No car, no problem?

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The Walmart in Greencastle is roughly two miles from DePauw’s campus; however, for senior Yuka Kitajima, who lives on campus and doesn’t own a car, the trip can take a total of over three hours via Rural Transit.

DePauw’s campus size of just over one mile does not justify the need for a car on-campus, as almost all locations can be reached within a relatively short walking distance. But for Kitajima, offering more transportation options for students is key to her experience at DePauw. “For the students who come from far away, especially for international students who are not familiar with driving and car purchasing in the U.S., it is critical to have more transportation options available for them to have a good college life,” Kitajima said.

Although Kitajima said that while she is fortunate enough to have friends with cars, not all students are as lucky. “It is frustrating to see some of my international friends who struggle to find a ride and end up paying so much money just to go grocery shopping or to go to Prindle for a quiet place to focus on their studying,” Kitajima said.

Sophomore Annie Nguyen has also struggled with this issue, both as an international student and a student without driving experience. “It prevents you from being independent and having mobility,” Nguyen said. “It’s hard to ask your friend for a ride and not want to be a bother.”

DePauw offers multiple services to students who lack transportation. A student with a driver’s license can rent the two Enterprise cars on campus for $9 an hour, or $55 a day throughout the week. The Hartman House, home to the Compton Center for Peace and Justice, Civic Engagement, and Center for Spiritual Life, offers Community Ride, a free program designed to transport students to service sites for volunteering within city limits.

The problem resides not exclusively in the options available, but in the availability of the options. For example, 24-hour public transportation is not available in the Greencastle community. The Rural Transit bus service is available Monday through Friday three times a day for a fee of $1, one way. The pick-up times are only offered at 10:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. or 2:15 p.m. in front of the Union Building. This year, the number of students utilizing the transportation service has decreased according to Shelia White, manager of Rural Transit.

”We used to have a lot of students, sometimes eight or nine people. This year the number has decreased,” White said. She couldn’t account for any particular reason as to the lower number.

However, transportation challenges extend beyond the DePauw community. For women at Beyond Homeless, the shelter for homeless women in Greencastle, the transportation challenge is even greater because many of the shelter’s residents are also trying to find and keep jobs.

“Most of the ladies who come here don’t have transportation. Occasionally they have a car. If they do have a car, most of them do not have proper insurance or tags, so that’s another issue,” said Lyn Smith, shelter director at Beyond Homeless.

Residents at Beyond Homeless often land employment opportunities at the factories on the east side of Greencastle. These locations reside on average about two miles from the shelter. However, when traveled to by foot, this duration can be rather treacherous.

“What’s troubling is the time of day, and there’s not any sidewalks. It’s just scary to think of the ladies walking in the dark. They could roll an ankle or get a little too close to the side of the road. What if a driver is distracted by the radio and doesn’t see them,” Smith said.

Most of the women traveling have to work during times when public transportation services do not operate. “They are typically on second or third shift. First shift typically starts at five or six a.m.. If they are on first shift, they will walk home in the dark. Second shift returns home in the dark. If they’re on third shift, they walk to work and back in the dark,” Smith said.  

Safety is the ultimate concern for Smith, but weather also factors into her frustration. During the winter months, residents must travel the distance often in freezing temperatures or rain.

“We had a lady come back from work the other day soaking wet. She said she tried to stop at the Speedway gas station to get out of the rain, but after it didn’t give up, she just decided to walk on back,” Smith said.

For being a small community, Smith is thankful for the options that the community has available, but the timing of the services does not meet the needs of any of the times that the shelter is seeking transportation.

“We’re actually pretty lucky that we have a cab service here…I think the thing that’s key for us is offering 24-hour transportation, because we do have people who need rides in the wee hours of the morning,” Smith said.

The cab service named, A Cab, typically ends around one or two a.m.. Not only does this fail to meet the times that the women need to be at work, but the financial obligation adds another obstacle. “To take the cab one way is $7. The ladies make $11 an hour,” Smith said.

Beyond Homeless is along Rural Transit’s daily route. The bus is less of a strenuous commitment financially than the cab service, but the pick-up times do not encompass any of the times in which people are going to or from work. The bus service is only offered from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Rural transit offers an express service option, which will pick passengers up at their desired location for $3 one way. However, this option is still limited to only during their designated hours of operation and availability. According to White, they typically encourage passengers to call a day in advance to request a pick-up.

“I think the thing that’s key for us is offering 24-hour transportation, because we do have people who need rides in the wee hours of the morning,” Smith said. While the shelter has considered the idea of having a shelter owned vehicle, finding someone to transport residents during the early hours of the morning plagues the option with yet another limitation.

For Smith and Kitajima, the ultimate dream is an affordable 24-hour transportation service.

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