Getting out and around Northfield is becoming increasingly difficult for St. Olaf students considering the limited availability of public transportation compounded by the common struggle to acquire a parking permit on campus. While traveling off campus is a necessity for students for medical appointments, shopping trips, and off-campus jobs, it is an uphill battle for St. Olaf to provide transportation resources to students, due to lack of cooperation from bussing companies.
“Buses to the twin cities have been complicated by COVID,” said Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16.
Due to staffing shortages, gas price increases, and decreased ridership in general, Northfield Lines, often providing service to the Twin Cities, has not been able to fully recover after the pandemic. There are a limited number of buses available and significantly fewer stops. Moreover, last year, Northfield Lines was on the brink of shutting down entirely, if not for St. Olaf and Carleton pushing back. Cash and others have been working to keep this resource, and even took an entirely different approach in creating the “INeedARide” alias, an alternative to requesting rides in the often unresponsive and overwhelming space of the St. Olaf Extra alias.
“It’s especially great for intenational students who may not have a car on campus or even a license,” Cash said, “it’s creating a space to have people meet, instead of yelling into the ether.”
Parking-wise, St. Olaf simply does not have enough space to sustain everyone with a vehicle. There will have to be changes to infrastructure, and perhaps even the possibility of off-campus storage lots.
“We are a residential campus, yes, but we are a residential campus that needs to be external”, Cash said. “We are going to have to be creative.”
Since lack of public transportation is not entirely in the hands of St. Olaf, and parking is limited, St. Olaf students are left in a transportation gridlock. The answers to St. Olaf’s transportation issues are not straightforward, and continue to be an ongoing discussion.
“The concerns and pressures around transportation won’t go away…we have to be willing to be innovative,” Cash said.