At Stanford, in terms of getting around campus, students have it pretty easy. Many class spaces, as well as student hangout and study spaces, are a walkable or bikeable distances from dorms and houses. If you don’t have access to bikes. And for many hours of the day, students have the option of taking the Marguerite, a free shuttle service that stops at multiple points on and near campus for access to general campus destinations, medical facilities and shopping centers. And it’s free.
In San Francisco, it is another story. This summer, I lived about 45 minutes away from my internship, factoring in walking and public transportation. I am the antithesis of an early bird, so it was a daily sleepy struggle booking it to my MUNI bus stop a few blocks away from my Western Addition apartment, chasing buses, scrounging around the bottom of my bag for exact change, and assuming an upright position as a packed sardine with my fellow commuters at nine am rush hour. There were also the realities of refiguring-out routes in an unfamiliar city, due to blocked off streets due to police pursuits and broken down buses.
Transportation got trickier as I continued my internship in SF into this school year. Utilizing both Stanford and SF public transportation resources, weekly commutes would be approximately 1.5 hours each way.
My last week of my internship, I woke up at 5 am to catch the 6:24 am Caltrain (to make an 8am meeting with my boss) but had to walk to the Caltrain station since the Palm Drive Express didn’t run early enough to catch that train. Usually,there are just not enough hours in the day for classes, a part-time job, activities, assignments, and squeezing in a meal and a half… which can lead to groggily jogging to a the Marguerite bus station, having realized you missed the bus by your back-up bus by 2 minutes and now you have to take the next caltrain, meaning you’ll miss your first bus and then miss the subsequent transfer by a few minutes – so you decide to not take the SF caltrain stop and instead decide transfer to the Millbrae station and take the Bart station closest to your workplace so you don’t have to deal with the MUNI.
Hypothetically, longer transportation rides are a good time to catch up on homework. But these pre-dawn rollouts in reality result in a lack of sleep and lengthy commute during which you’re too tired to do work and too afraid to shut your eyes to catch up on your zzz’s even for a few minutes because you may miss your stop and throw your schedule off by another 30 minutes or so. To me, taking public transportation is like a sleep-deprived domino effect, if you don’t allot enough time to get from A to B.
After my summer in San Francisco and my recently finished internship, for all its faults and inefficiencies, I have a much greater appreciation for public transportation, and especially how accessible public transportation is on campus.
Due to a full fall schedule, I was unable to take URBANST 165: Sustainable Urban and Regional Transportation Planning this quarter, but my experience with train and bus travel has prompted an interest in this aspect of urban living and commuting that many people experience on a daily basis.