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Transportation out of town not cost effective for students

Our beautiful campus may be tucked away from the main drag of Northfield, but shuttles at various price points are available several times a day to take us to Target, Division Street and even to the movie theater in Dundas, to name a few options. To get even farther away from campus, there are buses available to take us to the Mall of America, to different rendezvous points in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and to the airport – for a fee.

I’ve lived in or very near a city my entire life, a privilege I’d completely taken for granted before I came to St. Olaf. At home in St. Louis, I could get to a bus stop within minutes and traverse the city of nearly 3 million people with relative ease and affordability. When I lived in Chicago for a year between high school and college, I had access to an even broader system of public transit which included trains, buses and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. As anyone familiar with the network of shuttles at St. Olaf can attest to, figuring out how to get around Northfield and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area provided a steep learning curve for me and others who hail from urban or suburban neighborhoods.

I’ve been privy to a chorus of complaints about the status of transportation at St. Olaf for as long as I’ve been a student here and, goodness knows, I’ve contributed to it quite a bit myself. However, I can’t say that I take issue with the destinations that are on offer. Northfield isn’t terribly walkable, but it’s much easier to get to where you’re going if you need only walk there from the nearest shuttle stop instead of from St. Olaf itself. In its own way, getting a lift into town is useful even if the Hiawathaland Express doesn’t deliver students to exactly where they want to go.

“But given that we are a small school in a rural town, I feel that the power-that-be could stand to cover the costs of those pre and post-break MSP runs which many of us on this campus simply cannot avoid.”

I must say, however, that I find the number of times the shuttle runs each day to be a little inconvenient. While there are some buses – particularly the ones shuttling students around Northfield – that run nearly every hour, the services that take us out of town run much less frequently. It would be neither fuel efficient nor cost efficient to send shuttles on the hour-long journey to the Twin Cities and back more than a few times a day, granted. But, I know how frustrating it can be to take a bus to Minneapolis-St. Paul for an event and to wind up spending more time waiting for the next ride home than spent attending the event in the first place.

My biggest complaint about the shuttle situation here at St. Olaf has to be the cost of the shuttles that take students toward the Twin Cities, particularly to the airport. While I can rationalize that the shuttles going farthest from campus are the ones that require students to pay a little bit more, I feel that it is a little bit exorbitant to charge students who are already paying to get themselves across the country (or across the world) for their ride to the airport. I find this to be especially frustrating during long breaks when staying on campus is simply not an option for some.

Is there a solution to the issue of shuttling Oles to and from campus cheaply and reliably? Perhaps not – especially since the college is attempting to cut costs over the next few years. But given that we are a small school in a rural town, I feel that the powers-that-be could stand to cover the costs of those pre and post-break MSP runs which many of us on this campus simply cannot avoid. In the meantime, I’ll keep my sights set on St. Olaf Extra and the ever-generous commuters among us.

Alexa Johanningmeier ’21 ( is from St. Louis, Mo. Her major is undeclared.