress. Getting caught in these traffic jams isn’t helping anyone dial down the stress they are under. Slow moving traffic on a uni-flow campus... I think that even I might lose it if I were in a car. And finally, and this one is really out there, bad karma. I don’t mean the cosmic kind that will come back to you in the next life, I mean the bad faith that can propagate because of the negative experience that people are having. If someone is doing the good thing and carpooling I certainly don’t want them to stop carpooling as soon as the strike is over just because of some bad karma.

So what’s the solution? How do we get out of this one? Well I am pretty sure that you are not going to like this answer but here goes anyways, sacrifice and good planning. The key is to move yourself away from the main campus before you get in a car. The options are walk to an external lot, use the shuttle to get to 200 Lees and go from there, or use the shuttles to get to one of the drop-off points and go from there. Or you could walk.

Yeah, those suggestions were pretty awful weren’t they? I am sorry but there isn’t very much that any of us can do. I think that the take home lesson from all this is to remember how important public transportation is. Sure we can cope in the short term but imagine no more busses?

In the long term however, there are a couple of things that we can plan for. More integrated sustainable transportation (that means bikes, ride sharing, car sharing, and carpooling) is definitely a must. More housing on campus (residence style) and more affordable student housing around the campus. And I am going to go out on a limb with this one… a U-pass. Hold on, stop booing. I know what you are thinking, how would a permanent bus pass help during a bus strike? Well a U-pass gives you political leverage. If you are part of a group that represents the majority stakeholders in a company, you get a say in how these things work.

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